My roommates and I had a rough fall semester. Our midday trips to Starbucks kept us from crying in the middle of the day. We would all wander into the living room around 2 p.m. and suggest a coffee run. While the salted caramel macchiato and strawberry acai refresher were good for our souls, they were not good for our wallets. The gift cards we received couldn’t keep up with the three or four trips we took to the drive-thru line. Over time, it started to feel like the Starbucks’ baristas knew who we were. We made it to the end of the semester with our sanity (barely), but our bank accounts desperately needed resuscitation.
While I was home for Christmas break, my mom started talking to me about the Panera Bread coffee subscription. She knew how often my friends and I treated ourselves to Starbucks, and she thought that this subscription would be a way for us to save money. The deal allowed for any subscriber to pick up a cup of coffee every two hours. If you stayed at the restaurant, the refills on coffee were unlimited. The best part? The subscription cost $8.99 (and the first three months were free).
I put off signing up for the subscription for most of the winter break. I wasn’t under academic stress, so coffee wasn’t the main priority. But my mother insisted that I sign up before I went back to school. My mom and I signed up together one day when we finished shopping. We used the app to place our mobile order, and I got my first sip of the good life. By the time I came back to Gainesville for the spring semester, I was a dedicated woman. I told my roommates about the magical subscription and got them to sign up as well.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that Panera Bread coffee and Starbucks coffee are on the same level because they’re not. But for the price, I don’t care. It costs a few cents extra to add flavoring to an iced coffee at Panera. But even when I add two pumps of caramel or vanilla, I end up paying 50 cents for my coffee. The subscription also does not include unlimited cold brew coffee. Your options are limited to iced coffee and hot coffee. The app keeps track of every time I spend any amount of money (even if it’s only 50 cents), and I earn rewards. So far, I’ve gotten discounts on a breakfast sandwich and a salad. I also got a free bagel and pastry. My favorite order is an iced coffee with vanilla syrup and half-and-half. I also love to get the avocado, egg white and spinach sandwich when I don’t feel like making breakfast. I can leave with my coffee and sandwich for less than $6.
Because of the great deals, I now live at Panera Bread. I go and pick up coffee three or four times a week. Sometimes I will place a mobile order and swing by to pick it up on my way home from the grocery store. Other times, my friends will pick it up for me while they’re out and about. On one or two days of the week, I take my backpack and grind out work there. Panera Bread’s coffee subscription has given me an excuse to get out of my apartment and go somewhere I feel I need to be productive. I start my day off at 5:45 a.m. with a workout and plop myself down in a booth at Panera by 7:30 a.m. The key to a successful Panera trip is to get there early enough to snag a table during an outlet. That way, you won’t be forced to leave when your devices inevitably die. For a few hours, I focus on getting through my school work with the assistance of several cups of coffee. This week, I even tried one of their ginger tea options, and I loved it.
My roommates and I still love to visit Starbucks from time to time, but not nearly as much as we did last semester. I’ve enjoyed watching my bank account come off of life support. We’ve started to wonder if the people at Panera Bread recognize us when we come in to get out coffee. Surely, they realize how often they’ve seen our names pass through their system. All I know is I’ve been able to remain well-caffeinated, and I have a subscription to thank for that.