Managing Finances

How to Save Money on Food

Breaking bread together is an age-old form of building relationships and living in community. But for college students on a budget, eating out can break the bank. Help your student save money without sacrificing the pleasure and time of sharing meals with these 10 tips:

Groupon or Living Social

If your student subscribes to Groupon or Livingsocial, she can receive daily emails with deals for local restaurants, stores, businesses and services. When she purchases the deal – usually between 50-90 percent off of the regular price – she can encourage her friends to buy the same deal. With Living Social, if three friends use her link to buy the deal, she gets hers for free.

Eat less meat

Meat prices are up 12% from last year, according to the USDA, so your student can save money just by opting for a vegetarian meal.

Happy Hour

Word of mouth is the easiest way to find out about the best happy hours in town. Why pay full-price for food and drinks when your student can find happy hours for half off?

Coupons and local deal books

Coupons do still come in the print form. Many college newspapers print ads with coupons for local restaurants. Local deal books also feature coupons for local businesses, and you can buy your student a book for usually around $20.

Student discounts

Check the university’s website and the town’s local Chamber of Commerce for information on student discounts with local businesses. Beyond food, your student might find anything from car servicing to computers at a cheaper cost by showing her student ID.

Gift cards (hint, hint)

Mom and Dad can help keep food and entertainment costs low by giving gift cards in care packages, at Christmas and for birthdays. Pay special attention to local coffee shops and your student’s favorite restaurant (where she’ll probably go whether she has a gift card or not).

Supper clubs

Restaurants don’t corner the market on entertainment and good conversation. Send your student some favorite low-budget recipes and encourage her to start a supper club with her friends. Each friend can host a dinner and the attendees can pitch in to cover the grocery costs.

Split with a friend

Most restaurants serve huge portion sizes, so splitting a meal with a friend will give your student sufficient food for half the price.

Bring home tomorrow’s lunch

If the meal is two or three times the size of what your student would normally eat, she can look at the price as the cost for two or three meals. Not to mention that taking food to go is a smart way to avoid the Freshman (or Sophomore or Junior or Senior) 15.

Invest now, save later

If your student spends hundreds of dollars every month on overly sweetened and priced coffee drinks, consider purchasing an espresso machine. While the upfront costs to buy this or other cooking equipment are high, they’ll pay off soon if used.

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