Home Budgeting 33 Tips On How To Save Money When Eating Out

33 Tips On How To Save Money When Eating Out

by Tara Robinson
How to stick to a budget when eating out | MoneyVanguard

Eating out is one of life’s great pleasures. You get to enjoy a great meal with your loved ones without any cooking or clean up.

You want to know how to save money eating out. According to recent statistics, Americans are now spending more money on bars and cafes ($54.86 billion) than they do on the grocery store (which is $52.5 billion). 

When you learn the ways of frugal eating, you can even visit restaurants more often! Here are some ideas to help you save on dining and start saving money today.

In this Article:

1. To Save Money Dining Out, Look For Excellent Restaurant Discounts on Groupon and Living Social, as Well as on Local Deal Websites

When you do go out to eat, attempt to save money by purchasing vouchers and other comparable products from bargain sites like Groupon and Living Social. However, only get them if you intend to utilize them and if you would have gone out to dine for a special occasion anyway! (Reread the preceding section. J) You’re not really saving money if you don’t do this; you’re simply spending more!

2. Take Advantage Of The Restaurant Week

Most communities offer a special restaurant week where some of the more expensive restaurants decrease their menu prices in order to attract new customers. They may probably limit the menu, but you’ll get to taste various samples from great chefs while enjoying the atmosphere. This will help you to save money at restaurants.

3. Look For Places That Allow You To Bring Your Own Wine or Provide Complimentary Corkage

Maybe Dry January isn’t for you, particularly if you like a glass of wine or another alcoholic beverage with your meal. In that scenario, look for restaurants that allow you to bring your own bottle (BYOB) on certain weeknights or during dinnertime. Customers who bring their own wine, beer, or alcoholic beverage will often not be charged a fee, service charge, or corkage charge by BYOB businesses. When it comes time to pay the bill, this may help you save a few dollars.

4. Dine at Two Different Restaurants

How can you enjoy a high-end restaurant’s ambiance without paying premium prices? Eat a small dinner at a low-cost restaurant first, then go to the more costly location with a view for beverages and/or dessert.

Yes, we do that as well.

5. Dine in Less Formal Establishments Where Gratuities Are Not Required

With the usual suggested tip currently ranging from 15% to 20%, going to more informal restaurants where you are not required to tip may save you a lot of money. Of course, fast food joints like Five Guys, Cafe Rio, and Chipotle are on the list, as are more casual eateries like Five Guys, Cafe Rio, and Chipotle.

6. Search For Places Where Kids Eat Free

Look online for places where your kids can eat for free or at big discounts. Plan ahead for family vacations when you may be eating out for most meals. That way, you’ll have a variety of options.

7. If You Do Go Out To Dine, Go to a Less Costly Place

Of course, the costs of a fine French restaurant vs the local chain burger place down the street is vastly different. However, there is a significant difference between usually excellent sit-down restaurants. Applebee’s, one of my favorite restaurants, charges about $20 for dinner for two, while another place we visited recently charged over $70 for just the two of us. (As you can imagine, that’s a lot of money for us to pay.) And I wouldn’t argue that the more costly restaurant’s cuisine was necessarily superior.

8. Make the Most of Your Birthday

You can browse online to get free meals or at least a free dessert or drink for your birthday. Even if the restaurant has no official program, tell them you’re celebrating a birthday when you make your reservations and see if they’ll throw in something special.

9. Stay away from “Fancy” Restaurants

Another important money-saving tip for dining out may sound strange, but it’s worth remembering.

Have you ever observed that the more expensive a restaurant is, the less service you seem to receive? It’s not just your imagination, either.

Fancy restaurants, which charge a lot for food and beverages, don’t charge a lot because you receive more food or because the food is necessarily better (although that may be the case sometimes).

They are more expensive because of the atmosphere and status that comes with dining there. To put it another way, your money is paying for the prestige that comes with dining at these establishments, not necessarily the cuisine.

10. To Save a Lot of Money Dining Out, Make Going Out To Eat a Once-in-a-While Treat

The typical American household spends $300 per month on dining out, but by eating out less, you may save money. Try limiting yourself to one enjoyable dinner with your family each month for $50 or less. Save dining out for special events like birthdays and anniversaries if you’re on a limited budget. Spending less money on eating out also means brown-bagging your lunch, which is also healthier.

11. When Dining Out, Reserve Half of Your Meal for Lunch the Following Day To Save Money

You may avoid overeating today and have a delicious lunch tomorrow by asking for a carryout box. For the price of one, you get two meals! Slow down and enjoy your meal while you’re eating! Allow your stomach to signal your brain that you are full, and you will avoid overeating. You might ask for the carryout box at the start of your dinner and put half of your food in it straight away to prevent temptation. You won’t be as tempted to overeat this way.

12. Keep an Eye Out for Special Offers, Promotions, and Freebies

Do you have a habit of going to the same restaurants for lunch or dinner? Subscribe to e-newsletters from your favorite restaurants and eateries. These email notifications often include promotional codes, discounts, or freebies with certain transactions. If you change your mind, you can always unsubscribe later. Don’t forget about birthdays, either. See if any restaurants in your area give birthday discounts or freebies on your big day.

13. Instead, Go On a Lunch Date

Lunch is fantastic. Not only is it less expensive, but you can typically get a soup or salad with your meal for less than the cost of a main course at dinnertime. If you want to go out late at night, look for something cheaper like ice cream or coffee.

14. When Eating Out, Drink Water

With dinner, wine and beer may soon add up. Make dining out all about the food, and reserve the drinking until later. We ask for lemon water (always free).

15. Don’t Give In to the Lunch Temptation

Even if they are dedicated to preparing supper, many individuals find it difficult to resist dining out for lunch throughout the workweek. This may be a difficult barrier to overcome since cooking is difficult in most workplaces, but there are a few techniques that can help make packing lunches easier:

To save time in the mornings, pack your lunch the night before.

Make too much for supper and keep the leftovers for the following day’s lunch.

For days when you don’t have time to prepare lunch, frozen meals and soup are an excellent option.

Keep note of the days you don’t eat out for lunch and sum them up at the end of the month to see how much money you saved. Seeing your savings may encourage you to keep going.

16. Negotiate Your Own Discounts

Many restaurants will offer discounts to nearby businesses to attract repeat customers. Ask your employer if they’ve got any deals in place or ask a restaurant owner if they’d consider making some kind of arrangement for customers at a nearby movie theater or gym.

17. Enjoy Ethnic Restaurants

Ethnic restaurants are often a treasure trove of low prices and great food. Pick your favorite cuisine or tantalize your palate by trying something new.

18. Participate in Rewards Programs

Joining rewards programs is another method to save money while eating out.

While you’re undoubtedly aware of rewards programs offered by airline, petroleum, and credit card companies, you may not be aware that most chain restaurants do as well.

Restaurant rewards programs, like travel or fuel rewards, are free to join and may save you a lot of money if you prefer to dine out.

For example, one of my favorite reward programs is Red Robin’s, which offers a variety of benefits such as a free birthday burger, a free 10th item, and special discounts for teachers and military personnel.

Starbucks Rewards is another popular rewards program that may help you save money. While we don’t suggest drinking Starbucks all of the time (there are many of cheaper alternatives), joining the rewards program can help you save money on the coffee you do drink and any food you buy.

Although it is probable that you will only be able to participate in rewards programs at chain restaurants, there is a method you may be able to use rewards at your local hangouts as well.

Many local eateries provide a card that entitles you to a free meal or other item after a specific number of transactions. We’re not sure what the actual name is. These are sometimes provided as punch cards, and other times they need a stamp or signature.

The impact is the same as any big chain rewards program, and the ultimate objective is free food, no matter how it’s delivered.

19. Meal-Delivery Packages Are a Good Option

If you eat out because you’re short on time and can’t even go to the grocery store, much alone prepare a meal, a meal-kit delivery service may be a good fit for you. What is the mechanism behind it?

Basically, you sign up for a box that will be delivered to your house and will include the ingredients for two to four meals (you may select how many you want). Each meal includes step-by-step directions for heating, cooking, or assembling the items in a short period of time.

What is the price? While prices vary based on the business you buy from, most meal-delivery kits are a less expensive option to dining out, with boxes ranging from $8 to $15. Many businesses also provide promotional coupons for new and returning consumers.

These meal packages will also include nutritional information upfront, unlike most restaurant menus. This means you’ll know precisely how much sugar, salt, and fat are in your meals, which is good for your health.

20. Evaluate The Specials

Some restaurants promote deals and eating out offers that make the most profits for them. It’s okay to ask for clarification on the price even if the server fails to mention it.

21. Practice Portion Control

The servings in many restaurants are far more than one person needs for a single meal. Share a dish or put some aside to take home for lunch the next day.

22. Approach Small Plates Strategically

Small plates are a great way to dine. However, you can easily wind up with too much food that will just end up assorted into individual tablespoon-sized dollops of mismatched leftovers. Try ordering a few dishes at a time and ask the server to let you keep the menu. That way you can order more if you really want it.

23. Consider The Mark Up On Wine

Wine is another big profit center for restaurants. The mark up can easily be 400% or more compared to retail prices. A great wine can be worth it but consider the investment before you splurge. Meals can be fabulous without wine, too, so remember that you can always elect to save this pricey treat for only the most special occasions.

24. Go As A Group

Restaurants may be willing to design a limited fixed price menu if you let them know in advance that you’re bringing a group. Depending on your guests, be sure to have options for vegetarians and for medical needs such as diabetes and allergies.

25. Visit At Lunchtime

You can often get the same dish at lunchtime for around 20% less than the price on the dinner menu. This is another great way to save money when eating out. If the restaurant is slow, they may even be willing to make your favorite dinner dish at lunch, regardless of whether it’s on the menu.

26. Dine Well And Pay Less For The Same Great Experience

If you pick the right restaurants and order wisely, you can have a great time and sample fine cuisine while you stick to your restaurant budgets.

27. Celebrate National Holidays With a Meal

There’s a day for just about every cuisine you can think of, from National Ice Cream Day to National Chicken Wing Day. To take advantage of complimentary appetizers, entrees, or desserts, plan your meals around these offerings. Keep an eye on social media for further information on the campaign.

28. Make Informed Menu Selections

When dining at a sit-down restaurant, you’ll be required to tip your waiter in addition to paying your bill, so keep that in mind when you make your menu choices and calculate your total payment. Look for more inexpensive meals (try ones with in-season fruits and vegetables) or opt for a lower serving size if it’s offered to balance the expense.

When it comes to drinks, water is generally free, but soft drinks and alcoholic beverages may add up fast. If you’d like a glass of wine with your dinner, make a reservation and inquire about corkage costs. Even with this charge, bringing your own bottle may be more cost effective than purchasing one there.

29. Share the Dinner or Take Leftovers Home

When it comes to large servings, some restaurant and takeaway meals are so large that one entrée may feed two individuals. When you go out to eat with a buddy, inquire about the size of the portions. If you can’t eat everything in one sitting, try sharing one entrée with a friend to save money. You may even request a doggy bag after you’ve finished your meal so you can enjoy the leftovers later. Why not do the same with your other out-of-home meals if you can enjoy leftover pizza the following day?

30. Make Sure There’s Space in Your Budget for It

If going out to eat at your favorite diner is a family tradition, you may be able to fit a few restaurant meals into your monthly budget even if it isn’t a need or if you can’t find a good bargain. See our tips on how to budget for both necessities and desires for simple methods to integrate both into your spending plan. On a related topic…

31. Prioritize Excursions According to Your Schedule

Trust us when we say that the calendar is your restaurant budget’s best friend. So, at the beginning of each week, have a look at your schedule. Do you have plans to meet up with pals for dinner on Friday? Is it looking like you’ll need to grab a bite to eat in the middle of a hectic Saturday? You’ll be OK for the rest of the week if you eat at home. Or, to create space for a Sunday date with your husband, prepare a meal for Saturday lunch. A little forethought may go a long way.

32. Pay a Visit at Happy Hour

During happy hour, try dining at a restaurant bar. Drinks are cheaper, and many establishments offer half-price appetizers, which are usually only available in the bar area.

Another benefit is the availability of seats. We often stroll past lines of people waiting for seats in the main dining area when we’re content to sit at the bar.

33. Take a Stand

Many restaurants provide substantial discounts to teachers, students with proper ID, elderly, and military personnel, such as 10% to 15% off your entire bill. But there’s a catch: you’ll have to inquire about it with your server. These savings are often not publicized. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Please inquire as to whether they provide any discounts for which you may be qualified. It’ll be well worth it!

Final Thoughts

While a special meal out is appropriate for everyone once in a while, it is an unnecessary expenditure for more frequent dining out. After all, the majority of people go out to dine for the food, not the prestige.

Next time you’re thinking about going out to eat, think about what you’re looking for. If you want excellent cuisine, go to a small establishment or a franchise. A luxury restaurant may be the ideal option if you’re looking for prestige and ambience.

Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for it.

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