Guest Post: Friday Night Dilemma? SOLVED!

Friday nights and I have a very tumultuous relationship. On one hand, I desperately want to go out, paint the town and celebrate the end of the work week. On the other hand, my bank account desperately wants me to stay in, watch basic cable (yay Fordham Cablevision), and keep the spending to a minimum. Friday nights in the city are a blast, but are much more expensive than going out almost every other night of the week (except Saturday). Luckily, my classmate (and fellow blogger) Shaina has found a wonderfully entertaining and economical solution to the Friday Night Dilemma. Here is what she had to say about it!

Every student needs a night off to just relax and have a great time. But, sometimes the difference between having a fabulous night and just having another night on campus is money. I found a solution to that problem: burgers and karaoke! Don’t worry, this night will only cost you about $25.

The Burgers: Mark

What: A place where the burgers are heaven and the ambiance is perfection.

Where: 33 Saint Marks Place btw 2nd and 3rd Aves

Price: $21.75 total!

Marks Burgers: Where the caloric content is the only number you need to worry about

I first stumbled upon this place when my boyfriend and I were down in the village just hanging out and walking around. We were looking for something fun to do but we didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. So we went in and out of different restaurants on Saint Marks Place and most of them were over what we wanted to spend. We finally got to Mark and the place was pretty small but it looked expensive too. But, when we looked at the price of the burgers, we were pleased. We each had two burgers and French fries and our bill came up to $21.75.

Karaoke is a great and affordable entertainment solution for the college student

Karaoke: U2 Karaoke

What: A place where the music is loud and the fun is abundant.

Where: 6 Saint Marks Place btw 2nd and 3rd Aves

Price: $8/hour per person

There must be a law that requires all Karaoke bars to have LED lighting...now if we could only get a mandatory smoke machine law on the books

Experience: Since my boyfriend and I had extra money left over for dinner, we decided that we should do something else. I always loved karaoke and when we were walking around to find a restaurant, we passed a place called U2. I had never been there before. We decided to go and it turns out, that it was only $8 per person. That was another great bargain for the night. We had so much fun. They have private rooms and performance lighting. It was the finish to a great AND affordable night!

**A BIG thanks to Shaina for the great post and recommendations!

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Weekend Chronicles

Can you guess where I was this weekend?

Yes, that’s right, the oh-so-famous Shake Shack. Saturday afternoon my friends and I decided to make the pilgrimage from the Bronx to Shake Shack’s Upper West Side location. As a former shack virgin, I was a little skeptical about all the hype this place has gotten in the past few years. Okay, I’ll admit it. I was wrong. I now know why their milkshakes (and burgers) bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard. They’re really freaking good. Although the price is a bit steep (around $15 for my order) it’s a great alternative to a pricey weekend brunch or dinner at restaurant. And the great part about Shake Shack’s Upper West Side locale is that if there are no tables you can always chow down in Central Park just one block away.

Malted Black and White Shake, Cheese Fries and Shack Burger...holy cardiac arrest

Rachel enjoying her meal

Don’t have a Shake Shack by you? Then try and recreate their famous food! This hilarious serious eats article offers some insight into the creation of one of the most famous burgers in town.

Also, I can’t say Shake Shack is my favorite burger. If you live/are ever passing through Chester County, PA stop by Buddy’s Burgers in West Chester. Not only are the burgers more affordable, they are, dare I say, better than the Shake Shack. Did I just commit blasphemy?

Never pay full price for a meal again. Ever. I mean it.

Alright, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that I will never suggest a product or tip unless I  have tried it myself. A few months ago a friend suggested I try restaurant.com for discounted meals throughout the US.  I signed up for their mailing list and began receiving emails about 70, 80 and 90% off sales on gift certificates. One day I decided to just go ahead and buy a few. Since restaurant.com was having one of their 80% off sales, I wound up getting five $25 certificates for less than ten bucks. For months they just sat in my account, as I soon forgot about my purchase. However, the other day I decided to revisit the site and remembered my certificates! One of them was to Ann & Tony’s Restaurant right down the block from Fordham on Arthur Avenue.  My boyfriend and I were in the need of a fresh date-night spot, so we decided to use my certificate, and let me tell you was it worth it! When I bought the coupons, I was afraid that perhaps I might see some backlash from the restaurants for my bargain hunting ways. However, our waiter was great, professional, and even explained the discount on the check when it came! Although the coupon did have some stipulations: $50 minimum purchase, does not include alcohol, cash only (which is always a good idea anyway), we ended up saving $25 on what would have been a $70 dinner. Here’s what we got for $45.00

Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Red Peppers

Fried Calamari

Cahill's Carbonara

My Penne Alla Vodka

I also had a glass of wine and Cahill decided on an Amstel Light. We were too full to even consider desert, although their red velvet cake did look tempting. Although not my favorite on Arthur Ave, Ann & Tony’s knows how to make a meal, and with our coupon, it was the perfect place for an affordable night out.

Here are a few tips when using Restaurant.com

-Join their mailing list. They every week or so they will notify you of upcoming sales. Their sales are usually between 50-80% off, although they just had a 90% off sale.

-Use Yelp or Urbanspoon to help you decide when buying your restaurant certificates. Some of the restaurants on Restaurant.com are not the best, so do your homework. It is better to spend more money on a restaurant you enjoy than save a few bucks and hate your meal.

-Read the fine print. I know I stressed this in my last post, but it is important to read the stipulations. Some restaurants require a party of four or more, and others, like Ann & Tony’s include an 18% automatic gratuity calculated before the discount.

-Always tip your server based on the full price of the meal without the discount. Frugal and cheap are two completely different things. Servers usually make most of their money in gratuities, so be sure to give them a fair tip.

***I know lately my posts have been food-oriented, but watch out for tomorrows post on thrifting! And coming soon, my experience at the Aveda Institute and my wardrobe challenge!

Frugal Food: Festivals

If you’re not careful, dining out in college is a surefire way to blow your weekly budget.  But who has the time/will/culinary skills to cook at home EVERY night? We’ll get to cheap, creative recipes soon, but if you’re like me and enjoy letting someone else do the cooking, sit and stay awhile.  I LOVE trying new restaurants and foods and ADORE saving money in the process (obviously). So where can you get outstanding food for cheap? Food fesitvals of course! Whether you’re in smalltown America or taking a bite out of the Big Apple, food festivals are a great way to grab some local grub and find out more about your community.  Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Ferragosto Festival on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  Sometimes referred to as the “Real Little Italy” of NYC, Arthur Avenue is lined with fantastic Italian restaurants, bakeries, butcher shops, delis and even a homemade pasta shop.  Enough with the tour guide schpeal, let’s get to the food! My family came down to celebrate and we ate our fill of homemmade mozarella, sausage and peppers, calamari and gelato. All for less than what we would spend at our local greasy spoon.  Here were a few of my Ferragosto favorites:

teitel bros. cheese wheels

cahill’s sausage and peppers from vincent’s meat market ($8)

peaches and wine ($5)

vincent’s grilling up their fresh sausages

my steak, peppers and onions sandwich with diet coke ($8)

A doo-wop group (they were great!)

A Few Frugal Festival Tips:

~Browse community websites, newspapers, event sites and social networks to find out about food festivals in your area.

~When manuevering your way through a food festival, it’s best to do a walk through or two before deciding what you want. If you simply start at the beginning you may miss out on some great finds.

~STICK TO A BUDGET! If you budgeted for ten dollars, only bring ten in cash that way you can’t spend anymore than you wanted to.  Also, most festivals only accept greenbacks.

~Once the money’s gone, enjoy the free entertainment rather than browsing the stands, you’ll be less likely to make unnecessary purchases.