It is that time of the year: nearly every organisation or workplace you are involved in seems to be selling those Entertainment Books for charity fundraisers. It promises to include up to $20,000 worth of bargains. But for a hardcore frugalista who rarely dines out, is it worth the $60 outlay?
I have bought the Entertainment Book a few times, but more usually I have passed on the opportunity to buy it. I enjoy home cooked meals, and when I do eat out it is often at the same tried and true (good value) places. Or with friends where I am not in control of the choice. But this year I decided to help a families network at work sell the books. I even went to the Entertainment Book launch. So I decided to investigate to see if it was worth the $60 outlay.
My aim was to see if I could at least get my $60 back.
And the results? When used smartly, you will definitely recoup your $60 and much more. Without even setting foot into a single restaurant. But more likely than not over the course of a year I will dine out at least once (in fact, I already have), and when I do I know I will benefit from the discounts available for that as well.
Based on my investigations, here are some tips on how to get the best value (based on the Canberra Entertainment Book, but some of the examples will be generic).
- You can purchase wish gift cards at 5% discount. These can be used at Woolworths and for petrol at Caltex, and other shops including Big W, BWS etc. You can buy a card for up to $500 (i.e. you save $25 per card). I just tried to buy one online and you can purchase up to 10 at a time, saving $250 (assuming you use it). I spent around $70/fortnight at Caltex, so I calculate this could save me around $120 over the course of a year alone. And more when I use Woolworths or other partners.
- There are also other gift cards, including Big W and BWS, that are 5% off. This is handy for Christmas or birthdays.
- The Entertainment Book provides the David Jones E-gift card at 10% off. Being frugal, I rarely shop at David Jones (although I do love their food court, and they also have excellent customer service and quality), but once again this could be a good option for presents and/or if you want to buy something specific. Their warranties on items are generally very good.
- Chemist Warehouse will provide $10 off any purchase of $50 or more (there are three vouchers, so up to $30 saving in total).
- When I registered my card online (which you need to do to activate it), I automatically received a $50 voucher from Virgin.
- If you plan to travel domestically, you can also book Virgin flights and receive 5% discount, or buy Virgin giftcards at 5% discount.
- Emirates also have great deals, including 5% discount of certain flights (Asia and Europe), and upgrades in certain circumstances. They advertise they provide special deals to Entertainment Book customers, so I assume this must change over the course of the year.
One of my friends said that she used the Entertainment Book vouchers all the time to keep her kids amused in Canberra. She said that with a young family she rarely dined out, so would offer to swap her dining vouchers for more amusement/family fun vouchers.
- There is a 25% discount on admissions OR membership to the National Zoo & Aquarium. For families likely to visit more than once, this is a saving of nearly $50 as a two adult two children annual membership is $295. I have had three people already tell me they decided to buy the Entertainment Book JUST for that alone (and I have taken advantage of this offer myself).
- Several must-see destinations for children in Canberra have buy one get one free deals including:
- National Dinosaur Museum;
- Canberra Reptile Zoo;
- Kidcity; and
- With an Entertainment Book you can purchase a Ticketmaster E-gift card at 10% off.
- There is a wide range of discounted movie tickets including:
- Reading Cinema at $11 (online);
- Event, Greater Union or Birch Carroll & Coyle $12 (online);
- Hoyts $28 for two (vouchers);
- Palace Electric – buy one get one free (vouchers); and
- Dendy cinemas – up to four admissions for $14 each (vouchers).
A friend told me how she made huge savings on a trip to Queensland through the Entertainment Book by getting rates that were even cheaper than online specials. Here’s how. Many of the accommodation partners will offer a guaranteed best rate cheaper than anything else advertised, not just a discount from the rack rate. For example:
- 50% of the rack rate, or 10% off the best available rate
- Palazzo Versace;
- The Darling, Sydney;
- The Star, Sydney;
- Peppers retreats and resorts;
- Wyndham Hotel Group;
- QT hotels
- 25% off the rack rate or 10% off the best available rate
- Many Hyatt Hotels in Australia
- 20% off the rack rate or 10% off the best available rate
- Vibe Hotels
- Adina Apartment Hotels and Medina Serviced Apartments.
- Travelodge Hotels
- Rendezvous Hotels
So you can see that, with careful planning, an average family that doesn’t go out much is still likely to at least recoup $60 and is more likely to benefit even more – especially if you dine out at one of the Entertainment Book restaurants at least once and have a holiday away at some point. And if you are planning a holiday away, you can purchase an Entertainment Book for another location at discount. For example, you could buy a Gold Coast book for only $45, which would pay for itself after one or two meals out.