How I save hundreds of dollars with my Entertainment Book
Every year when the Entertainment Book comes out, I like to look back and see how I used it the previous year.
And last year surprised me, mainly because I didn't think we had used the membership very much.
These days my new husband and I are more focused on dining in and saving money rather than eating out.
We don't shop much either, or so we thought - when I added up our expenditure, I discovered that we had, in fact, saved just over $400.
That might not sound like much but it isn't a bad return on investment given that in my area the Entertainment Book costs $60.
Worth noting is the bonus of 20% from the sale of each membership going to supporting your charity of choice.
25 years of supporting charities
This month marks 25 years since the first Entertainment Book was launched in Australia.
Since that time, it's hard not to find a family that hasn't heard about the book, or a charity that hasn't thought about using it for fundraising at some point.
Just do a simple Google search for the Entertainment Book and charity, and you will see what type of charities the book helps to support - everything from the Cancer Council, the RSPCA and Starlight Children's Foundation to work social clubs.
I've been selling it for my work's family support network for the past four years.
I find the book pretty much sells itself so no hard sell is necessary and Entertainment's mobile phone app means more and more people renew on their phones and the new membership clocks over automatically. The downside with the app, though, is that you can't transfer app discounts in the same way you can share paper vouchers.
When it was first introduced, the Entertainment Book with its detachable vouchers was a game changer. There wasn't much of a discount culture at the time.
Now you can buy everything from group buying discounts such as Groupon, early dining discounts such as First Table, Shop A Dockets, loyalty schemes, package holiday deals and much more. The difference, though, is that the Entertainment Book makes a significant contribution to our community.
Group executive manager Heidi Halson reports that in 25 years Entertainment has helped raise over $84 million with Australian and New Zealand fundraisers.
My savings in 2018-19
"But what about the money?" I can almost hear you thinking.
"Surely I would be better just to keep my $60-$70 rather than buying a membership - maybe even give that money to charity - and get my deals elsewhere?"
Despite the competition (or perhaps because of it?), Entertainment Book memberships still offer good value. I use membership as a baseline for comparisons rather than my only source of good offers.
For instance, some Groupons offer exceptional, short-term value and are hard to beat. Meanwhile, some other offers seem really good at first but have fine print such as expiry dates and items that are excluded (for example, alcohol).
In contrast, I love the range and flexibility of the offers that Entertainment Book membership provides. I loved the ritual of bringing home the book, flipping through the offers and daydreaming about the experiences on offer.
These days I tend to go through the app and mark my favourites to return to. Sometimes planning future adventures is almost as much fun as the adventure itself!
When I recap my Entertainment Book membership usage over the past year, there is no question that we made some significant savings - even while staying true to our frugalista mortgage reduction goals.
Our major savings were in the following areas:
We used quite a lot of eWish cards over the past year, in part because we used them at Dan Murphy's to purchase alcohol for our wedding last year.
We waited for some great specials, then swooped in with our eWish cards and automatically received a 5% discount.
Our reception venue was a long way from the shops, so we over-ordered a bit and are now slowly enjoying the rest (in moderation, of course).
What's in the latest edition
This year the Entertainment Book has some strong offerings. On the travel front, it is now partnering with seven airlines (Emirates Australia, Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Air New Zealand and Jetstar).
At the time of writing, Jetstar is offering a 5% discount for gift cards, Virgin 10% off business saver and business class fares, and Qatar 10% off economy or business fares.
The book now has its own Entertainment Traveller service, which offers package tours.
For instance, there are a P&O Norway and Northern Lights cruise for 31% off (including return airfares to London) and some good-value Pacific holidays. Package holiday options are limited but I expect that will improve with time.
There are also great shopping discounts, with the book's discounted eGift cards having come to the rescue more than once for last-minute significant birthday presents over the years.
This year Priceline has come on board offering 10% off gift cards, while Woolworths' eWish cards are available with a 5% discount.
You can also score 10% off gift cards with Rebel Sport, Super Cheap Auto, Country Road, Lorna Jane, BCF and others. Something to bear in mind, though, is that gift cards are often sold out online.
A new Entertainment product is on offer this year, too - a special 30-day digital membership. Once you have purchased a membership, you can then opt for a 30-day membership for $30 for another area.
This is useful if, say, you are going to the Gold Coast on holidays for two weeks or going to Melbourne for a month-long work trip.
The price is reasonable for access to discounted activities and dining options while you are away from home.