If you’re anything like me, eating out is a staple of your social routine. Who doesn’t like to decompress after a long day with a nice meal, glass of wine and a night out with friends? But when you’re living on a tight budget, going out for food and drinks can easily become an unaffordable luxury.
Well, I’ve got some good news. It doesn’t have to be! You can still live within your means and eat out. Here are my favorite hacks to eat for free (or almost for free) at your favorite restaurants.
Earn money towards a meal at Starbucks (and other food spots) every time you walk in when you download Shopkick.
Collect reward points, which the app calls “kicks,” just by visiting select retailers through the app, uploading shopping receipts, scanning the barcodes of certain items with retailers through Shopkick’s scanner and more.
In between shopping trips, you can also score kicks by watching in-app videos for new deals and products.
It won’t take long once you’ve been doing these simple things to earn gift cards to places like:
- The Cheese Cake Factory
- Papa John’s
Before long you’ll be getting your morning latte and some lunches for free.
Join Shopkick today and when you make an in-store scan within your first week, you can use our code MM5 to get a free $5 bonus (1,250 kicks)!
Did you wake up this morning wondering whether you should treat yourself to a burrito bowl at Chipotle for lunch? Thanks to Drop, you don’t need to.
Sign up for the app and select five stores to be your favorites (obviously Chipotle is on my list). Connect a debit or credit card and the app will track your spending and automatically add points to your account every time you spend at any of those five stores. Redeem your points as gift cards to whatever retailer is listed in the app, even if it’s not one of your top five.
Every time you buy food at these locations, you’ll be working towards a free meal:
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Blue Bottle Coffee
Spend guilt-free with the help of Drop — you’ll be earning points every time while you start to eat for free.
3. Papa John’s Pizza
A super convenient and fast way to fund late night runs to Papa John’s is doing paid surveys with Swagbucks!
Earn points towards gift cards and cash via Paypal for taking surveys and for simply using the app’s search engine to search the web. One of our favorite ways to cash in is for Papa John’s gift cards.
Those aren’t the only gift cards you can earn though. Get free money to:
- Olive Garden’s
- The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
Joining Swagbucks is free. Join now and get a $10 bonus! That’s a meal right there!
InboxDollars is another great paid survey option to earn free gift cards — even for scrumptious Ihop brunches. Get paid in cash or gift cards by InboxDollars for watching videos, taking surveys, playing games and reading offer emails. It’s that easy. InboxDollars makes it super easy and fast to cash out, so you can take your money and run to your favorite restaurant.
Some other restaurant gift cards InboxDollars lets you cash out in:
- McCormick & Schmick’s
- Panera Bread
- Whole Foods
Sign up for free with InboxDollars today and you’ll receive $5 right off the bat! Hello pancakes.
5. Whole Foods
Even though eating at home is usually the cheapest option, you still have to pay for those Whole Foods groceries. Use Ibotta to save to save as much as humanly possible when you go grocery shopping.
Ibotta supplies you with deals at stores and e-commerce brands like:
- Blue Apron
- Hello Fresh
- Whole Foods
- Stop & Shop
Shop directly with the app at one of these grocery stores or upload receipts to the app after the fact to see what available deals can be applied.
You’ll pay full price at checkout and once your cash back rewards have been totaled, the money gets credited to your account. When you’ve earned up to $20, you can cash out via PayPal or Venmo. You also have the option of receiving your money through gift cards once you have a balance of $25 or more. It really starts to add up!
Takeout binges burning a whole in your wallet? We have a just the thing for that: Use Rakuten — formally known as Ebates — to find offers that give you cash back on all of those delivery orders from DoorDash.
When you’re logged into Rakuten and you see an offer you like (like 4% cash back on DoorDash), select it and link a credit or debit card to it. Once you’ve done this, the offer is instantly available. Head to where you’re ordering via Rakuten and then order food like you normally would. Voila, cash back!
It’s going to make your takeout order a lot more affordable and it’s how I can afford to eat sushi all of the time.
7. Bonus: Order A Salad And Win Money For Doing It
Have you ever noticed that some of the most expensive things on a restaurant menu are also the healthiest? It can be hard to stomach paying $15 for a salad or $25 for salmon, but sign-up for HealthyWage and you’ll actually have a cash incentive.
The app essentially encourages you to bet money on successfully meeting your weight loss goals and awards you cash prizes when you meet or surpass them. Right now, HealthyWages’s top prize is a whopping $10,000!
If you’re worried you’ll lose more money than you’ll gain, don’t be. On average, people earn more than $1,000 for successfully completing this challenge.
With money like that, picking nutritious food options from the restaurant menu will actually pay off.
Feature Image: Twenty20