Updated: November 4, 2020
How much does it cost to get the Starbucks Planner? According to my Math, it would cost you around P2,000.
This is possible if you bought only the smallest sizes of the cheapest participating beverages. And perhaps joined the free sticker promos, if there’s any.
But of course, most people will actually spend more than P2,000.
And then comes the financial advice…
As soon as the start of the Starbucks planner promo is announced, social media will begin to churn various financial advice against it.
“Don’t get the Starbucks planner, the one at Coffee Bean is better, and you only need 12 stickers, not 18. Plus, it will be cheaper.”
“Why spend thousands of pesos for a planner, when you can get one for less than a hundred in a bookstore. You might even receive one as a gift from your company.”
“Instead of buying expensive coffee, just invest the money. It’s the smarter thing to do. Starbucks is overpriced and not even that good.”
And my favorite…
“May planner nga, wala namang plano sa buhay.”
Good intentions… wrong approach.
These financial advice all have good intentions, but unfortunately, they’re not effective.
I’ve seen, read, and heard these advice from financial experts and frugal-minded individuals ever since the Starbucks planner promo started years back.
And guess what happened…
Each year, more and more Filipinos are going to Starbucks during Christmas to avail of the planner, which they’ll never even use.
How do I know this? Because I’m one of them.
I am a Starbucks drinker.
Have you heard of the Latte Factor?
It’s a personal finance concept that points out how small purchases can add up to a significant amount over time, and how you’re missing an opportunity to grow your money because of it.
My usual Grande Iced CaffÃ¨ Latte costs P130. I go to Starbucks at least four times a week, which gives me a total spend of P27,040 every year on “overpriced coffee”.
If I instead, just invested that amount in the stock market, every year for 10 years, at 10% annual compounded growth, then I’d have almost half a million pesos by the end of the decade.
So why don’t I do that?
Because I don’t actually just buy coffee at Starbucks.
Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee
If you think that the main product of Starbucks is coffee, then you’re wrong.
Like most cafes, Starbucks is more than just a coffee shop, it is primarily an “experience-provider” – these are exact words from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
Most people don’t go to coffee shops like Starbucks to drink coffee.
The socially-conscious, go there “to be seen”, to experience being important. Online workers and freelancers go there to work, to experience a change from their home office environment.
Friends go there to meet and hang out, to experience the joy of conversation in a cozy venue. Introverts go there to read and watch people, to experience being alone without actually being alone.
Different people go to Starbucks (and other coffee shops) for many reasons, and most of the time, it’s not because of the coffee.
For me, Starbucks has been my venue for blogging, reading, meeting clients, and hanging out with friends. These are the reasons why I’m there at least 4 times a week.
A strong brand because of social science
Starbucks is a strong global brand because they took the time to understand the psychology of their target market through thousands of customer surveys.
And their application is consistent – from the beverages to the ordering process; from the customer service to the store ambiance.
I’ve been to a lot of their branches in the Philippines and other countries, and the experience is almost always the same everywhere.
Proof to this social science is my friend, who put up his own coffee shop and made it look and feel like Starbucks – from the menu to the ordering process; from the customer service and to the ambiance.
His cafe business was a success. It was very profitable for three years until a Starbucks branch opened nearby, stole all his customers and he had to close shop.
Why Pinoys spend so much to get the Starbucks planner
And now we go back to the original question…
Why do Pinoys spend so much to get the Starbucks planner that they’ll never even use?
The answer lies in the psychology behind the promo, which most financial advisors fail to see and address.
They don’t care about the money they’ll spend.
Telling people how expensive it is to get the planner doesn’t work because it’s irrelevant to their intentions. People who want the planner are not thinking of saving money.
They don’t care about the quality of the coffee.
Telling people that there are better places to have coffee than Starbucks doesn’t work because it’s not coffee that they’re buying. People are paying for the “Starbucks experience”.
They don’t care about the planner at all.
Telling people how other coffee shops have better planners doesn’t work because most people don’t actually have plans of using it. People want the planner because it’s a prize.
Understanding the psychology
Getting the Starbucks planner is a Christmas tradition for young urban professionals. Completing the midnight mass novena or Simbang Gabi used to be the must-do Christmas tradition for Pinoys. Now, it’s getting the planner.
Going to Starbucks and collecting the stickers makes people feel that they are part of a public tradition by their own generation and not one that they “adopted” from their parents.
Among friends – sharing how many stickers they’ve already collected, discussing which Christmas beverage they like the most, asking which planner design or color they want – these are all part of this modern tradition that Starbucks brilliantly started.
A Starbucks “virgin” becomes curious and goes to a branch to see what the fuss on the Starbucks planner is all about.
As he enters the store, the friendly barista greets him cheerfully and asks him how his day is going before taking his order.
Sensing a first-timer, the barista recommends a Caramel Macchiato or a Mocha Frappuccino – said with a reassuring tone similar to a trusted friend.
He gets his drink, settles down to a seat at the corner of the store, and starts to observe the people around.
He sees men in suits having a business meeting, a student typing a report on his laptop, a group of friends having a mini-reunion, and a pretty girl quietly reading a book.
“Why do these people hang out here? Am I missing something?” he asks himself. Then he looks at his promo card with its single, lonely sticker.
“Well, I can always come back and learn more about it,” he justifies.
Have you ever reached a goal you worked hard for? Do you remember how good it felt the moment you achieved it? I’m sure you do.
The Starbucks planner is a short-term, not-so-easy, but definitely achievable goal that today’s generation of Pinoys find worth pursuing.
I bet you that Starbucks did their research and found that eighteen stickers are the magic number – not 24, not 12, but 18. A goal that’s challenging enough to give the rush of victory upon completion.
When you’re an employee working for that uncertain promotion, paying debts that seem to never go away, and saving for retirement that’s still years ahead – achieving a short-term goal such as getting the Starbucks planner is always a huge boost to your self-esteem.
Tradition – Experience – Prize
Combine all three and you have a potent marketing strategy – one that Starbucks has effectively applied for many years now.
The sense of belongingness to a young generation, the experiential sanctuary away from home, and the personal triumph of overcoming a challenge – this is why Pinoys spend so much to get the Starbucks planner that they’ll never use anyway.
My financial advice
If you can afford it, then you’re okay in my book. If you see me at Starbucks, please approach me and introduce yourself.
But if you’re on a tight budget, trying to save money, and cannot afford spending on eighteen overpriced beverages. Then here are my advice:
It’s now the bazaar season. This is a yearly ritual not just for bargain hunters, but also among friends and family looking to do something together during the Christmas season.
Make your list, plan your gifts, then go to the numerous Christmas bazaars around the city and be part of this fun and frugal Pinoy tradition.
The “Starbucks experience” is not unique. There are a lot of coffee shops now that offer similar, and sometimes, better experiences.
If you’re a coffee-lover, check out the local coffee shops around the city. Or if you just want to hang out with your friends, then have a “coffee appreciation party” at home. I’ve done this and it’s fun!
Name something you’ve always wanted that costs around P2,000 (or even a little more). Is it a new pair of jeans? A bottle of perfume you like? A new watch for your everyday use?
Instead of spending to get the planner that will just gather dust next year, save up for something that will actually be useful to you. It can be anything as long as it’s within your set budget. Make this your Christmas gift to yourself.
Sixteen planners and counting…
The Starbucks planner promotion started in 2003. And with my usual schedule, I’m bound to get my 16th planner after 3 weeks. Give me another 3 weeks, and I’ll complete another sticker booklet.
I usually stop collecting stickers after I get my second planner because I only need two – each for my two brothers who like receiving them as Christmas gifts from me.
What about you? How many Starbucks planners have you had?