Ah, lunch. It’s a highlight of the day. And while it’s best practice to pack a lunch from home, some days you just have to get out of the office and eat somewhere else. (Feel free to point out the obvious, that I could pack a lunch AND go outside to eat on a bench or table somewhere. Someday, I will try this.)
However, lunch excursions can start to add up. Especially if you’re prone to dessert and, after having lunch, stop at Pinkberry for a flavor change. (Feel free to again point out the obvious that none if this helps the ol’ diet.)
Therefore, if you HAVE to go out to eat for lunch, let’s take a look at some of our cost-saving options. Over the course of the next month, I’ll attempt to give them a whirl.
These can be a blessing and a curse. First, make sure it can be used for lunch — often, it’s only good for dinner. Also, is this a place that’s nearby? You don’t want to trek too far from your office. Lastly, keeping track of all of these coupons (most of them you can’t use the day that you purchase) is a challenge — I tried subscribing to a coupon aggregator site, but it’s just plain simpler to track these in my Blackberry Notes. I created a note called “Gift Certificates – Food.” I list them by site (Groupon, LivingSocial, GoogleDeals, Denver Daily Deal, so on) and then by restaurant. I also include the expiration date.
Con: Sometimes isn’t the best deal, because you still have to spend additional funds (and tip) for a full lunch.
Pro: Makes you try new lunch spots.
Frequent diner cards
My neighborhood Bruegger’s is a good example. Each time I buy a bagel sandwich, I get a stamp. After nine stamps, I get a free one.
Con: Have to buy nine bagel sandwiches.
Pro: If you’re buying bagel sandwiches anyway, might as well get a free one every now and then. Also, sometimes I forget to bring my card for them to stamp. (Though sometimes I just get a new one and then combine the cards.)
There are all kinds of area coupon books for local restaurants. Most of these are a great deal, IF you have a partner to dine with. The catch, however, always seems to be that it’s a buy-one, get-one deal. If you have a willing partner, and you both have the cash to split it, this can save you a few dollars.
Con: Must have partner-in-dine.
Pro: Reliable savings.
Occasionally, you may receive restaurant gift certificates. These I like to use for lunch as you get more for your money AND portions are large enough to get at least two meals out of it. Or, say you get a $5 coupon to Corner Bakery in a goodie bag. These I also keep track in my Blackberry notes. They’re pretty much the best deal as they have zero out-of-pocket costs — as long as you can stick to the amount of the gift certificate value.
Con: None that I can think of right now.
Pro: Totally free meal.
And so, with these lunchtime tactics in hand, I will attempt to take my own advice and begin tomorrow, 10/19/11, with this lunchtime savings experiment. Stay tuned for progress.