Get More Bites Outta Your Budget

For those, like me, who will spend down to their last dollar (well, leaving just enough money for gas to get home - and sometimes not even then) in pursuit of amazing dining experiences - here are a few sites that can help you get more bites for your money...bon appetit!

FREE site / app to make reservations at your local restaurants online - earn points each time you show up and dine.  Redeem points for gift certificates that can be used at any restaurant in the OpenTable database!

Typical deal: Earn 100 points for each rez & dine (some restaurants will offer 1,000 points per rez & dine during off-peak hours).  Once you earn 2,000 points, redeem for a $20 gift certificate.
Note: FREE to sign up for an account, FREE to make reservations online.  FREE points.  All you have to really pay for is your own meal.
App (free):
Twitter: @OpenTable_LA (LA) @opentable (national)

TravelZoo Local Deals
FREE newsletter and site with local deals at top restaurants (and travel deals as well).

Typical deal: 50% or more off special 4 to 5-course menu dinners at places like Oliverio, Drago Ristorante, Eva Restaurant.

Note: FREE to sign up for an account, FREE to see deals.  You pay for deals you want to buy, at the discounted price noted.

Twitter: @TravelZooLA

Five Star Rewards
FREE loyalty program with immediate rewards and ability to earn points for more while supporting small local eateries like Wanderlust Creamery and a lot of the restaurants on Sawtelle!

Typical deal: BOGO, free ice cream cone with scoop purchase etc.

App (free):
Twitter: @FiveStars

FREE loyalty programs with immediate rewards and ability to earn points for more while supporting local eateries like Matcha Cafe Maiko, and White Windmill bakery in Atlanta!

App (free):
Search for and buy discounted gift certificates to be redeemed at thousands of restaurants in cities nationwide.
Typical deal:  $10 gift certificates for $4, $25 GCs for $10

Note:  Free to join and/or follow on Twitter, but gift certificates are for purchase.  Also sign up for emails to get alerts on deal codes - typically 50%-90% off purchase price of discounted certificates!

Twitter: @restaurant_com

iDine (American Express)
Benefit for American Express cardholders - earn up to 15% back on your bill at restaurants in major cities nationwide including Los Angeles.

Register any American Express Card and sample a spot on the program on an eligible day. Afterwards, complete a quick online survey. The more you dine, the higher the percentage you can earn, up to 15% during the course of your yearlong membership! And once your benefits build up to at least $20, they'll send you an American Express Reward Card.

Free to sign up and/or follow on Twitter, but percentage earned depends on purchase on American Express card.

Twitter: @iDineLA

E-newsletter and app with daily deals for restaurants (and spas etc.!) in major cities nationwide
Typical deal: 50% off $xx voucher to restaurant
Note:  Free to sign up for e-newsletter, download app and/or follow on Twitter, but offer is for purchase.  Must purchase deal within same calendar day of emailed offer, and a minimum number of people have to commit to buying the deal before the deal is closed in order for you to get it.
Twitter: @grouponla

Groupon+ Deals also gives access to free 'codes' that lets you save a % or $ at local restaurants (no purchase of Groupon deal required) and get cashback on money you spend at the restaurant. Sign up for free here.

***Groupon also offers GROUPON GETAWAYS  where you can get insane discounts at the steep level you have come to know and love, to vacation packages in the US and worldwide!***

E-newsletter with daily deals for restaurants (and spas etc.!) in major cities nationwide (offers ability to choose to receive e-newsletters with deals specific to your area - for example, San Fernando Valley)

Typical deal: 50% off $xx voucher to restaurant
Note: Free to sign up for e-newsletter and/or follow on Twitter, but offer is for purchase.  Must purchase deal within same calendar day of emailed offer
Twitter: @LivingSocialLA (LA) @livingsocialSFV (Valley)

E-newsletter with deals for restaurants (and vacations, events, spas etc.) in LA, SF, NY, Boston, Chicago and other cities.
Typical deal: Varies from exclusive packages to events to % off offers

Note: Free to sign up, for e-newsletter and/or follow on Twitter, but offer is for purchase.
Twitter: @GiltCityLA

[Tip: also sign up for eBates first - also free - and click through ebates' GiltCity page first before buying vouchers, to save even more, usually 2-3% rebate]

Urban Daddy Perks
E-newsletter with deals for restaurants (and events, designer wear sales, spas etc.) in LA, NY, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Miami, and national.

Typical deal: Varies from exclusive packages to events to % off offers
Note: Free to sign up, for e-newsletter and/or follow on Twitter, but offer is for purchase.

Twitter: @urbandaddy

Yelp Deals
E-newsletter / site / app with deals for restaurants (and entertainment, healthy & beauty etc.) in LA and other major cities. Also, download their app, and look out for 'check-in' specials - I've enjoyed deals anywhere from a free appetizer to 50% off spa admission to $__ off deals.

App (Free):
Twitter: @YelpLA

KCRW Fringe Benefits
Join KCRW at as low as $50 membership and receive a Fringe Benefits card good for 10%-20% off discounts at over 1000 restaurants, museums, theaters, stores and other vendors in Southern California!  All this while your payment for membership goes towards a great cause - supporting independent radio!

Prix Fixe, Happy Hour, Late Night etc. Deals
Restaurants will often offer prix fixe meals with set menus that are less expensive than ordering a la carte.  They may also offer Happy Hour and Late Night specials to draw customers during off-peak hours.  I've started a separate page called Daily Specials for easy reference of the recurring ones that I've found for every night of the week, in order from lowest to highest priced deals - check it out!

Upromise Dining
Register a credit / debit card with the program.  Then dine at one of the restaurants in their massive national database during an eligible period, and you can receive contributions towards a college fund, or to pay down existing student loans (Sallie Mae or Dept of Education owned loans).

Typical deal: Preferred Diners can earn 4%-8% of total dining bill, while other members can earn 2%-4%, up to a maximum of $600-$1,000 monthly depending on the restaurant.
Note: Be sure to check individual restaurant details on the Upromise Dining site before your visit to ensure they are still participating, and what the offer details are. Though I do find it a happy surprise when I dine at a restaurant I forgot was on the list, and get an email after saying I earned money towards my student loans!

Follow your fav restaurants on Twitter, Instagram and/ or Facebook
Restaurants will often Instagram post / Instastory / tweet deals of the day...I've found everything from free cupcake samples to 'secret' happy hours to simply being alerted to last minute table availabilities!  Same for Facebook - 'friend' the President of Gyu-kaku, Toshio Hayakawa, for example to get deals of the day via his status updates.  'Like' your favorite restaurants to get updates in your newsfeed on your home page of the latest news and deals. 

Of course, sign up at your restaurant's site as well to get email alerts about deals or special events or menus.

Some restaurant groups offer annual deals, like Fifth Group in Atlanta.  Every year they offer a 50% off gift cards deal, where you can buy gift cards to specific restaurants in the group at half off (just have to spend it before end of summer at the specified date).  Sign up for their loyalty program as well, of course, before you visit the restaurant, and present the card when it comes time for your bill, so that every dollar is logged for rewards as well.

Check out websites for local neighborhoods
To promote traffic and business, local neighborhoods will sometimes have dedicated websites with offers to restaurants and shops in the area, for example: West Hollywood Insiders is an awesome site with offers and info on prix fixe meals at great restaurants including Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Cafe, Boa and BLT Steak starting from just $19.

Once in a while, we all have to dine at the mall...
And not all mall dining is the stuff of foodie nightmares.  Century City is a great example with many foodie friendly venues.  They, and other Westfield malls, also offer a Rewards program - check each shopping center's website for details.  Below are some examples:
  • Westfield Century City: accumulate minimum of $600 in purchases at participating retailers in the mall including eateries to redeem various perks (e.g. $600 in spending gets you 2 free movie tickets).  It's not a huge return but might as well get something for money that you're spending anyway, right? Mall concierge will track your spending for you - just bring them your receipts within 7 days.  Rules and restrictions at:  Other Westfield locations may offer free discount cards that can simply be shown to restaurants/food vendors in the mall to get a % or $ off food purchases.
  • The Americana at Brand:  this one requires much more spending in a shorter time than Westfield:  accumulate $500 worth in spending at restaurants in the Americana complex, in a SINGLE month, and receive a $25 gift card.  Spend $5,000 in a month and get a $50 gift card!*

    *Single calendar month. You have until the 7th of each month to register your receipts from the month prior.

My Starbucks Rewards
This helps me out a TON as I have a Starbucks at my office so I am there every day at least once.  FREE membership.  Just get a gift card - register it online and load it up.  For registering alone you get a free beverage of your choice on your birthday.  Use the gift card to make your purchases at Starbucks and earn 1 star for every purchase.  Earn 5 stars and attain 'Green level' - which translates into free syrups, milk (including soy which is normally $), refills on brewed coffee / iced coffee or tea, free beverage with whole bean purchase, and free samples.  Earn 30 stars to get bumped up to Gold level for one year - which means all the benefits of Green level PLUS a free drink every 15 stars, personalized gold card and custom offers/coupons.  Check for full details.

Sugarfina Rewards
Sign up for this luxe candy store loyalty program for free, and when you meet the spend thresholds, you'll get perks ranging from free welcome gift to monthly packs of free candy.

Godiva Rewards
Sign up for their loyalty program for free, and get a free piece of chocolate every month in stores, along with other perks.  See details here

National Shopping Service
Mystery shopping company that often offers restaurant / food delivery assignments in major cities nationwide - and will compensate you in return for a report on the restaurant's food, venue, service etc.

Typical compensation: Reimbursement for meal of up to $20
Note: Requires a lot of work!  Only recommended for starving students - otherwise not really worth the time.  Involves filling out a sometimes fairly lengthy report after your meal, submitting any digital images, then waiting about at least a month and a half - for them to reimburse you by paper check.


A Penny Saved...

Save in other areas of your life so that you can divert the money towards your next bite...
Waze app (free GPS app) save hundreds from not having to buy expensive GPS equipment, and have a system that's with you at all times. It gives directions based on crowd sourced real time traffic (with very accurate ETAs, in the time that I've used it), vocal prompts and hazard alerts! Sometimes it takes you on lots of turns and asks you to make left turns from small streets onto massive ones without a light, but those are minor negatives in my opinion for a generally great app that is totally free.  Check out fun voices for navigation too, like the Boy Band.

Lyft Get $5 off your first ride with my link

Uber  Get your first ride free (up to $15) with my promo code "repgp" Full disclosure: I'll also get a free ride up to $15 for this referral: so freebies for us both when  you sign up]

Rakuten - instant rebates on your online shopping spend at participating retailers ranging from 1% to 15%! Free to sign up for rebates (level of rebates vary by store and timing, see details at site.  Sephora is on the list!!  Sometimes it's 6% cash back and I've seen as high as 8% for Sephora.  You can also link your credit cards so that you can also earn cashback while shopping in brick & mortar stores at participating brands (occasionally they run specials, I've seen 15% off at Saks Off 5th Avenue!).  You can even get cash back on your tax return filing fees - I got 7.5% back when using TurboTax via Rakuten!).  Get a $10 welcome bonus when you sign up using my referral link here (disclaimer, I will also earn a $ bonus when you sign up and spend your first $25).

Airport Rewards
Yes, earn rewards for every dollar you spend at 100 airports nationwide, with participating retailers.  And some, like ATL, even offer rewards for Lyft rides to and from the airport!  Download the free app or sign up on their website.

Sample Sale Sites
Sign up at for free email newsletters with alerts to sample sales in your area.  Shop designer / luxury clothing / accessories / beauty brands for 30-80% off retail prices!  Sometimes you will even get invites to private sale events!

Fashion Clubs - designer stuff for less / Loyalty Rewards / Referral Links
Free membership.  Sign up for (flash) sales for designer handbags, sunglasses, clothing etc. 75-85% off retail
  • Gilt Groupe
  • Vince Camuto, use my referral link to get $20 off your first order! 
  •  Le Tote - refresh your look without breaking the bank, with subscription rental boxes that you can customize (and of course, always with the option to keep what you like at the specified price).  Get your first box free with my referral link (disclosure: I will receive a $25 credit after your first month)
Wear your favorite mantra on beautiful bling at Mantraband.  Save 10% with my promo code OMBMANTRA.

Health & Beauty
  • Beauty, healthy, lifestyle deals from eyelash extensions to hair color.
  • Sign up for free to Sephora's loyalty program to earn points for every eligible purchase, that can be redeemed for beauty products or experiences, birthday gifts, and 3 free samples with every purchase.  With enough annual spend you can qualify for free makeover sessions as well.  When shopping online, be sure to go through Rakuten first to earn cashback on top of the loyalty points.

Spa & Wellness
Everyone needs a pamper break / Me Day.  But you don't have to be independently wealthy to afford an occasional indulgence.  SpaFinder and SpaWeek are my enablers, with $50 spa deals for treatments that normally run $95+.  Sign up with SpaFinder  or SpaWeek to receive alerts of when SpaFinder / SpaWeek Wellness Week takes place and to check out their directory of participating spas in your city.  Also, DO ask how long your chosen spa will run deals for - many run the deal a whole MONTH vs just a week.  And if you can get over the 'no swimsuits' policy at Korean spas, those are my favorite affordable luxuries (daily admission with access to pools and saunas as low as $15): see my recap of Korean spas in LA here.

Workout for Less
Break a sweat from physical exercise, not from stressing out over costs of gym membership / workout equipment.  If you live within reasonable driving distance of Santa Monica or any of the major beaches, save yourself hundreds and check out a 'by donation only' yoga class or free bike trails along the beach.  More on this in my Calories Out, Calories In page.

Whole Foods - Doesn't Have to Take Your Whole Paycheck
Check their website for e-coupons that you can print and redeem in-stores - updates every month or so.  Amazon Prime members also get an extra 10% off items already on sale, just pull up the QR code on your phone in your Amazon account, when you check out at the Whole Foods store.  There are also weekly Prime member exclusive deals, you can check these out on the Whole Foods app.

Grocery Stores Rewards / Coupon Programs
Most national grocery chains have loyalty programs attached to fuel rewards (spend $___ a month get discount off gas).  Also download their digital coupon apps - download the coupon instantly, it automatically loads to your club card, and the discount is instantly taken off your total at checkout.  Some popular ones for local SoCal chains:  Vons (Just for U)  KrogerRalphs (I love the Ralphs service: they have a "FREE download Friday" product every week - yes a free full sized product with no purchase required.  Just load up the digital coupon to your club card, and your item will scan for free at the cash register.  In the past I've gotten a full sized Chobani yogurt and granola bars for free) - Get More For the Shopping You're Already Doing
Shop online at your fav stores, but sign up and click through the MyPoints site first to earn points - that you can then redeem for gift certificates (usually worth $25 to $50) to over 75 national merchants from Amazon to Best Buy to Omaha Steaks.  Free to sign up for program - purchase required on some offers to earn points.  You can also earn points by signing up to receive emails from them and clicking through to view advertisers' messages, or by answering surveys.

Goldstar Events
Get up to 50% off tickets to events in LA ranging from food festivals to theater performances to concerts and more at (LA and other major cities).  Free to sign up to receive e-newsletter alerting you to deals; deals are for purchase with a service fee added (varies according to deal), though on rare occasions the tickets are offered for free.  Get up to date info by following them on Twitter:

Birthday Specials
Most companies will offer you deals or freebies on your birthday to earn your loyalty.  Usually all that this costs you is your email address (sign up for free newsletters i.e. spam in return for the deals).
Examples of good ones:
Teuscher Beverly Hills - get free full size drink and a free chocolate truffle (coupon good for redemption anytime during your birthday month).  Sign up at store or online here
Catalina Express - get free ride to the island on your birthday

Feed Your Mind

Love books but don't have the $ to buy or time to make trips to the library / deal with deadlines for returning physical books?  Go digital.  Sign up one time at your local library for a library card, then download the free app, Overdrive and you can virtually check out ebooks or audiobooks for free!

The only certain things in life...My Least Fav: Taxes

You can't avoid paying taxes, but you can save on tax preparation.  Sign up FREE for membership to eBates and get 7.5% cash back on your tax preparation with TurboTax plus 10% off filing fees.  And don't forget to write off your tax prep fees next year! (Also, with TurboTax they offer an option, if you are receiving a refund, to receive part or all of that refund in the form of an Amazon e-gift card with a bonus of 10% above your chosen amount!!  For example, I chose to put $200 of my refund on an Amazon e-Gift card, and they put $220 on the e-Gift, which arrives in the form of a code that is sent via email to you 1-2 days after your refund money is made available! )

*Information subject to change.  This is just a rough guide to some of the offers available in the past - please check individual websites for details and current offers.



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