12 Tips to Save Money When Dining Out
Do you have any regrets about how you spend your money? If so, what expenses do you regret the most? According to a recent survey by Charles Schwab, most people regretted spending money on eating out rather than putting the money toward their retirement. While I think that it’s a great idea to save money when you can, you also need to enjoy life, and the occasional meal out can be a real treat. Whether you’re celebrating something special, getting together with friends or just need a great meal, here are some tips to enjoy it, and maybe save some money too…
1. Make it a lunch or an early dinner
Lunch can be a more economical choice because lunch menus are usually cheaper than the dinner menu, and you’ll often find the same options. Similarly, some restaurants offer a lower-priced early dinner menu if you eat before a certain time.
2. Don’t forget breakfast or brunch!
Breakfast or brunch can also be a great frugal option for eating out as the menu prices can be lower than both lunch and dinner. This is one of my favorite times to eat out: delicious food and the rest of the day to burn off the calories!
3. Check out deals, coupons and specials
Before you go out to eat, get online and see what deals you can find. Sites like Groupon, Restaurants.com, and Living Social often have discounts for local restaurants. It may also pay for you to check the website and/or Facebook page of the restaurant in case they are offering any discounts.
4. Try the Prix Fixe menu
Many of the more expensive restaurants offer a prix fixé menu. This is a fixed price for a meal, usually one that is 3 or 4 courses. It might initially seem to be a more expensive option if you look at a menu and see the prix fixé menu for a 3-course meal is $50, but it may actually be more economical if you were planning on eating 3 courses anyway. Take a look at the à la carte menu and compare the prices. For example, if the appetizer is $15, the entrée $29 and the dessert $14, then you’ll definitely be saving money by choosing a $50 prix fixé menu.
5. Avoid the specials
I’ve noticed that when a waiter arrives at our table and lists of the specials for that night, they rarely mention the price. Why? Because they are often more expensive than the other dishes. If the special does sound tempting, then just remember to ask about the price.
6. Split a dish…with someone else
The portion sizes in many restaurants are huge, so why not share it and cut the bill at the same time? We often share a starter or dessert.
7. Split a dish…over 2 meals
If you don’t want to share a dish, or you both want something different, then take home the leftovers and enjoy it the next day for lunch or dinner.
8. Order appetizers
Another way to cut costs is to either order an appetizer as a main dish or order a few appetizers to share and then split an entrée (see #6 above).
9. Avoid alcohol
The mark-up on drinks in a restaurant can be very high – 200% or even higher, so cutting out or reducing the alcohol can make a big difference to your bill. Alternatively, find a restaurant that will allow you to bring your own bottle.
10. Delay dessert
Decreasing your dinner by one course, like dessert, can definitely reduce your restaurant bill. If you are still in the mood for a dessert, then enjoying one at home or taking a stroll to the local ice cream shop can be a better option.
11. Check your bill
We’re all human and mistakes can happen, so verify that your bill is correct before paying.
It’s also a good idea to check if the gratuity has already been included so you don’t end up paying it twice.
12. Dash, then dine
In other words, get it to go. Getting takeout and then eating at home can be a great way to keep your costs down as you avoid taxes, some tips and you get to save on the cost of alcohol. However, try to avoid getting it delivered as the delivery charge and tip can add up.
What are your tips for saving money while eating out? What’s missing from this list? Share below…