Eating out is fun, but it can get expensive to do it often. Fortunately, there are several ways to save money when you go out to eat. Try these tips the next time you go out with friends or family.
- Skip the drinks. Alcohol can double your bill at many restaurants. Skip the mixed drinks and overpriced beer, and you can cut your bill in half.
- Order water. Even if you don’t order alcohol, the price of soda or tea can add nearly 20% to your bill. Save some money by ordering water with your entrée. With today’s focus on healthy eating and drinking habits, it’s doubtful that anyone would think it’s odd you’re only drinking water.
- Skip or share appetizers and dessert. Restaurants love selling these items because they generate some of the highest profits on the menu. Try to skip them by eating dessert at home or ordering a bigger entrée if possible. If you just have to try something, get the other people in your party to split it with you. You’ll save calories and money.
- Arrive early or late. Many restaurants, especially buffets, offer discounts to people who are willing to eat during off-peak hours. While it may seem odd to eat dinner in the late afternoon, it’s possible to save more than 50% off the check.
- Look for coupons. Many restaurants print coupons in the paper and/or on their websites. Some chains offer free appetizers, two-for-one entrees, free desserts, or even free drinks. Sign up for the e-mail newsletters of your favorite restaurants to find out what promotions they’re running and get the coupons.
- Split an entrée. While most people have shared an appetizer or a dessert, few people realize that they can request to split an entrée. This is a great idea if you and a friend typically don’t eat everything that is served. If you tell your server that you want to share an entrée, most restaurants will be able to plate it separately in the kitchen.
- Eat foods that are in season. Many privately and locally owned eateries will buy their produce and meat from local suppliers. This allows them to offer better prices on local, in season food. If you order something that has to be imported, expect to pay more. Note that this is usually not true with chains that have central suppliers and prices set by out-of-town management companies.
- Eat lunch. Dinner prices are typically twenty percent higher than lunch prices, and many restaurants offer the same dishes for both meals. By agreeing to meet friends for lunch instead of dinner, it’s possible to save money without letting on that you’re saving.