Cheapest Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix

By Sonja Stewart on 16 March 2010 (Updated 17 June 2011) 42 comments

If you absolutely have to have your caffeine fix to start your day, maybe you've wondered if there was a cheaper way to do it. You've already cut out the ever-popular "Starbucks Latte factor," now you're wondering if chewing coffee grinds may be able to squeeze out a little extra cash at the end of the month while still giving you that rush. (See also: How to Save $1,500 on Coffee)

I know it sounds like I'm pushing the last legalized drug in the U.S., but you're going to drink it anyway. At least I can help you hang on to some of that dwindling retirement fund while you search the classifieds for the next job. (Man, that sounded depressing.) So without further ado, the list of cheapest, I mean, "least expensive" ways to get your caffeine intake.

Please be aware, medications are NOT to be taken more than the prescribed dosage on the package. Overdoses of acetaminophen are extremely harmful to your liver and can be fatal. Getting your caffeine from medications is not recommended.

1. No Doz

This is the secret that cross-country truckers have known about for years. No Doz packs a punch that will keep you going...and going...and going...And at only $0.0008 per milligram of caffeine, you can save some of those extra pennies for the ER room after you've had an anxiety attack.

2. Tetley's Black Tea

This British favorite is priced so low, they have it twice a day. What made Churchill so staunchly great? It's the tea, dear. At less than a dime a tea bag, it brings the caffeine cost at $0.0011 per milligram. That's so low, it's practically free. God save the queen...and your cash.

3. Excedrin Extra Strength

Got a migraine and a midterm? Look no further than Excedrin Extra Strength. At $0.0015 per milligram, you can stay awake, lose the headache and afford to keep your accountant.

Here's the list in full, from least expensive to most expensive These are based on prices that are not on sale, and of course can vary from region to region.

How Much Caffeine Costs

  1. No Doz ($0.0008 per mg)
  2. Tetley's Black Tea ($0.0011 per mg)
  3. Excedrin Extra Strength ($0.0015 per mg)
  4. Starbucks Grande Coffee ($0.0056 per mg)
  5. Starbucks Grande Iced Coffee (w/o Ice) ($0.0059 per mg)
  6. Mountain Dew ($0.0090 cents per mg)
  7. Starbucks Grande Iced Coffee (w/ Ice) ($0.0097 per mg)
  8. Diet Coke/Tab (Tie) ($0.0104 per mg)
  9. Dr. Pepper ($0.0111 per mg
  10. Midol Maximum Strength ($0.0113 per mg)
  11. Sunkist Orange Soda ($0.0116 per mg)
  12. Pepsi ($0.0129 per mg)
  13. Starbucks Double Espresso ($0.013 per mg)
  14. Coke ($0.0140 per mg)
  15. Monster Energy Drink ($0.0149 per mg)
  16. Full Throttle Energy Drink ($0.0159 per mg)
  17. A & W Cream Soda ($0.0169 per mg)
  18. Starbucks Grande Latte/Single Espresso (Tie) $0.0200 per mg)
  19. Barq's Rootbeer ($0.0213 per mg)
  20. Starbucks Grande Tazo Chai Tea Latte ($0.0355 per mg)
  21. Rockstar Energy Drink ($0.0374 per mg)
  22. Snapple Iced Tea ($0.07 per mg)

Starbucks double brews their iced coffee, so you get double the caffeine if you tell them to hold the ice. See How Much Caffeine Is In That? to get caffeine content in your favorite drinks, food, and medicines. Remember, ingest caffeine responsibly. Although I only measured energy drinks for caffeine, some of them have other, more exotic ingredients to give you a boost. Although No Doz is the cheapest, I'll stay away from the stuff. The last time I took it, I was a college freshman, working full time and studying for exams. I don't remember everything that happened that week, but I ended up babbling incoherently about Socrates, Australopithecus, and Rothko at a local Starbucks. Hey, at least I got a great G.P.A.!

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Guest's picture
gt0163c

Diet sodas generally have more caffeine than their "real sugar" equivalents. I'm guessing this is why Diet Coke is cheaper per mg caffeine than regular Coke (assuming that the price for the two are the same, as they almost always are where I am).

Guest's picture

Come on! part of the fun of the fix is the great taste and smell of the coffee. You will not catch me eating no-doze or drinking red bull. You're better off just taking a nap. Ugh.

I prefer to find the cheapest possible way to get the best possible coffee. . .

But nice number crunching.

Guest's picture

In a pinch, I have used caffeine energy sprays (w/vitamins). It's liquid, so it absorbs quickly - & less of a crash - I can get them at the Dollar Tree!

Guest's picture
Frisbee

how much do they cost...? (ba-dap tishhhh)

Guest's picture
J

I can't condone the promotion of sleep deprivation, which for at least 97 percent of us can promote depression, decreases in effective intelligence, inconsistently sustained attention, riskier decision-making, and other problems with self-evaluation. Caffeine can stave off the symptoms related to alertness, but only in people who haven't built up a tolerance.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15798944

On the other hand, I can't resist applauding the effort at calculating unit prices. There's something amazing about the way a simple division operation can transform a bewildering array of choices into an easily comprehensible list.

Guest's picture
Ali

Or even better....

I saved tons of money by kicking the caffeine habit altogether! I gave it up for health reasons, and the first two weeks were absolutely, positively HORRIBLE. But then, after that, I really found I didn't need it. I drink a big glass of water and take a stretch or do a quick spot of walking or exercise to wake up if I need to. I also found that without my caffeine habit, I had an easier time sleeping at night...which meant I had an easier time waking up in the morning. I still have a decaf coffee or an occasional coke or bit of chocolate from time to time, but I don't need it to get by like I used to. And the cost savings has been huge. I really was spending a lot of money on my caffeine fixes without realizing it!

Guest's picture
GH

I think you mean dollars instead of cents. Either that or you need to share with us where you shop.

Guest's picture

They must have learned their math from Verizon.

Guest's picture

First of all, I like the mindset behind these calculations. Good work, and certainly interesting:)

That said, I recommend taking a holistic view. The cost of caffeine goes beyond these calculations, and can be borne later in life when the effects of some of these beverages/pills set in. For example, a can of soda will do damage to your teeth. Over time, with continued consumpion, this will lead to increased dental costs and other health effects. When looked at in this way, the costs of obtaining caffeine through this particular vehicle is much higher than based on a stand-alone calculation of cents/mg.

I recommend drinking tea. Green tea has myriad health benefits, without as many "issues" of many of the other beverages listed. From a financial point of view, this will be better in the long run. Of course, drinking water and not drinking just for caffeine is probably best. But probably the least fun!

Anyway, interesting analysis. Thanks for posting!

Guest's picture
McCommenter

Trying to cut back-I just bought Tetley tea as an alternative to my favorite, Twining's- I am so impressed with the flavor and the price, i can't recommend it enough. It surpasses Lipton's and any store brand by far- if you're into "bag" tea. Good to know I'm not alone!

Guest's picture
MichaelP-J

As a Brit and lifelong tea drinker (my tea habit is at least six mugs a day, probably more), let me say a few things about tea brands. Firstly, Lipton's Yellow Label is a horrid abomination foist on the rest of the world. You will almost never see it in the UK because it tastes horrid! PG Tips is the leading British tea brand, although Tetley is also popular. Both are tasty and cheap. My preferred tea is Yorkshire Tea from Taylor's of Harrogate, which is a strong and flavourful tea, only slightly more expensive than the ordinary kinds. I'm not sure how widely available these brands are in the US, but do investigate.

Guest's picture

Make the coffee at home. I store cold coffee in the refrigerator. Quick iced coffee is delicious. unemployedmarx.blogspot.com

Guest's picture
Lori

Thanks for all the math, you made it easy for me to decide which method to use for my caffeine fix!
Love it!

Guest's picture
Jamie

In an effort to spend less money on coffee a few years ago, I purchased a Bruegger's Bottomless Coffee Card for ~$125. (This year's card was up to ~$140 with tax.) This replaced a $5 a day latte habit with drip coffee (bonus lower calorie count) two to three times a day. As it's good at all outlets, I've been able to reduce my cost per cup to around $0.26 the last couple of years. Bruegger's charges $1.79 for a medium drip coffee; at that price I consider that I recovered my initial investment in less that two months.

For giggles I record my coffee consumption and the amount of deviation from the program with daytum: http://daytum.com/displays/118711

So, Bruegger's isn't exactly global. Do any other coffee retailers offer similar programs?

Guest's picture

Cheaper than Tetley even: I buy 100 bags of black or green tea at my local asian market for about $3. Probably about the same quality as Tetley. Also might be cheaper to buy loose tea in bulk some places.

Andrea Karim's picture

My boyfriend's Bangla parents were visiting and I decided I would impress them with my chai-making skills. I had several cans of loose leaf Tetley, but they assured me that the two boxes of PG Tips that they had brought with them on their cross-country trek from Maryland to Seattle would be a better bet, so I threw two bags into the half gallon or so of milk, water, and spices and... OMG, it was so bitter that no one could drink it.

The boxes are still sitting in my cupboard. I am officially terrified of PG Tips.

Long live Tetley!

Andrea Karim's picture

Oh, and love this post, Sonja.

Guest's picture
Toby

Try your local Mexican / Latin American grocer. They should be able to sell you a kilo of mate for $7 or so. As a bonus, it not only packs a serious caffeine wallop, but also contains our other two most favorite methylated xanthines, theobromine (think chocolate) and theophylline (think tea).

Guest's picture
Guest

I know a guy I work with that drinks this stuff and he is forever and ever going and going lol He's a beast at work does everything fast. I always wanted to try it.

Guest's picture
Guest

rockstar, for example, has 160 or 240 mg of caffeine per can depending on the type. by these numbers, a can should cost $6 to $9... except they cost $2-3

try again

Guest's picture
J

@GH and Rob Maguire

Good catch. I totally missed that even after complimenting Ms. Stewart on her calculation.

$0.10 USD / 45mg = $0.002/mg = 0.2 cents/mg

It would be far better to express the value in dollars per 100 grams, as this is the approximate amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. For example, Toby's mate caffeine costs about $0.10/100mg to $0.04/100mg.

Handy tip:

Google will automatically do dimensional analysis for you.
http://www.google.com/search?q=0.10+USD/45mg+in+USD+per+mg

Wolfram|Alpha will calculate not only what you asked, but what you might have meant to ask, too.
http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=0.10+USD/45mg+in+USD+per+mg

Sonja Stewart's picture

arrrrgh....I'll do my homework and go over all these...again.  Seriously, the most frustrating part about this is how long it took me to figure this all out when I just should have called my friendly local CPA and let them do what they do best.  It's just division.  How could I have screwed it up so badly? 

I'll look it over and edit.  I agree it should be dollars, not cents.  But the ranking is correct.  Now to get to the bottom of the "way off" bit.

tbc...

 

Sonja Stewart

 

Sonja Stewart's picture

Ok, I found the problem.  Your count for caffeine is half what mine is for Rockstar, which accounts for the double cost.  Rockstar only has 80 mg per can according to my calculations, which is where I get the breakdown.

@J I like the idea of breaking it down to the 100 mg of caffeine as a stable point.  I thought about the best way to lay it out and hadn't thought of that.  Great idea. 

Sonja Stewart

 

Guest's picture
brishu

Starbucks Quad Espresso Long, (yes you can ask for it long, and tripple and quad shots of Espresso aren't advertised on the menu .... but dear lord they taste like heaven in a cup when i need a REALLY quick REALLY big coffee fix. Its cheap ($ / caffeine mg). ( I think in Canada with the Tax, the quad-shot is around $3.3x)

Guest's picture
Guest

Including OTC drugs on this list is pretty irresponsible, as a lot of younger caffeine junkies (I'm looking at you, Mountain Dew folks) dose throughout the day. Excedrin for example, contains acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) which is dangerous and potentially fatal (kills your liver, ugly way to die) at surprisingly low doses.

Sonja Stewart's picture

Thank you for the heads up.  I hadn't thought about the youths and how they may take this article.  I added a warning before the list, so hopefully, they aren't irresponsible with the information.

I forget how reckless I was when I was younger.  I sincerely hope people are responsible with this information.

Sonja Stewart

 

Guest's picture
Diane

Even cheaper- buy coffee in bulk & make it at home. Tasty, and cheap.

Guest's picture
Barb

I LOVE CAFFEINE-----AND THIS ARTICLE WAS A KEEPER! You inspired me to consider more tea too!! Don't overlook ALDI's. Their prices on great coffee and tea are amazing. I also limit my caffeine intake which saves some cash. Too much caffeine makes me a bit INSANE!

Guest's picture
Guest

You can buy a kilogram (1,000,000 mg) of pure caffeine for about $75 on ebay. That works out to $0.0007 per mg, or less than 1/10 of no-doz. I guess you would just mix small amounts of it into water or juice or something. Obviously a bit crazy, but it's the logical conclusion of this post.

Just sayin'.

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%2474.95%2F1KG+to+%24%2Fmg

http://cgi.ebay.com/Caffeine-Powder-1-Kg-2-2LB-Energy-Weight-loss-FatBur...

Guest's picture
Guest

see title

Guest's picture
念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

阿彌陀佛 無相佈施

不要吃五辛(葷菜,在古代宗教指的是一些食用後會影響性情、慾望的植
物,主要有五種葷菜,合稱五葷,佛家與道家所指有異。

近代則訛稱含有動物性成分的餐飲食物為「葷菜」,事實上這在古代是稱
之為腥。所謂「葷腥」即這兩類的合稱。 葷菜
維基百科,自由的百科全書
(重定向自五辛) 佛家五葷

在佛家另稱為五辛,五種辛味之菜。根據《楞嚴經》記載,佛家五葷為大
蒜、小蒜、興渠、慈蔥、茖蔥;五葷生啖增恚,使人易怒;熟食發淫,令
人多慾。[1]

《本草備要》註解云:「慈蔥,冬蔥也;茖蔥,山蔥也;興渠,西域菜,云
即中國之荽。」

興渠另說為洋蔥。) 肉 蛋 奶?!

念楞嚴經 *∞窮盡相關 消去無關 證據 時效 念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

我想製造自己的行為反作用力
不婚 不生子女 生生世世不當老師

log 二0.3010 三0.47710.48 五0.6990 七0.8451 .85
root 二1.414 1.41 三1.732 1.73五 2.236 2.24七 2.646
=>十3.16 π∈Q' 一點八1.34

Guest's picture
Will

I would warn against taking Excedrin for the caffeine. It does not have enough in relation to the acetaminophen to make it safe. You would need to take a few of them, and by that point, you're doing liver damage.

Guest's picture
Lupham

Dumpster diving, it's free! I've found tons of off-brand coffees in store dumpsters, sounds gross, I know, but they're usually on the top of the stash so you just reach in, and pull it out with gloves and wash it off. You wouldn't believe how much great stuff i've found in dumpsters!

Guest's picture
Guest

I <3 Tetley Tea. Seriously. I just tried it last month and have been so happy - not going back to Lipton, ever.

Guest's picture
MoneyIsTheRoot

I wouldnt substitute anything for my morning coffee. I mean drinking the coffee is the part of the overall enjoyment, No Doz isnt going to do that for me.

www.moneyistheroot.com

Andrea Karim's picture

A dime bag of Tetleys has long been my fix!

Andrea Karim's picture

Oh, who am I kidding? I love my coffee. I love tea as well, but not as much as I love coffee.

Guest's picture

LOVE THIS POST! I am a die hard Diet Coke drinker since I don't drink coffee, but as you point out, I am paying a ton for my caffeine! The site is awesome and keep up the great posts! Take care.

Guest's picture
Archangeldawn

Great article !
I've been taking No Doz just recently and was experiencing a case of the Monday Blues+extreme drowziness. So when I saw "1.No Doz" , that was a sign for me to get some from my car. And then I got to the end of your article to see that No Doz warning. Although ranting about great Philosophers doesn't sound all TOO bad, indeed No Doz does have a warning about the amount of pills one can take in a given hour-span.

Guest's picture
simaro

I'm really facing this kind of problem. I've never slept well. I always wake up at night and dream a lot..........that make me sleepy all the time while working..........
So what i can do is drinking a lot of coffee, not a cup of coffee but two cups of coffee everyday. I always lose my memory ability. Most of everyday work, i lose much of time for working cos of the feeling, mean can not do anything.
I think i will take this kind of caffeine for my whole life.... :-(

Guest's picture
Guest

Why has no one mentioned Crystal Light Energy? Buying it from Wal-Mart gets you $0.002 per mg of caffeine! It's great, you can mix it strong or weak to meet your needs and take it with you anywhere as it's just powdered.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ha ha i love the humor in this post "ER room after you've had an anxiety attack" using No Doz.I myself are hypersensitive to regular coffee ( Probable since i have ADHD) should ADHD's avoid coffee? Huh..