You won't believe what Starbucks is starting to serve

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Something to help you unwind better than a Frappuccino ever could.

If you're a freelancer or travel for business, you've probably spent an inordinate amount of time at Starbucks. A ubiquitous, conveniently located choice with food, coffee, and relatively reliable Wi-Fi, it's hard to stay away from the coffee behemoth.

Now, Starbucks is making a bold addition to the menu.

"Wine and coffee actually have a lot in common. Any sommelier or coffee master will take you through a similar tasting process of swirl/stir, inhale, and slurp."

So says Starbucks on their page describing "Starbucks Evenings," which will see select stores offering wine, beer, and their very coffee-meets-alcohol cocktail: the Espresso Cloud IPA.

Perhaps more striking, with Starbucks Evenings, you can reserve a spot for you and friends.

After witnessing more than one group meeting at a Starbucks in the late afternoon and evenings, this seems like a smart choice based on real customer behavior. There are plenty of screenwriting groups, Meetup groups, study groups, and more who use centrally located Starbucks' as convenient meeting places. Making it easier and even more appealing for them to gather comfortably makes sense.

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1. Reduced-Price Refills

If you need another pick-me-up even after you've just finished a coffee, you can get another at Starbucks and avoid paying full price. Whether you ordered a standard coffee of the day or an espresso drink, you can get a second cup of coffee for just 50 cents by hanging on to your original cup — no receipt needed.

According to Kendal Perez, a savings expert for Coupon Sherpa, you can also receive 10 cents off your original coffee order by bringing your own mug or tumbler.

"You have to be in the store (not the drive through) and cannot leave and then come back to receive this perk," said Perez. "Starbucks Rewards members (green and gold levels) receive free refills on brewed coffee and tea purchases, too."

2. Rewards Program

If you frequent Starbucks, sign up for its rewards program to score free drinks, food and other Starbucks merchandise, said Perez.

Start by downloading the Starbucks app and preloading it with cash, or pick up a gift card. You can then pay with your app to earn stars with every purchase. Rewards members start at "green" level status, which earns them free in-store refills, plus member events and offers. Load $10 or more in the Starbucks app using Visa Checkout, and you'll get a $10 eGift.

3. Starbucks Email List

Joining Starbucks' email list can be a useful, money-saving deal in more than one way. First, when you sign up for the email, you get 10 percent off your next order. Second, you can utilize the email list to stack rewards, said savings expert Teri Gault.

“Sign up for emails," she said. "When they have a challenge or Dash, enter it for more star rewards."

4. Seasonal Offers

Starbucks promotes seasonal offers such as Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Sweet/Treat Receipts and buy-one-get-one holiday drinks, said Perez.

"Between April 5 and April 11 of this year, for example, Starbucks offered any bakery item for $1 to customers who purchased something prior to 2 p.m. and returned after 2 p.m. with their receipt. During the last weekend in May, they offered 'buy three, get one free' drinks after 2 p.m. And they typically offer BOGO free on holiday drinks between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. for three days in mid-November," she said.

5. Free Add-ons

It might seem trivial, but you can save money by skipping the flavor at the counter and opting for the free flavor add-ons thatStarbucks offers, said Kerry Sherin of Offers.com. There, you can score flavors like cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla.

“Starbucks offers free half-and-half, cream, sugar and several spices, making it easy to spice up an inexpensive brewed coffee into a cinnamon-cream coffee for free,” said Perez.

6. Birthday Freebie

Like other stores and restaurants, Starbucks will celebrate your birthday with a freebie. “Any drink of any size is free toStarbucks Rewards (green and gold level) members,” said Perez.

7. Splitting a Venti

A good way to save at Starbucks is to go big — then split. When visiting Starbucks with a friend, order a venti — the 20-ounce large size — and split it between both of you. Ask the barista for two small cups; with the two cups, split the large drink between the both of you and then modify your coffee as you see fit.

You can do this with any drink Starbucks has, so if you’re trying to save a few bucks with someone, this is a great way to do it, said Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. "In the end, you’ll pay about $5 for the venti Frappuccino instead of $8 to $9 for two talls," he said.

8. Americano

James said ordering an Americano is one of the best ways to get your caffeine fix on the cheap.

“It's simply hot water poured over two freshly pulled espresso shots. If you want even more caffeine, don’t order an extra shot of espresso for your tall Americano,” he said. “Instead, order a ‘grande Americano in a tall cup,’ and get the extra shot cheaper by doing so. You’ll get three shots of espresso, instead of two, and pay less overall.”

9. Free Samples

Starbucks has a little known policy in which you can sample anything at Starbucks if you just ask, said Gault.

"They'll probably tell you to go ahead and take a seat, and they will bring it to you first, as they will make a tray of tasters for everyone in the store when they cut into that muffin. So, if you just want a coffee but want a little bite, it's free," she said.

"You can also ask to sample new Chile Mocha, or any other coffee drink. They have to make a whole one, so they'll do the same," Gault added.

10. Starbucks Online Deals

You don’t need to go into a brick-and-mortar Starbucks to score deals. The online Starbucks store is offering free shipping on any order of $75 or more, said Brenton Shelton of FatWallet. Also online, Starbucks is offering 5 percent off any order for existing customers when you use coupon code 5OFFSEPT16.

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Not everyone is excited about the idea, though. Phoenix police, for example, urged city council members to turn five Starbucks locations down in their bid to get a Series 12 liquor license. Law enforcement officials, as well as parents, are concerned about minors getting their hands on alcohol if anyone can buy beer and wine at Starbucks.

Plus, after a Starbucks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was selected to be one of the locations to feature the evening menu, 500 local residents signed a petition against it, citing concerns it would diminish revenue from small businesses in the area.

But will it, really? Or will it open up a whole new market?

The jury is still out, but it seems like it could empower a new market, in which case it wouldn't be stealing revenue from anywhere. Because in addition to the group meetings aspect, there are a lot of people who would see grabbing a quiet glass of wine with a friend at Starbucks as a chill way of ending the workday, sans the loud and occasionally overwhelming happy-hour scene at a bar.

Personally, I think it's a brilliant, if for no other reason than this: Every day from 4-7 p.m., participating Starbucks' will sell craft beer for $4 and a glass of wine for $5.

That's less than the price of a Venti Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino.

Cheers!

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