Cutting down on your spending money may seem like a big sacrifice. In a consumer mindset, it’s easy to equate spending money with having fun.  I’ve found that reducing your spending does not have to reduce your fun. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at common areas where it can be easy to overspend and provide some free alternatives that are just as fun and entertaining!

Eating Out

Last night, I was out at a local restaurant with the gf. I thought to myself, “how do all of these restaurants stay in business?” It is truly amazing to me how often the average person lets someone else they’ve never met do their cooking for them. As CF rightly pointed out, I do underestimate the actual number of people there are in any given city, but the sheer number of restaurants is a testament to the normalization of eating out. Eating out should be a treat; as Art of Manliness points out, delayed gratification can increase the pleasure of an experience.

Returning to the focus of this series, eating out can be a very enjoyable yet very expensive activity. Here are some simple ways to spend less (or not to spend at all) when indulging yourself for a night out.

Become a Mystery Shopper

Yes, it’s possible to eat for free! I can’t take the credit for this one though. Recently, CF signed up to be a mystery shopper. What is mystery shopping? In the service industry, one of the best ways for a company to evaluate it’s employees is to test them when they’re not looking. As a mystery shopper, you receive a set of instructions about what to look for, but after that you’re like any other customer, except that you have to write a report after. The great part about this, is that this includes restaurants! For what amounts to less than two hours of work, you could be ‘paid’ up to $70 to go out for dinner. Not a bad deal.

Events and Seminars

If you’re a student, you can often go to seminars on various topics and enjoy free food afterward.  Your student society or faculty will often advertise events.  Clubs and other groups on campus will also usually provide free food… if you’re willing to listen to their sales pitch!

Even if you’re not a student, professional associations will often sponsor seminars and networking events with food.  CF goes to a monthly users group on bioinformatics, for example, which is accompanied by free pizza.  It’s a great way to get a free dinner and learn something as well.

Free Lunch

Sometimes, you can just get a free lunch with no strings attached!  At UBC, you can get a free lunch once a week through a non-profit group dedicated to reducing food waste.  You just need to bring your own container!  Donations are welcomed, of course.  Perhaps there are similar programs in your communities!

(Food waste here refers to dented cans, blemished fruits, etc. which may not be fit for retail sale but are still edible).


I hope that this series has helped you question what is normal and given you some ideas to try out in the coming months. Please message me or leave comments if you have additional tips or alternate experiences, I’d love to hear about them!