The truth is, most college students are strapped for cash. Between the cost of tuition, books and supplies, and living expenses, it can be difficult to find the money for anything else. But there’s one area where you can save some money: eating out!
Let’s explore how to save money while eating out in college.
How Much Does the Average College Student Spend on Eating Out?
It’s no secret that college students today are spending more money on food than ever before. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average student spends $341 on eating off campus each month. This number is expected to climb as the cost of eating out continues to increase. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying restaurant food once in a while, it can be easy for students to overspend when they aren’t careful.
Creative Ways to Spend Money in College (and Save on Dining)
College students are notorious for their love of spending money on food. Whether you’re going out to eat or buying groceries to cook in your dorm, you can save a substantial amount of cash by using these creative ways to spend money:
Coupons are a fantastic way to save money when eating out. You can find them for restaurants online, on social media, or in the Sunday paper. Oftentimes, you’ll receive them in your email as well, if you’ve signed up for your favorite restaurants’ newsletters. Certain restaurants may even offer weekly BOGO specials to get people through the door—take advantage of them!
Attend On-Campus Events
Going to campus events is another way to save money while eating out in college. These are great opportunities to network with other students and professionals, find part-time or full-time employment and internships, and eat free food! Mixers and job fairs usually provide yummy snacks for attendees to enjoy while mingling.
Some schools even offer free lunches and dinners to students who attend their events. Check out your school’s website to learn more about upcoming events. You can also use social media to stay in the know—most institutions have Facebook pages that include information about campus happenings.
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Use Your Student ID
Your student ID is the most powerful weapon when it comes to saving money—eating out or not. But when it comes to dining at food establishments, your student ID can save you 10% or more. But not all restaurants offer student discounts. So you’ll need to find out which ones near you offer them, and eat there when you’re not feeling up for cooking.
Not only will your student ID reduce your meal’s cost, but it will also save you money in other areas, which then could allow you a bigger budget for dining. For example, you can get discounts on movie tickets, parking, and gym memberships.
Split Portions with Friends
Let’s say your favorite lunch spot offers a sizable entree portion—but it’s expensive. You can split it (and maybe even have leftovers) so each of you gets to enjoy a portion at half the cost. This works out well if you’re going out with a couple of friends and want to split the bill. Just make sure everyone is on board with this plan. Otherwise, it could lead to awkwardness at the end of your meal.
Make the Most of Happy Hour
Who doesn’t love a good happy hour? Happy hour deals are a fun way to get a cheap drink and socialize with friends. And don’t fret if you don’t drink alcohol. Happy hour menus typically have appetizing finger foods for you to take delight in.
Consider becoming an insider if you’re a regular at your favorite happy hour spot. Receive exclusive discount codes by joining their email list or following them on social media. Have a friend who works at the bar? Don’t be shy to ask them to hook you up with a deal!
Cut Down on Spending Elsewhere
If saving money while eating out is a goal, then you must recognize that you can’t afford to spend money on everything. Prioritize what’s important to you and make sacrifices to stay within budget.
If eating out is on your priority list, then consider cutting down on spending elsewhere, like shopping and partying. It’s possible to paint the town red without spending an arm and a leg!
When eating out is a priority to you, try Firstcard, a student debit card that earns you up to 15% cashback at over 150 local businesses, and maybe even some of your favorite restaurants. You can dine out and save up while eating at your favorite campus dining spots.
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Use Thrifty Hacks to Save on Dining Out
With a limited budget, students realize that outside dining can quickly become a significant expense. But it doesn’t have to be. You just need to know how to save money while eating out in college. Keep these tips in mind next time you’re deciding on where to eat!