Everyone has been there. After a nice, delicious dinner out, you get the bill, and realize you spent way too much. Dining out can cost more than it’s worth and blow your food budget for the month. Drinks, appetizers, tips, and extras can quickly add up. But before you swear off restaurants forever, think about revamping your old ways of ordering and dining out. You can still experience new restaurants, dine out with friends, and actually afford it with these eight simple ways to save at a restaurant.
Start by ordering less.
My typical mistake at a restaurant is I get there, I’m starving, and I order way too much off the bat. By the time I finish my soup and appetizer, I’m full. Start out by ordering one thing, and take your time. You can always order more if you’re still hungry.
Portion your meal.
When restaurants give you a huge portion, just take half home. Ask for a container right away if there’s a chance you’ll get tempted to pick at the rest over conversation with whoever you’re dining with. This way you’ll have two meals for the price of one.
As I mentioned above, when a restaurant gives you more food than you can eat for one meal, portion it. Split a meal and an appetizer or dessert with your fellow diner and then split the cost to save money. This allows you to not only spend less, but try different things as well.
Have drinks or dessert at home.
Drinks and coffee can add up quickly so skip them. Meet with friends before dinner for a drink at someone’s house or do the same after. Or if you really want the great drinks, just order a few appetizers. For the price of one dessert, you can probably buy a whole cake or pie at the store. When the meal is done, head home for dessert.
There’s always a great deal out there if you’re willing to take the time to look. Sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Restaurant.com offer great deals for restaurants. It may even encourage you to try a restaurant or cuisine you may not have experienced before.
More Savings Tips
Join reward programs.
When you have a special restaurant in mind, check out their website. They may give coupons, discounts, or special offers just by giving your email address. Many chains have reward programs where you earn points while dining that can lead to free meals.
Don’t go for dinner.
Breakfast and lunch are generally cheaper than dinner so opt for an earlier meal instead. Restaurants also offer happy hour specials and late night specials with great prices.
Use discounts you already have.
You may not even realize it, but there’s a good chance you may already be able to score a discount. Many times students, teachers, government employees, and service members can get a discount. Members of organizations such as AAA, AARP, certain alumni groups, and even residents of a certain city or state receive a discount.