My wife and I love to eat out at restaurants. Thanks to a recent look at how I spend my money, 8.8% of my income actually goes towards eating out every month in fact. But, I do not make any apologies for it. My wife and I simply hate cooking and love eating out at restaurants. It is something that we love to do, and so my wife and I make a conscious effort to budget eating out at restaurants to so much. We all know that it can be very expensive, but you can also save money while still eating out a lot. You simply have to make smart decisions while you are at the restaurant. Below are ten of the best ways to save money eating out at restaurants…
Ways To Save Money Eating Out At Restaurants
1. Buy Restaurant.com Gift Cards –
With Restaurant.com, you can purchase gift cards to over 18,000 restaurants across the country for pennies on the dollar. For as little as $10, you can receive a $25 Restaurant.com gift card that can be used in tons of locations near you. I was completely blown away by how much I saved using Restaurant.com the first time. Now I’m hooked.
2. Discount Cards – My children are constantly selling discount cards to local area restaurants for their school’s fundraiser. These cards often cost $10 or so, but I have literally made my money back after the first use. Our favorite restaurants around town offer 25% off of your meal or even a buy one, get one free entre. This is a great way to save throughout the year. We even went as far as purchase some from other friends whose kids attend different schools because the deals on the other discount cards were so good.
3. Weekly Specials – One thing that many people may not realize or utilize are weekly specials that almost all restaurants are implementing these days. Pay attention to the restaurants that you frequent most often. When do they have 10 cent wing night? When do they have kids eat free night? We keep a running list of which restaurants in our area have which types of deals on certain days. My wife and I often wait to the last minute to decide where to eat, but it helps us save money eating out when we know who offers deals and when.
4. Friend Your Favorites – Just like you can like Money Q&A on Facebook, you can like most restaurants on Facebook as well. Even mom and pop locations now are finding their way online in an effort to drum up more business. This is a great opportunity for you to find new deals and coupons online. Many restaurants offer great deals and coupons for newsletter subscribers too. Do not be bashful when signing up for these newsletters to get a great deal. If you are worried about spam, set up a new free email account just for these newsletters.
5. Portion Control – Another great way to save money eating out at restaurants is to practice portion control. Now more than ever, portions at restaurants have grown considerably and are huge. Portion control can come in a variety of methods. When I asked several great personal finance bloggers, Beating Broke mentioned sharing portions with members of your party. Hunter from Financially Consumed recommended to be sure to take leftovers home if it is too much. That alone to me is like saving 50% on each meal if I can pay once and wind up with two meals out of it.
6. Have A Spending Plan – Okay I won’t call this setting a budget, but you have to have some idea as to how much you can spend per month on eating out. Are you willing to spend $100 per week? What happens if you blow that on one meal? Are you going to go home the other six nights and eat Ramon Noodles? That’s the kind of discipline it unfortunately takes. It is okay to spend a lot of money on something that you love, but you have to set limits before hand and stick to them.
7. Check Out Groupon – YFS from Your Finances Simplified recommended using Groupon or Living Social to find great deals on restaurants in your area. Like Restaurant.com, using Groupon and Living Social are great resources to save money eating out at restaurants. In my local area, our daily newspaper is even trying to start a service on the newspaper’s website similar to Groupon that offers very specific deals only in our immediate area.
8. Go Out For Lunch Instead – We all know that lunch at restaurants is typically less expensive than dinner. Eating lunch instead of dinner is a great way to save money while eating out at restaurants. This is a favorite tactic of the Prairie Eco Thrifter who also points out that the portions at lunch are much smaller too which will not only help your wallet but also your waistline.
9. Buy An Entertainment Book – I hadn’t thought of this idea of buying an Entertainment Book until Jason from Live Real, Now mentioned it to me. I remember Ryan from Cash Money Life has always praised the deals available in the Entertainment book as well. I haven’t even seen one since I was a little kid and my mother would buy them. I know that they still exist and a great resource to save money eating out at restaurants.
10. Drink Water – Several of the friends that I polled for this article such as Eric from Dollar Versity mentioned drinking only water in an effort to save money. This is a great tip since alcoholic drinks are expensive and can quickly make your bill spiral out of control. I also learned this lesson the hard way with my youngest son who orders chocolate milk everywhere we go, and most restaurants do not offer free refills on milk like they do for soda. Three milks later, not only does he have a stomachache, but I have a bloated bill from the restaurant as well.
Do you have any tips to save money eating out at restaurants? Which method to save money eating out at restaurants is your favorite? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.