Recently, a writer interviewed me about ways to save when going out to eat. I thought I’d share some of the things we discussed.
First, when I go to a restaurant, I generally have one of two goals: To have a dining-out experience, or to get filled up.
If I just want to get filled up, it’s usually because I didn’t eat enough before leaving home, and I’m out and about and hungry. I get all sorts of cranky when I’m hungry, so eating is essential. When I’m out and hungry (and too far from home), I’ll typically swing by a drive-thru and hit up the dollar menu. A baked potato or a cup of chili from Wendy’s will usually satisfy me, and it’s cheap enough.
I could save some money if I made sure to eat enough before venturing out, or if I packed some snacks to hold me over!
Other times, I go out to eat with the sole intention of having a nice dining-out experience. Going to a restaurant is intentional; not just a whim of my belly.
It’s nice to get waited on, not have to cook, and to get something different than I’d prepare at home.
We can go to a restaurant and get a lot of food, but sometimes, it’s just as fun to order appetizers or dessert only. You still get the enjoyment of going out to eat — but with less food, your bill is also less (and you’re probably healthier for it!).
Here’s some ideas for saving money:
- Go out for coffee and dessert, or appetizers only instead of ordering an entree each.
- If you’re hungrier than that, order one entree and split it, and share an appetizer.
- Go out for breakfast or lunch, where menu items are typically cheaper than dinner fare.
- Order water instead of a soft drink.
- Get discounted gift certificates from restaurant.com.
- Visit the restaurant’s web site to find coupons. You might need to sign up for their e-mail loyalty program, but if you get coupons for free dessert or $5 off your order, it’s worth it!
- If you have an Entertainment Book for your area, you might be able to find some valuable coupons inside.
- Use gift cards to fund your purchases. I like to earn gift cards from MyPoints.com and my debit card rewards program.
- Order the “daily special” if it’s a bargain.
- Don’t forget a doggie bag!
- Budget for eating out. Once you’ve spent your weekly or monthly allotment, you’re done.
- Some restaurants have promotions where your children can eat for free. Or, if your kids aren’t too picky, maybe you can share some of your meal with them.
- Celebrating a birthday? You won’t want to miss all the freebies you can get!
- Here’s a promo that I saw thanks to a MyPoints e-mail: Buy one entree at TGIFridays, get one free with coupon.
- Look at your receipts. Places like Arby’s and Wendy’s have deals where if you take a phone survey within a few days after your visit, you can get a freebie on your next visit.
One last thing: Always always tip at least 20 percent. If your bill is extremely low thanks to freebies or coupons, tip more. If you can’t afford to leave a generous tip, you can’t afford to eat out.
What else can you add to the list?