Eating out is one of those splurges in life most of us enjoy, no matter how budget-minded we are. It is a wonderful way to get away from the house and have someone else do all the cooking, serving and clean up. It is also easy to cut out when trying to stretch our dollars. But there are ways to save when going out to eat and it does not mean you have to pick up .99 cent burgers to do it.
Tips for Trimming Back Your Restaurant Bill
Take advantage of local restaurant coupons which can be found in your newspaper, mailers such as Valpack, town and city visitor centers, phone books and hotel lobbies.
Invest in The Entertainment Book
The Entertainment Book provides entertainment coupons, including restaurants, for specific cities. The book ranges from $20 to $45 per book and coupons run 15 months, from August to the following November. As summer approaches, the book goes down in price.
If you prefer to only get coupons you think you will use you can subscribe online for a monthly fee of $3.99 and print coupons from your computer. This is a good option if you are planning a vacation and just want coupons specific to your holiday destination.
Fine Dining for the Price of Fast Food
Do not assume you are saving by going only to fast-food restaurants. Many medium and upscale restaurants offer such huge food portions that you can often split one order into two satisfying meals.
Try Out the Appetizers
If you are not a big eater, try out the appetizers before digging into the main course menu. You can often order an exquisite appetizer and a house salad with water and lemon for under $8.00.
Do not be shy about asking for fresh bread to accompany your meal.
Stay Away From Prime Time Dining
If you have been dying to try an expensive restaurant in your area, go for a late lunch and avoid the higher dinner prices. In addition, many restaurants offer an early-bird menu for diners who come between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Bring a Buddy
Buddy-up when possible and take advantage of the “Buy One Get One” deals often advertised in newspapers. Total the bill (including the tip) and divide it into two. You will both save.
Look for Kid’s Night Deals
Most family type restaurants offer Kid’s Night specials often offering free meals for kids when adults order a meal, special discounts on kid’s meals, freebies such as free dessert with a meal and other cost-cutting offers. Restaurants often run kid’s specials during the week on slow evenings such as Tuesday. Call and find out if your favorite family restaurant offers this type of promotion.
Watch What You Drink
One of the biggest markups in restaurants are drinks with alcohol, soda and coffee. Substitute a glass of water with a splash of lime and have a pot of coffee at home, set on a timer, so when you get home it will be ready. Then sit back, kick off your shoes, and finish enjoying your evening out.
Ask for a Doggie Bag
Bring home the leftovers and have them for lunch the next day. It is a great way to turn a $20 restaurant bill into two $10 meals.
Coupons and Specials Via Email
Many national restaurants offer special savings and reward programs, which you can receive if you subscribe to their website newsletter.
Many advertise that by signing up at their website they will send special promotions and coupons to you through email. To find your favorite restaurant’s website address, try checking the yellow pages of your phone book or call and ask if they have a website.
Seniors can often save at least 10% off the bill by just producing identification showing their date of birth. Many restaurants offer senior discounts on specific nights of the week. Call your favorite restaurants and see if they support this type of promotion.
If you travel often or use a credit card on a regular basis, you may have a rewards program, which offers restaurant gift certificates in exchange for you reward points. Hotel programs such as the Holiday Inn Priority Club also sometimes offer gift certificates to restaurants for reward points.
Remember – you work hard and enjoy an evening out once in awhile. Try using some of the tips above before cutting eating out – out of your budget.