Will Starbucks's New Deals Save You Money?

The coffee company offers incentives that may just leave you overcaffeinated.

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This morning, Starbucks launched a nationwide program that offers its morning customers any grande iced drink for $2 after 2 p.m. In case you're not a Starbucks frequenter and $2 for coffee doesn't sound like such a great deal, let me assure you that it represents a significant discount. A grande iced latte, for example, easily clocks in at around $4.

This move is the latest in a series of discounts that Starbucks is giving its customers. When I spoke with the company's vice president of customer relationship management, Brad Stevens, recently, he explained that Starbucks realizes that people are trying to save money. "Customers are telling us that budgets are tight and they're making sacrifices, but they don't want to give up all of life's little luxuries," he says.

When Starbucks added new rewards on its stored-value cards in April, including free refills on hot and iced brewed coffee, over a million customers signed up. (I signed up myself this morning.)

But these benefits don't make sense for everyone. Here's a quick way to tell if they're worth your time (and money): Will the rewards card or $2 coffee program tempt you to buy more coffee than you otherwise would? If the answer is yes, you should probably ignore them. For example, if you are the kind of person who buys only one drink a day, then the $2 afternoon coffee won't save you anything. In fact, it will only provide an incentive for you to spend more once the afternoon slump hits.

The rewards card has little downside—it costs nothing. But if you're not going to take advantage of its benefits, such as the free refills, then there's no point in letting one more card take up space in your wallet.

What do you think? Are you taking advantage of any of Starbucks's new programs for these frugal times, or is the real answer to stay away from the store altogether?