A few of us in the BD office sometimes describe ourselves as feeling RAVENOUS. As in, we just can't stop eating. While we are lucky enough to have some snacks available to us, lunches can really pose a problem. You know the feeling. You're on a budget so you stock up on Lean Cuisines when they're 5 for $10 and then you want to rip your hair out at the very thought of eating them. To make yourself feel better, you go out with the group and buy yourself a burger or a burrito at Chipotle. I've been there. Your $2 lunch bargain is a complete waste because you end up double-spending to make yourself feel full and avoid those dreaded frozen meals. Great news, ravenous friends, there really are cheap lunch options out there to make you feel full on a budget... at least for another hour.
Even if you've been holding out on signing up for Foursquare, you should create an account just to get discounts when you go out to eat. Select restaurants offer Specials that can get you a percentage off or even a free item just by showing your server or cashier you checked in on Foursquare. Right now, I could get 15% off at an Asian restaurant, free guacamole at a Mexican bar or 10% off at a local tourist trap. You can read more about saving on Foursquare here.
Sites like GrubHub, Seamless, DiningIn and Delivery.com (new customers can get 25% off their first order, 10% off for existing users!) are all extremely convenient for office workers. You can keep your credit card on file (if you rarely carry cash) and they will deliver it right to your office door. This is also a very easy way to round up your co-workers and do a Costco-esque saving by buying in bulk. These sites often take discounts for the size of your order. Meaning, you can get $5 off a $10 order. If you don't think you can make a minimum-spend lunch order on your own, ask your co-workers and order together then split the tab.
Most everyone is now familiar with Groupon. While you could use Groupons for your work day lunches, sometimes these vouchers cannot be redeemed for a few days. That is where Groupon Now! comes in. You can browse for lunch specials based on your location, and use those deals immediately at your restaurant. They currently have apps for both the iPhone and the Android. You can pay using a valid credit card from your phone or computer or use any previously earned Groupon bucks.
The easily forgotten loyalty card. Oh, how I love you. I frequent the same places for lunch and it surprises me (not always in a good way) how quickly I can earn that free tenth burrito. We've seen some of our favorite lunch spots, including Jimmy Johns and Pinkberry hop on the loyalty card wagon recently. Have a favorite spot? Just ask for one! If the thought of carrying all those loyalty cards around deters you from taking advantage of them, check out the Belly Card. This universal card can earn you loyalty points at locations, including McDonalds, Subway or Chick-Fil-A, that participate in the program and you could end up with free stuff just for swiping!
Stick With Your Brown Bag Lunch
Most money-saving articles tell you to make and bring your lunch to save hundreds per year. We know this is true, but I have a hard time believing the authors of these articles really stick to that advice. Sometimes a PBJ sammy is just not going to cut it. You can easily bring your lunch in a few times a week, but don't force yourself to bring it in every day. You'll end up going absolutely bonkers when you do let yourself go out to eat and end up spending more than you really need to. Plan to go out 1-2 times per week, but if you do bring your lunch and are invited to go out, consider turning down the invitation. Those $2 Lean Cuisines aren't going anywhere. Eat them. You spent the money on them, don't waste it.
For even more ideas on how to save, sign up for Brad's Daily Alerts and get deal news and updates sent directly to your inbox!