Reunion dinners are once-a-year events. Mainly because it’s next year by the time you’ve paid off the bill. But there’s got to be a way around this, right? Well, last New Year I tried to dodge the costs, and found some money saving methods. Let’s just say “use the cheapest restaurant” isn’t on the list. Not unless you consider things like “taste” and “not wishing you’re dead from stomach cramps” important. Try these moves instead:
1. Use a Friend’s Club
Use your friend’s club with a tight grip. If you wave it threateningly enough, the cashier will…oh wait, legal methods.
In which case, find a friend who has private club membership. I’m talking about golf clubs, swimming clubs, that kind of thing. Invite said friend as a guest, and she can pay for it as a club member. Then you pay her in cash afterwards.
Some clubs (ask your friend first) have members-only restaurants. These sometimes have lower prices, because if you pay $15k for club membership they’d damn well better. In my swimming club, for example, I’d pay about $260 for a reunion meal. In a regular restaurant, I’d be paying around $300 for something similar.
Private clubs get even better if you’re having alcohol (like everything else in existence). The mark-ups on wine and beer tend to be lower.
2. Cost-Effective Catering
If you’re having the meal catered, you’d better be ready for some homework. You’ll see huge price differences, even with largely similar menus. I talked to events manager Alfred Yong:
“Sometimes a caterer just has more expensive suppliers. I have tasted $400 menus that are the same as $500 menus. My advice is to sample the food, don’t just stare at the menu and guesstimate prices.
Also check Foodline for caterers. Compare the menus, try to find the best price.”
Another thing: If you cook, supplement the caterer’s menu. For example, say you have a group of 10 guests. It’s not expensive to prepare enough staple food (e.g. rice and noodles) for 10 people. So you can have the caterer skip these, and make them yourself.
If you don’t understand the meaning of inconvenience, you might even do drinks yourself.
3. Use the Right Credit Card
There are credit cards specifically for dining.
Try to pick restaurants that stack credit card rewards. For example, combine features like 10% off the bill, 5% cashback, and double reward points. Restaurants usually don’t let you stack discounts (e.g. you can’t combine credit card discounts with promotional meal discounts), but aren’t relevant to your cashback and reward points.
You should also call the card company, and ask about reunion dinner deals; these tend to get lost in the slew of promotions.
Look for the right dining cards on sites like SmartCredit.sg. Remember to pay in full every month, or the interest will eat into any savings.
4. Go to Malaysia
Some Singaporeans hold reunion dinners in Malaysia, particularly JB (Johor Bahru).
This is a good choice if your New Year includes a long weekend in JB. Otherwise, it may not justify the inconvenience and petrol costs. I talked to Fenny Ng, who’s done this every year since ’07:
“Nowadays the restaurants know we’re coming, they will up the price. So it’s no more as cheap as last time. For my family of 12, we usually pay about SGD $360. In Singapore an equivalent menu would be about $400, last I checked. This is Grand Straits restaurant in JB.
It saves money in the sense that we’re also going there for a vacation. Otherwise, I don’t think you can be bothered to go to JB just to save $40.”
So if you’re on vacation, or you have relatives there, reunion dinner in Malaysia is a money saver.
5. Buffet, not Ala Carte
Reunion dinners are one of the few times buffets save you money. All the conditions are there:
- You’re in a big group
- You’re sitting there for hours, so you can fit more extra helpings
- You’ll avoid add-ons
Add-ons are when cousin X mentions “Oh, there’s no scallops in this dinner? I love scallops.” And then you order them, while secretly wishing him where his damn scallops are (i.e. sea floor).
If you’re not up for expensive hotels and restaurants, go for chain buffets (e.g. Seoul Garden). Some upmarket buffets deliberately raise prices on Chinese New Year. Chain buffets, on the other hand, keep a constant price.
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