It was 2005. My husband and I were newlyweds; we were also broke. But I, always the completely useless housewife, had used up my limited repertoire of simple dinner recipes. So instead, my husband and I found ourselves spending another Friday night at the bar down the street from our second story walk up, eating half-price appetizers and 10-cent wings during happy hour.

Times may have changed, but my inability to cobble dinner together on a regular basis hasn’t. At least once a week, my husband and I – now with our two children in tow – find ourselves searching for a casual, inexpensive restaurant near our home. Budgeting is always a priority for us, so we frequently use dinner discounts and loyalty programs to defray costs; but, all too often, that means we end up eating at the same handful of restaurants week in and week out.

Taking Advantage of Happy Hour

It was actually my husband’s idea to check out the new sports bar in town last week. It was a Monday night, and despite Monday Night Football, he predicted (accurately) that it wouldn’t be that rowdy of a crowd. He was right, bringing the score to me – 283,439; husband – 1.

In any event, I wasn’t surprised to see a menu full of burgers, wings, and fried fixings. But I was surprised to hear that the restaurant’s happy hour (5-6pm) overlapped with their kids eat free promotion (5-8pm). Here’s what we ordered:

  • 30 boneless wings – normally $22.99, but half price they were $11.50; we were able to get three different flavors, as well as enough carrots, celery, and ranch dipping sauce to make our 16-month-old son very happy
  • Loaded fries – instead of the full price of $8.49, we got these for half off, as all appetizers were also 50% off during happy hour
  • Two kids meals, including drinks, for free; my daughter had mac and cheese (and not the Kraft stuff!) with a side of grapes, while my son had chicken tenders with side of steamed broccoli
  • My husband and I drank water, which of course was free

Our bill came to $15.75 before tax; even with tax, we paid less than $17, well below our $25 goal. We did overtip – $5 on that $16.81 bill, or roughly 30 percent – but were more than happy to do so; the service was great, and we’d saved more than we’d spent!

Finding Happy Hour in Your Area

After our happy hour success, my husband and I decided eating out during happy hour was a viable way to try new places while remaining budget-conscious. The question was, where could we find these dinner discounts?

A quick search of the web quickly found two websites designed to help diners find happy hours nationwide. The first is Daily Happy Hour; the site lets you search for happy hour deals by state and city for a specific day of the week. While there are some real gems listed on this site – I found listings for 38 Charlotte, North Carolina restaurants, lounges, and bars. Many of those listings came with specific details on drink and food discounts, as well downloadable coupons for half-price appetizers. But listings in other towns were far more sporadic; the restaurant might be mentioned, but the specific happy hour deals weren’t.

Another helpful website I found was, which touts itself as “your nationwide happy hour guide.” I once again searched for happy hours in Charlotte, North Carolina, and found 35 different options. Some of them overlapped with the search results at Daily Happy Hour, but many did not. Instead of providing happy hour listings by day of the week, lists them alphabetically by restaurant. The happy hour discounts for each day of the week are all combined into a single listing. In other words, if you’re looking for a restaurant happy hour for today, Daily Happy Hour should be your first stop. If you’re looking for weekly happy hour schedules for your favorite restaurants, head to instead.

Reader, do you still take advantage of happy hour deals? Which restaurants do you like best for this purpose?