There are many places that offer budget-saving coupons. Groupon isn’t the only game in town. (Read “What Is Groupon?”)
This is a guest post from my new buddy Todd over at Dealio. I have to admit, I get hives when I think about spending a lot of money dining out. I don’t have any room for it in my monthly budget plan. My wife will attest to that. However, if you’re going to do it, I think Todd has some great ideas for you.
In many households, dining out can be a large chunk of monthly expenses. Recently I discovered that in my household of one (non-cooking, workaholic professional), dining out accounted for more of my monthly budget than my rent. This first led to panic, then to “cooking for one” websites and then, finally, to what I know best – finding deals online. I knew that with a little sleuthing, it’d be possible for me to dine out without blowing through my new, self-imposed budget.
Here are my top ways to spend less money while dining out – whether you’re a household of one or many, these tips will help you save.
1. Group Buying Sites
Ever of heard of Groupon, Living Social or Blackboard Eats? They’re all a part of a new phenomenon spun off of the “deal a day” websites that extend to restaurants and services. Traditionally, “deal a day” sites take the steep discounts of Cyber Monday and offer one at a time on a daily basis. Typically, this only applied to products – but a company called Groupon took this concept and opened it up to local businesses.
Here’s how it works: Group buying sites like Groupon get local businesses to offer a limited number of products or services at a huge discount. You sign up to receive e-mails. Each day, you’ll receive a new offer that usually expires within a day or require a certain number of people to buy in order for the deal to be available to all (hence the name, group buy). This has worked particularly well for businesses that are traditionally offline, such as restaurants.
The good news is that this phenomenon has taken off – there are now many Groupon clones all across the country. Each one typically has a restaurant offer that’s 50% or more off the value. For example, you can get a $40 gift certificate for $20. One site I particularly like is called Yipit – it aggregates deals across multiple sites so that you don’t have to clutter your inbox with e-mails.
On any given day, I can find a deal on a restaurant that I want to try. I also feel good knowing that I am supporting local businesses. Happy belly and happy karma – can’t beat that.
These guys were probably the first ones to come up with a new twist on restaurant coupons. Rather than offering $10 or 10% off of a meal – why not enable people to buy gift certificates that could pay for the entire meal?
Here’s how it works: Go to Restaurant.com and search by zip code for restaurants in your area. You can typically buy a $25 gift certificate for $10. The catch is that you have to spend at least $35 (so out of pocket cost is $20) plus pay an 18% gratuity (so that servers don’t get a bum deal). The secret is that there are online coupons you can use to purchase Restaurant.com gift certificates (yes, that’s right, a coupon for a coupon…my frugal heart pitter-patters with joy). I’ve found coupons for up to 80% off. This means that I can buy a $10 Restaurant.com gift certificate for $2. As a result, my $35 meal only costs around $12 before tip – beat that, Rachael Ray!
Unlike the group buying sites, you can get pick up these offers pretty much any day. There are certain restrictions such as one use per person per month and the total can’t include alcohol. The upside is that the selection is huge and even the pickiest eater can find something to enjoy.
3. Newspapers (Gasp)
I admit that I’m very much an online shopper. I even look at grocery ads online. However, the other day I was going through my weekly circular and found some pretty great restaurant offers, such as $10 off at Buca di Beppo (no restrictions) and BOGO at Chevy’s. So, before you toss the circular into recycle – flip through it for some pre-printed offers and tuck them into your wallet. You never know when they’ll come in handy. Sure, many can also be found online, but these will definitely be legitimate (yes, fake coupons do exist) and still valid.
Thanks, Todd. Nice work. My fear: by learning how to dine out for less, will people actually do it more often and therefore spend more? That’s not a good way to go – especially if you need to get out of debt, if you ask me. What say you?
Another idea…don’t forget to ask for special discounts. I know that you can get Home Depot Military Discounts…maybe you can get military discounts at Sam’s Steak House too!