Coffee Costs Stacking Up and on a Tight Budget? Alternatives?

Early College Experiences

The first few weeks of college have been scary trying to adapt to the new lifestyle. Making friends and trying to remember where the different buildings are located has been stressful enough. Next thing you know…exams are just around the corner. And NOT just one but several of them! In addition, MANY assignments like essays and annoying math problems are due soon.

There is just so much to do, and our bodies can only handle so much after a long day. After a brutal day of class, all we want to do is just relax for the rest of the day, hang out with friends, or watch a cool movie before another day of class. The last thing on our minds is more school work. Unfortunately, the assignments do not just go away on its own and they must still be completed.

Our Next Action?

Despite how tired and annoyed we feel about school at the moment, the assignment needs to be done regardless and a good score on the exam is a MUST! What do we do next? We seek for a temporary increase in alertness and concentration to do what is needed to be done. What is that magical solution/drink that we often use? COFFEE!

What Coffee Does for Us?

Coffee, a stimulant, is known for helping our minds to become more alert and less tired. This helps us to find that extra energy and focus to push ourselves to do that necessary assignment or ace that exam.

Something We May Not Realize…

That first coffee drink, might not have tasted too great, but you were amazed with the results of it as you start to see its benefits with time. As more tests and assignments are around the corner, you now realize you have a tool that you can use to help provide that boost. You may also start to have an acquired taste for coffee by that point and just the scent of it brings you joy.

An average cost of coffee (from Starbucks or Coffee Bene) can range anywhere between $3 to $6 with tax (more expensive for the special brew and large sizes). Before you know it, a cup of coffee each day for a month can REALLY add up and cost anywhere between $90 to $180. Given a full year, that is $1,080 to $2,160 just on coffee alone! With that money, you can probably pay off a semester of classes!

As a college student who may already be in debt from loans and spending that much on coffee alone, this can create a huge headache (especially if combined with caffeine withdrawals). Yet, you still need to survive school.

What I Did as an Alternative

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

Realizing how much the cost of coffee really stacks up over the years, I tried finding an alternative to that caffeinated drink and I did something: Caffeine Pills! (Seems almost obvious…but perhaps not!)
A single bottle of caffeine (from Prolab on Amazon) costs about $8 and contains 100 tablets with 200 mg of caffeine each (which is equivalent to a cup of coffee). You are looking to spend about 8 cents per tablet which has the equivalent amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee ($3 to $6). If you plan to use caffeine pills for a year, that totals up to about $30 for that whole year (versus the $1,080 to $2,160). This could save you a significant amount of money especially for those who are struggling financially and need that extra boost for school (or work).

My Experience with Caffeine Pills and Coffee

I noticed that when I take caffeine pills (and same with regular coffee), I notice a suppressed appetite. This is most likely from the acidic effects from the caffeine that lead to less acid production by the stomach. This may sound bad but put it another way, it just means you will be eating less which is awesome if you are trying to lose weight.

When drinking coffee, one will have a tendency to use the restroom more because coffee is a diuretic. Diuretics are a chemical compound which is commonly used for those who need to get rid of excess retained water such as those with high blood pressure or heart failure. This can leave you feeling exhausted and dehydrated. Caffeine pills, on the other hand, do not have that strong of a diuretic effect and I can sometimes go 3 or 4 hours without that urge to go to the restroom. Regardless, one should still be hydrated to stay healthy.

In terms of focus and concentration, caffeine has a more burst like type of effect whereas coffee has a more stable, constant effect. Depending on your specific circumstance, you can choose to consume either caffeine pills or coffee. If a test is coming up in an hour? Go for the caffeine pill. If at home and need a steady state dose of caffeine, you can do either coffee or caffeine pill. Knowing that caffeine pills have a burst like effect, I recommend starting at a low dose such as cutting the pill into half or quarters (equivalent to coffee sips) before moving on to the full pill (full cup of coffee). Do take into account that caffeine pills can last up to 3 to 6 hours.


As with any substance, always consume them in moderation. You will start to develop tolerance if you constantly take it and for consecutive days. Therefore, it is recommended to take ONLY when needed such as those days when you have a big exam or assignment coming up. Perhaps use the weekend to detoxify yourself or after you take that exam.

Keep in mind that your body also needs sleep. Going 2+ days straight pulling off an all-nighter may not always work out. It is still always better to plan your schedule ahead of time.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Try to avoid consuming over 400 mg of caffeine (pill or coffee) per day
  • The pill itself is EXTREMELY BITTER so gulp it down quickly with fluids
  • Overdose of caffeine can cause
  • Stay hydrated
  • Sleep is still necessary (to retain info and be healthy)
    • Caffeine should NEVER be a substitute for quality sleep
  • Always go for better planning than cramming
  • Remember to give yourself breaks and enjoy fun things during your time in college or in general. Do not deprive yourself of those things, life is already hard as it is.


Caffeine pills can be an alternative to a cup of coffee. As with any substance (even with food), always consume in moderation. Excessive consumption of anything can be harmful to the body. If you really enjoy the taste of coffee with cream and sugar, please feel free to continue to do so. This was just a way to help save you some money and by no means are you obligated to try this method only.

Did you enjoy this life hack for a coffee alternative that is more affordable? Please leave a comment below!


16 thoughts on “Coffee Costs Stacking Up and on a Tight Budget? Alternatives?”

  1. I stopped drinking coffee last year because I found out it had a bad effect on my skin. I still do love the smell and the taste but don’t dare to drink it because I hate having pimples on my face. But having low blood pressure, I do need some caffeine or at least some alternative so I drink cocoa, black tea, and green tea instead. 
    Caffeine pills sound interesting to me, they might be worth trying because I think the main culprit that makes problems for me is just something added in instant coffee (and I’ve tried all sorts, even expensive ones), so maybe the caffeine pills would be ok for me.

    • Hello Lenka! Thank you for sharing! Cocoa, black tea, and green tea are great alternatives to coffee and have some medicinal effects for you so please continue doing that. And hmm, that is interesting. I wonder if it is because of the stronger diuretic effect of coffee that gives you lower blood pressure which may probably be inducing you to have pimples. (Diuretics tend to make you lose water more through urine = more dehydrated). And so more dehydration may cause more toxins to be trapped in the pores of your skin (as opposed to sweating it out when well hydrated). And like you mentioned, there are probably other chemicals in coffee that could be contributing to all that too.

      Caffeine (in any form) works by constricting your blood vessels which should induce greater blood pressure so you are right to be using it to combat your low blood pressure. Alternatively, you can also keep it up by drinking more fluids too. I think of the body as a water balloon that needs constant fluids to maintain the blood pressure. Low water intake = low pressure, and vice versa). Hope that all makes sense and helps!

  2. Good day Mike. Season greetings to you. This is very nice and thoughtful of you to share a life hack on how one can get to cut cost on coffee, in a very cheaper way. Coffee is good for staying alert and awake, but very expensive for a student. But this caffeine pills alternative you have recommended, is the real deal. It is very affordable and just a bottle ($13) can last for 30-60 days (whereas $13 can only buy 2-4 cups of coffee). Thanks for this!

  3. This is an amazing hack Mike, thanks for sharing this. Who would have thought. I do not take much amount of coffee, especially after seeing firsthand why it did to my friend. During Last session, he relied very much on coffee to do his dirty work, took a lot of the during the day, after a while according go him, he started hearing voices,when we say a Doctor, He was diagnosed with triglycerides, an increase in  levels of blood fat. So as much as coffee is good, it must be moderated, would save cost, and prevent health complications

    • Hello there Josh! Caffeine every once in a while can be a great tool especially when you need to stay awake and concentrated at critical times. I agree with you in that coffee should always be taken in moderation, it can lead to dehydration which can sometimes lead to hallucinating symptoms. Too much of anything is also never a good thing. (For example with drinking excessive water, it can even lead to something called hyponatremia, an imbalance of electrolytes and fluids in the blood and harm the body).

      I have not yet heard of caffeine/coffee having a direct effect on triglycerides and lipids in the bloodstream. Perhaps, it can potentially put the body in high stress from sleep deprivation which indirectly suppresses the ability to feel fullness when eating. This in turn will lead to overeating and cravings for foods high in bad fats and sugars. How are his diet, stress levels, and his levels of physical activity? 

  4. Hi Mike, I like drinking coffee. I drink at least 1 cup a day and always in the morning at breakfast time.

    I used to drink coffee too when I had to stay up late to study. I think if you do that over a period of time, its stimulant effect becomes less effective. Caffeine pills may be resorted to maybe?

    I would not be needing them though, as I enjoy drinking real coffee instead.

    • Hello there, Sue Tay! Your routine is totally fine. It really just depends on the situation you are in. If your daily schedule is pretty routine, and drinking one cup of coffee a day works and is within your budget, then you can continue doing that. But it’s when coffee prices start to stack up and it’s hurting the budget a little bit or if you need a stronger effect of caffeine (due to built tolerance), caffeine pills or a larger dose of coffee (with extra shots) may be needed.

  5. Yes! The amount of money we spend on coffee on a monthly basis adds up to millions in the long run. This is great because you have elaborated how toxic this behavior is and alternatives for those who need to spend less on coffee but have a gigantic love for coffee. Thank you so much for this and the info you provide

    • Hello there, Misael! Thank you for your comment. Before we know it, each cup of coffee purchased at regular prices can really stack up which takes a huge hit on our finances. Hopefully this caffeine alternative will help people save more money.

  6. Hi Mike,

    Season greetings to you. This is very nice piece of article of you to share a life hack on how one can reduce cost on coffee, in a very cheaper way. Coffee is good for staying alert and awake, but at the same time has it own challenges when not manage well. But this caffeine pills alternative you have recommended, is the real deal. It is very affordable and just a bottle ($13) can last for 30-60 days (whereas $13 can only buy 2-4 cups of coffee). Thanks best regards!

    • Hello there, Osei! Seasons greetings back to you! Thank you for your comment and I am happy to hear you were able to see the advantages of the use of caffeine pills as well. Definitely a cost effective alternative of caffeine.

  7. Please be careful with the consumption of such pills. I would always prefer to go natural, and I’m actually talking about sleep instead of coffee. In my experience, it’s not that there is not enough time for study and assignments, it’s more like students leave it until the last minute to do everything!

    • Hello there, Clark! I agree, the overconsumption of caffeine pills (or just anything in general) is never safe. Even something as simple as water (which can lead to hypernatremia) can be dangerous when over consumed. I too prefer natural remedies, but there are just times when even with proper preparation and planning, it may still not be enough for the body to function optimally off something natural like sleep alone. Of course, circumstances vary from person to person, but we try to make the best out of every situation we are thrown with.


Leave a Comment