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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Budget Line: That little treat you just bought doesn’t count, right?

Just because you love buying coffee doesn’t mean you can’t save money too.

graphic for Justin Hong's column "the budget line"
Graphic by Camilla Samuel

With the semester finally setting in, we’re all falling right back into our addictive relationship with coffee. I, for one, love this magical bean juice, and need a cup almost every day. The only problem is that coffee can be expensive. Buying coffee every day can really add up, but fear not: Turning your dorm or apartment into a full-functioning coffee bar isn’t your only alternative. By making informed decisions, even someone who buys coffee every day can save.

For our purposes, we’ll compare prices of a medium iced coffee at four different locations: the Starbucks at the Cummings Center, Hotung Café and the two Dunkin’ locations nearby campus. While these aren’t the only places to get coffee around here, we’ll stick with these to make our analysis simpler. We’ll also ignore rewards programs and other promotions.

Now, suppose you just got out of your econ class at the JCC. Where do you go for coffee? If you’re going for convenience, you could go to the Starbucks in the lobby where a grande iced coffee costs $4.23. You could also go to the Dunkin’ just down Boston Ave., where a medium iced coffee would set you back $3.41. Woohoo! By choosing Dunkin’ here, you’ve already saved 82 cents.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re willing to walk a little further, there are two more options: Hotung, where a medium iced coffee costs $4.01, and another Dunkin’ on College Ave., where a medium iced coffee costs $3.30. Think about that: By taking an 18-minute walk from one Dunkin’ to another, you can save another 30 cents! While this is not a lot, the savings on other beverages are even greater. Craving the new Ice Spice drink? A medium is $1.28 cheaper at the College Ave. location. But back to you, our tired econ student, for a second — by choosing to go to the Dunkin’ on College Ave. over the JCC Starbucks, you’ve already saved $1.12 on coffee.

If you needed a medium iced coffee every morning and refused to make it yourself, you should go to the Dunkin’ on College Ave. Over the semester, you would save over $95 compared to someone who went to Starbucks every day. This, of course, assumes that you have the same drink every day from the first day of class to the last day of finals and that you go home — and therefore don’t consume coffee — over Thanksgiving. While these assumptions likely won’t hold true, they show that making an active choice to save money daily can add up to a substantial sum over time.

Hate Dunkin’ coffee? No worries! You can still get more budget-friendly coffee every day by opting to go to Hotung — which serves Starbucks coffee — on the days that it’s open and going to a Starbucks when it’s not. Doing so would yield minimal savings of just $16.06 over the semester.

We all need some little treats from time to time, and saving money doesn’t require forgoing them entirely. Just be conscious of how you might save a few cents on something today or a dollar on something tomorrow because those savings can really add up.