Twelve Tactics For Defeating the Starbucks Habit

Shannon writes in with the following lament:

Is there any advice you can give for giving up the Starbucks addiction? I’ve slowly been gaining control of my financial life, but Starbucks seems to be the bain of my financial existence–the only thing I cannot give up.

Starbucks is a particularly pesky thing to give up because it has (at least) two major psychological tools working in its favor. First, the product itself is addictive – caffeine is both a physically and psychologically addictive substance. Second, the routine factor: many people simply grab coffee from Starbucks as part of their daily routine, and this itself is hard to upset even without the caffeine addiction factor.

Thus, my tips for helping to get past the Starbucks habit break down into two separate groups.

Seven Ways To Beat Caffeine

Talk to your doctor Seriously. Beating any addiction is challenging, even if it seems like a trivial thing. Ask whether B or B-complex vitamins will help, and also ask about nasal sprays. Also, ask whether a gentle anti-depressant would help, preferably something natural and gentle like St. John’s wort.

Drink plenty of water and fruit juice Most people don’t drink enough water anyway, but the period when you’re fighting a caffeine addiction is the best time to really get into a much better habit, that of drinking several cups of water a day.

Get extra sleep Caffeine withdrawal will make you lethargic, so plan for extra sleep for the first month or so when you’re kicking the habit.

Don’t be afraid to use mild painkillers Advil and Tylenol also help during withdrawal – headaches are a common complaint, and these will help with any headaches you might have.

Try decaf If you like the flavor of coffee, try making your own decaf. You can use this to directly substitute for your morning coffee routine, severely reducing your caffeine intake.

Get some low-impact exercise Do simple things like taking a short walk or stretching to get the blood flowing through your body. It’s an amazing natural fix to the doldrums you may feel during withdrawal – or doldrums during any normal day.

Get some support by talking to your partner and your friends Ask for them to support you in this change, and most of them will step right up to the plate and help you. I helped a friend kick an alcohol addiction once – we just talked to her constantly and engaged her as much as possible and celebrated her successes.

Five Ways To Change The Starbucks Routine

Use a different route This is extremely effective. If you drive by a Starbucks as part of your routine, change that routine so that you avoid the Starbucks. Find an alternate route to and from work so that you avoid the temptation.

Replace Starbucks with a different beverage I often start my day off with tea at my desk (instead of coffee), but that may be harsh for some. Instead, perhaps find a non-Starbucks beverage you enjoy and make that part of your morning routine.

Find the non-coffee aspects of your routine and duplicate them elsewhere Do you often stop and drink while reading the newspaper? Get a newspaper anyway and read it elsewhere while enjoying a different beverage. Look at the routine you follow at Starbucks and retain elements of that theme, merely removing Starbucks from the equation.

Think about it when you “automatically” stop Sometimes, people seemingly “automatically” stop for things that are part of their habit. Whenever you even think about doing such a thing, take a moment and think about it. Even if you catch yourself already in the parking lot, do the smart thing and just drive away.

Set goals and give yourself rewards for meeting them Make yourself a deal – no Starbucks for a month, and you’ll use half of the money you saved on something pleasant for yourself. Pick out the item, even, and use a picture of it to remind yourself of the goal. After a month, the habit will be largely crushed.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.