10 Ways to Save Money While Dining Out
If you’re on a tight budget, as many people are these days, you may have cut back on dining out at restaurants. However, it’s possible to still enjoy a nice meal out occasionally without breaking the bank. Here are 10 ideas for ways to save money while dining out:
1. Order water instead of soft drinks or alcohol
There is a huge markup on both nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks at restaurants. Help keep your restaurant bill down by drinking water with your meal instead.
2. Go out for lunch or breakfast instead of dinner
Breakfast and lunch menu items are generally priced significantly cheaper than foods on the dinner menu, even when the items are similar. Not only will you save money on your meal, but you’ll be less inclined to order appetizers, dessert or alcohol than you would be at dinner time.
3. Skip dessert, or at least share one
Desserts are another menu item that are often marked up significantly. Do your wallet (and your waistline) a favor and skip dessert. If you absolutely can’t resist a sweet treat at the end of your meal, try sharing a dessert instead of ordering one for each of you. Some restaurants may even let you order a dessert off the kids menu if you ask.
4. Use coupons
Many restaurants offer coupons to help entice new customers or encourage existing customers to eat there more often. Look in your local newspaper and online for coupons for free appetizers or desserts, buy-1-get-1-free entree offers or savings of 15%-30% off your meal.
5. Order an appetizer as a meal
Menu items listed as appetizers are typically much cheaper than items from the regular menu and are often big enough to fill you up.
6. Sign up for your favorite restaurant’s loyalty programs or e-newletter, and become a social media fan
Some restaurants like to reward their loyal customers with special coupons and promotions. By signing up for their newsletter, liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter, you will often receive access to deals and coupons.
7. Split a meal
Restaurant servings are huge these days, and you can easily get more than one serving from the average entree at most restaurants. Either share an entree with your dining companion or have half of it put in a doggie bag for lunch the next day.
8. Research promotions at local restaurants
Many restaurants offer money-saving promotions such as early bird dining specials, kids-eat-free nights or happy hour. By taking advantage of dining during these times, you can reduce your restaurant bill substantially.
9. Take advantage of freebies
Some restaurants will include unlimited bread or salad with your meal. Eat an extra helping of the included items and save more of your entree for a future meal.
10. Use smartphone apps to find local savings
Mobile apps for iPhones and Androids can help you locate local restaurants offering special savings. The free Valpak App allows you to find coupons for local restaurants, download mobile coupons to your iOS Passbook and purchase local deals.
By combining as many of these ways to save money as possible, you can greatly reduce the cost of a restaurant meal and treat yourself to a meal out more often.