Eating Out and Saving Money

Mon, Nov 7, 2011

Budgeting, Financial Advice

Eating out

Eating out is one of the many pleasures of life and a great convenience when you’re too tired or swamped to cook, but it’s also one of the biggest budget busters. If you’re looking to cut your costs, you don’t have to sacrifice dining out altogether, though. Here are some tips and resources to eat out for less.

Use Restaurant Coupons

Daily deals sites are obvious sources for dining discounts. You’ll be able to find plenty of deals offering you 50% off.

There may be etiquette rules for using certificates like these or daily deals coupons for certain occasions, or perhaps you’re not comfortable using coupons to dine out. Coupons like the ones above also have a drawback in that there are usually minimums required, sometimes causing you to spend more than you might have otherwise. Fret not! There are still other ways to save.

Join Restaurant Loyalty Programs or Use Reward Programs

Many restaurants have email lists that advertise specials for their loyal members. If you have a favorite restaurant or two, see if they have an email list and sign up for it.

You can also get some freebies for your birthday and dine out for free almost your entire birthday month at many other restaurants in exchange for your email address.

Several restaurant dining rewards programs give you a bit of cash back for eating out:

Time When You Dine Out

The time of day, week, and year you go out to eat can also affect how much you spend. For example, you might save by reserving your fine dining times to Restaurant Week, when participating restaurants offer prix fixe specials for lunch and/or dinner.

Some restaurants also offer “early bird specials” (dinner before 6 pm, for example) or mid-week specials.

If you’re eager to try a new restaurant that’s a bit expensive, maybe go there for lunch to get the same experience and a taste of what it offers.

Order Wisely

Alcoholic drinks are usually the most expensive part of the meal, so one big way to save is to have the glass of wine at home instead of at the restaurant or look for restaurants that are BYOB.

Other common sense tactics:

  • Save dessert for home
  • Share a big meal or go for the family style restaurants
  • Don’t order the kid’s meal if your kids are really young and won’t eat it. Bring something they will eat.
  • Don’t order dishes that are hard to reheat or won’t be good as leftovers the next day (in case you won’t be able to finish the meal and will be taking it home in a doggy bag)

While ordering the cheapest thing on the menu is one strategy for saving, another strategy for getting the most value when dining out is to order the dishes that are harder (or less common) to make at home. I’ll choose the duck, for example, over chicken or the “homemade” lasagna over a burger.

Those are just a couple of ways to get more out of eating out. How do you enjoy yourself without spending too much? Share your tips with us in the comments.

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One Response to “Eating Out and Saving Money”

  1. CouponSnapshot Says:

    You are smart and your tips are helpful.I had never known that eating out can be economic.I am frugal and I always eat at home.I think it is wasteful to eat out.But now, I can’t agree with you more that eating out can be economic.Dishes in restaurants look nice and taste good.I decide to go out and enjoy some deals with your kindly tips. I am also a shopping enthusiast and I love shopping online with coupons.Do you have some tips for shopping online with coupons?


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