Going out for lunch or dinner is perfect for catching up with friends or skipping the cooking with your flatmates, but it can deliver a quick, sore punch to your student loan! Don’t miss out on a great meal with your favourite people because you’re skint – this list of tasty tips will have you saving a fortune on your social life in no time.
Keep your student card on you at all times to take advantage of discounts. Most chain restaurants, and many local ones, will offer deals specially for students such as a percentage off your food or 2 for 1 on main courses. Just a few examples – Las Iguanas offers a massive 25% off food for up to 6 people Sunday-Thursday with their ‘Llama Card’, while Yo! Sushi and Chiquito give you the same amount off all day, every day. Earn free food when you eat at KFC through their Colonel’s Club scheme, and if you’re looking for healthier fast food, nab 15% off at Leon. Wherever you end up going, even if it’s just the pub on campus, ask the staff about discounts or look them up online first.
There are student discounts, and three are NUS extra discounts. Rise to the next level of thrifty student dining and buy yourself an NUS extra card for £12 per year – it’s the best investment you’ll make, trust me. This card unlocks hundreds of discounts across the UK and in many students’ unions, including at loads of popular restaurants. If you can commit to more than a year, the card’s cheaper, too, at £22 for two years or only £32 for three.
There are plenty of sites packed with discounts, offers and freebies, with specific sections for food and drink to help you save on your meal out. Student Money Saver’s restaurant page features the latest deals in an easy-to-access way (and, usefully, each offer is greyed-out when it expires, so you’ll never be caught out by old offers). Sign up for these sites’ email alerts to get offers straight to your inbox.
Time your visit right
Traditionally, restaurants make the most money at weekends, which means that during the rest of the week, you can often eat out more cheaply. Look out for early bird specials, late lunch offers and Sunday-to-Thursday deals on drinks and food, and enjoy the fact you don’t have to get up early for work tomorrow like everyone else!
Your favourite places to eat want you to keep coming back, so sign up to their email newsletter to get their promotions, if you’re willing to put up with a busier inbox. Pizza Express are particularly good at sending regular 2-for-1s, free starters, and other tantalising offers to their subscribers, and like any others will tempt you with freebies on your birthday. It’s so useful to have a discount code or two up your sleeve when you and your mates decide to head out for dinner.
Store loyalty cards are great money-savers if you build up your points, and Tesco’s Clubcard is by far the best for eating out. Collect just £5 worth of Clubcard points, for example, and you can trade them in for a £20 voucher to spend at a range of restaurants including Prezzo, Papa John’s, Bella Italia and Café Rouge. It’s free to sign up, so you have nothing to lose.
So, do your research and flash your student card every chance you get. don’t be afraid to be cheeky and ask the restaurant staff about any offers, discounts or loyalty schemes you don’t know about, or any seasonal events coming up. If you’re savvy and keep an eye out for chances to save, you need never to pay full price for dinner again (though it’s maybe not a great idea to scrimp on a first date!).