The cost of eating out can add up quickly and is a big “budget buster” for a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are some tips to save on eating out:
1. Use coupons! We frequently receive coupons for both fast food restaurants and casual dining restaurants in the mail. I always go through and pull these out and put them in my coupon organizer so that I always have them with me. Make sure you sign up for e-mails from your favorite restaurants to get valuable coupons. For example, Chili’s will send you a coupon for free chips and queso when you sign up for their e-mail list here.
The Entertainment Book is an excellent resource if you’re looking for coupons for fine dining, casual dining, and fast food dining in your area. Many restaurants have “Buy One meal, get one free” offers. The book usually retails for $25, but there are often “deals” where you can get it for a lot less, and it quickly pays for itself. When you register your book online, you have access to additional printable coupons.
Restaurant.com is another great resource for getting restaurant gift certificates at heavily discounted rates. They often offer codes for 70-80% off and you can get cash back from sites like Ebates or Shop at Home ,too! (these sites typically list any codes that are available) Between the discount codes and the cash back, you can often get $25 gift certificates for as low as $1.50!! If you do take advantage of these offers, be sure that you read the fine print as there may be some exclusions (minimum purchase requirements or limitations on when the coupons may be used).
If you use a debit or credit card with rewards, don’t forget to check to see if they offer restaurant gift cards!
3. Timing is everything! The time of day that you choose to dine can help to greatly reduce expenses. For example, most restaurants offer a “lunch menu” and you can typically order from that menu until 4 p.m. If you go to eat just a little bit earlier, you can beat the crowds and still take advantage of less expensive dining options. On that same note, some restaurants offer “happy hour” specials (these are typically served between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.). Happy hour specials often include half price menu items.
Many restaurants also offer “kids eat free” nights. Typically, “kids eat free” nights are on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and choosing to take advantage of this offer can save you $4 to $6 per child. If you plan to dine out as a family, find out what restaurants in your area offer free meals for children and plan to dine out accordingly.
4. Skip the extras and watch what you eat! Consider ordering a larger meal portion and then splitting it with someone else. You can ask for an extra plate and you can typically add extra side items such as vegetables or a salad a la carte. If you order water instead of beverages you can also typically save an additional $2 per person. Skip dessert at the restaurant and grab ice cream on the way home instead. If you do opt to have dessert there, share it with someone else.
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