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I Finally See Value in Entertainment Books

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For the longest time, I thought that $25 spent on an Entertainment Book was wasted… until last night. Last night we went to Nichi Bei Kai, a Japanese steakhouse and sushi joint, with friends of ours and enjoyed a little Teppanyaki/hibachi dinner. Teppanyaki, also called hibachi (that’s what we call it), is where they cook the dish at your table and give you a little demonstration of knife skills, flames, and cooking. If you’ve never done the hibachi thing, you should give it a try because it’s a lot of fun and the food isn’t bad either. At the end of the meal, my friends pulled out a coupon they pulled from an Entertainment Book that scored us $18 off our meal!

Entertainment books are usually around $25 – $30 full price, but you can usually get them for less if you’re willing to wait until the year starts. Sometimes schools and other organizations use them as part of their fundraising drive and you can usually get discounts off the book that way as well. At the moment, 2009 books are all 50% off because they expire on November 1st, which is still seven months away.

What is Entertainment Book arbitrage? Arbitrage is anytime you can take advantage of a market imbalance to generate a quick profit. In this case, we have the benefit of knowing what’s in the Entertainment Book before we buy it. We can look through it for the dollar discounts we can take advantage of and compare it with the cost of the book.

The Washington D.C./Maryland (2009) book, at 50% off, is only $15 and it contains a coupon we know we can use for $18 off a meal, an automatic gain of $3. If you sign up for their Annual Book Renewal Program, you can get $5 off which covers the $2.79 shipping charge (you can always cancel the Annual Book Renewal Program afterwards) and still gets you a few dollars off. If you aren’t sure if it’s “worth it” for you, go to the Entertainment Book website, enter in your zip code, select a book, and scan through the discounts to see if it’s worth it.

I asked some people about the book on Twitter, here were their responses:

  • @fcn – It’s a good idea (in principle) that doesn’t get fully utilized (in practice), but… We always at least earn our money back.
  • @katekashman – I like the Entertainment Book. More than just restaurants: Safeway, dry cleaning, online, sports, natl. Great rates in hotel section.
  • @zenshinji – I really like them because it is a great way of discovering local mom & pop restaurants, stores, etc., keeps my spending local.
  • @richerbytheday – I only end up using a very small percentage of my entertainment book, but even so it still more than pays for itself.

If you’re really looking to save money, you eat at home. If you’re looking to save a little bit, one of these books might be helpful for you if they have a coupon for a place you already eat at.

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “I Finally See Value in Entertainment Books”

  1. thomas says:

    dropping $25 up front isn’t much of a money commitment when you consider the total values you can reap. 2 nice meals and the book is paid for and we should all go out to eat every now and again to break the frugality mode.

  2. Alan says:

    My fiance and I just bought the Entertainment Book for Vancouver, BC. It cost a little more than yours did (about $40 after a 35% discount), and to be honest, we are a little disappointed. We will most likely earn our money back, but that’s about it. There aren’t that many good deals in our version of the book.

    I have heard that the Entertainment Book is very location specific, so a try before you buy is recommended.

    • Jim says:

      I agree, it’s very location specific and it’s crucial that you look online to see if it has any coupons you’d use. If it forces you to change your behavior to make it “worth it,” then it’s not worth it.

  3. Ethan says:

    My wife and I picked up an Entertainment book for $20 and it’s more than paid for itself. It is very location specific so we approach it kinda like… let’s go out tonight, ok i’ll thumb through the entertainment book and pick a place. We end up at restaurants we wouldn’t normally select, but it’s nice to try new things. Plus it’s more than just restaurants. Definitely look through the book before purchasing to make sure you understand what’s inside.

  4. dmeanea says:

    Through the end of March, you can get $6 cashback bonus on these books from either Cashbaq or Ebates, making your final price just $6.50! If you don’t have an account with either of those services, you should sign up; it’s free, and it’s VERY easy to earn cashback rewards. (Jim, if you have an account at either Cashbaq or Ebates, please post a referral signup link here.) Anybody who needs to sign up, please do so through Jim’s link; it doesn’t cost you a thing, and he gets a referral bonus. It’d be a nice way to thank him for this excellent website! :)

    I bought an entertainment book last week, and on the first page I opened to was a two-for-one green fees coupon for a course I golf regularly. Bam, “Entertainment Book arbitrage” right off the bat! :D

    • BrewCrewFan says:

      I take the same strategy as you. I wait a couple of months after the books come out. The price of the book comes down $10 and I save another $6 purchasing the book through ebates. I primarily use the book during the long Wisconsin winter to take the kids bowling and laser tagging, so waiting a couple of months to get the book is no big deal.

  5. Matt says:

    Also, you can buy it through MyPoints and get about 1,000 points. Based on current point values, that’s about $6.67 worth of points.

  6. Donna Freedman says:

    I’m a MyPoints user too, so I get my Entertainment Book that way — extra points and 50%-off books plus free shipping make me happy.
    If you’re having visitors, let them rummage through the tourist-attraction coupons often found in these books. Who knows: They may take you out to dinner with another coupon!

  7. Matt Fyffe says:

    Wow, I looked at the one for my area and it looked like in just one dinner with my family, I would have made the costs back. Unfortunately, I’m moving in May but I’ll definitely be looking at these again next year!

  8. MissMartha says:

    We bought one for a trip to Lake Tahoe. It was a great investment since many of the coupons are for attractions that are tourist related. I know that we saved at least $45 on one item, a scenic boat tour of Lake Tahoe with lunch! It was well worth it.

    EBs also have good deals on car rentals.

  9. Patrick says:

    I have been to Nichi Bei Kai several times and have enjoyed my meals every time. I may have to pick up a booklet if I am able to save that much money off of my meals there :)

  10. Carla says:

    I used to love the Entertainment books – they are definitely a great deal for eating out. Unfortunately my diet had to become more strict so we only eat out at a handful of places in our area; all of them are not in the book so it would be worthless for us to get it.

  11. Brianne says:

    There was a link to the entertainment book last weekend on the pizza hut website. I think the deal was if you bought the entertainment book you would $20 back to spend at pizza hut. I contemplated it since I’ve heard it has grocery coupons, but we ended up buying Dominos anyway. I’ll check it out through ebates now.

  12. Dan says:

    My wife and I have purchased several Entertainment books over the last 8 years or so. We’ve generally managed to make them pay off, so I think it is a pretty good deal and definitely worth the money. I wanted to share some caveats, though.

    Some restaurants renege on the deal after they get their coupon in the book. We’ve had this happen several times. We’ve had mixed results on having them honor the coupon. Watch for posted signs at the door. I’ve walked away from a few restaurants because of this, and I’ll never return to a few others.

    Another issue we’ve had is that the restaurant will change their policy on when the coupon is valid. They’ll impose or change the time limitation on the coupon. This can mess things up if you’ve made a reservation.

    Of course, you should note that many of the coupons for better restaurants have limitations. Friday and Saturday nights are the most common exclusion, as the restaurant needs to fill seats other nights of the week.

    My advice is to call and make a reservation, ask if you can use the coupon for your meal when you make the reservation. If they hassle you at all don’t go.


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