Who doesn't love stepping out of the kitchen for the night and grabbing dinner somewhere else? Unfortunately, heading into a restaurant or ordering takeout can quickly add up, especially if you do it often. Between tips, delivery fees, and rising food costs, it's expensive to dine out.
You don't have to cut it out altogether, though! There are ways to save money while dining, so you can still enjoy your favorite restaurant, delicious food, and great company without breaking the bank. Instead of stressing over the check, follow these ten tips to save money eating out.
Go for Lunch
If you want to try that new restaurant in town or revisit an old favorite, go earlier in the day. Lunch menu prices are typically a few dollars less expensive than dinner prices. Portions might be smaller, although not always, and the menu is sometimes more limited. That's a small price to pay for the savings, though, and you'll still get to enjoy the food you want! Some restaurants even offer things like early bird specials during certain periods! If you have some wiggle room about when you eat, choose lunch instead.
Buy Gift Cards
Specifically, look for discounted restaurant gift cards. Several sites sell discounted gift cards, some for up to 30% off their actual value! Suddenly that $50 gift card goes a long way toward more restaurant meals.
If you're uncomfortable ordering cards online, watch for special sales around holidays. Many retailers will offer bonus gift cards if you spend a certain amount. For example, you'll probably see promotions that offer an extra $10 gift card for any gift card purchase of $30 or more. That's the perfect time to stock up, even if you're keeping the cards for yourself.
Coupons aren't just for groceries. Restaurants offer them, too! Typically, all you need to do is sign up for their email list or peruse the weekly coupon fliers that get stuffed into your mailbox. Many restaurants send coupons regularly, and you could snag free food, half-price items, or other special promotions. Digital coupons are even easier to use. Just pull them up on your phone and use them once you get to the restaurant!
Visit During Happy Hour
Many restaurants set aside a bit of time each day for happy hour. The actual time period varies, although you're more likely to see it situated between the lunch and dinner rush. During happy hour, you can usually eat half-priced appetizers, get discounted drinks, and save on your restaurant meal. It's the perfect time to visit the restaurant bar to grab a margarita - you'll pay less than the same drink costs just an hour later!
Get Daily Deals
GroupOn and similar websites offer fantastic ways to save on restaurants. You might snag deals on your favorite restaurants or discover new, upcoming places instead. If you're not picky about where you go, visit a daily deals site and see what's up for grabs! There are entire sections devoted to local restaurants, cafes, and other food service businesses. Sometimes, the discounts run deep and you can get $20 off restaurant deals for a fraction of the price.
Sign Up for Birthday Rewards
Practically every chain restaurant (and plenty of local ones) have birthday clubs. Sign up, provide your contact information, and wait until your birthday rolls around. You might score a free dessert, a free meal, or other special deals. It's your birthday and you deserve to celebrate without keeping the check in mind, so take advantage of those dining discounts any time you can! Better yet, get everyone in your family to sign up and everyone gets a treat on their respective birthday.
Some restaurants have a "bring your own bottle" policy. Rather than spending money on wine with your meal, you can bring your own and save money. Restaurants generally charge something called a corkage fee, but it still amounts to less than purchasing alcohol from the restaurant.
Skip the Extras
Every meal doesn't have to include an appetizer, drink, and dessert. If you're serious about saving money when you dine out, stick to water and your entree. You'll still get the experience, but without all the costs that add up so quickly. Between the $15 appetizer, $12 dessert, and $8 beverage, you're doubling the bill! Keep to the basics and your wallet will thank you.
Take It Home
What's better than one meal? Two meals, of course! Unless you plan on polishing off every crumb at the table, ask for a to-go box and take the rest home. At the very least, you'll have a snack for later, but you might even have the next day's lunch handled. You're paying for the food, after all, so there's no need to waste it.
Credit cards offer cashback for all types of purchases, and many even offer bonus incentives for dining out. You could earn anywhere from 1% to 6% cash back or get extra points for using your card in restaurants. Make your money work for you - you'll get to dine out and get paid for doing it.
Credit cards aren't the only way to earn cash back, though. Install the Comrade browser extension while you search for a place to eat. Comrade is a safe, secure extension that offers relevant recommendations while you shop online. Partnered brands pay you for your attention, and you'll earn cash every time you interact with a Comrade suggestion. Spend that money on your next restaurant visit or tuck it away for a rainy day.
Dining out is one of the most enjoyable experiences in life. You can gather friends and family around a table, try new dishes, engage with one another, and enjoy yourselves while someone else does the cooking. Don't be intimidated by the looming restaurant bill. The tips in this article will help you save on your next meal, and that extra money in the bank might make the food taste even better!
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