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.