Listen, I never wanted to be in the cult of Starbucks.
I could not see myself ordering an upside-down-Hazelnut-Macchiato or asking for a ”tall” when it’s what the rest of the world calls “small.” But one day I sampled a certain Starbucks iced tea, and suddenly I was a drive-thru regular requesting my trenta-Passion-Tea-no-lemonade-no-sweetener-extra-ice and paying the scandalous price of just under $4.
Until a recent run, when the personable young barista said, “That’ll be $5.11.” Five bucks for iced tea? Even with that free cup of whipped cream they call a Puppuccino for the dog in the backseat, this was steep.
By now we American consumers know pretty much everything has gone up –— not just indulgences like tea-and-Puppuccino, not just cars and furniture, but regular daily purchases that lately can make a trip to the grocery store a shocker. At recent lunch out in downtown Tampa, the server handed us a QR code menu to scan, noted the prices hadn’t been updated since the week before and told us to assume everything was a dollar or two more.
In the spirit of weathering the latest inflationary storms, here’s some hacks from experts.
Use a shopping list
In those hunkered-down months, some of us saw the grocery store as our escape and our chance to indulge. (Don’t these expensive mushrooms look interesting...) Sticking to a grocery list helps keep us from making impulsive, pricey purchases. Also, follow BOGO deals and stock up on sales to avoid sticker shock the next time you’re hunting Cheetos or chicken broth.
Track your spending
Financial gurus say writing down where your money went on a given week — and seeing how mindless purchases can add up — might surprise you (See: $5 ice teas).
Audit those subscriptions
Maybe you got Apple TV Plus for $4.99 a month to see what all that Ted Lasso fuss was about and never much watched it again. How many streaming services are you paying for? What about apps? I recently found one that identifies plants I got on a free trial that was about to expire and charge me. Cancel, delete.
Spend your gift cards
If you’re someone who lets those gas cards from Grandma and other assorted gift cards pile up on the dresser, well, could there be a better time to use them than now?
Save your fives
A friend once told me she put five dollar bills she came across — not singles, 10s or 20s — in a jar until it filled up so she could use it for some off-budget indulgence without feeling guilty. Turns out it works.
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A spokesperson for Starbucks explained to me via email that the company evaluates and adjusts prices market by market and product by product based on a lot of factors such as labor and rent. And by the way, my iced tea has since dropped to a more modest $4.25.
But last week at Publix I spotted cold-brew raspberry teabags for $4.79 for two weeks’ worth, if I was willing to forgo the drive-thru. It’s not bad. I can even put it in a tall cup and call it a trenta if I want. The dog, however, is not pleased.