Six Tips for Saving Money at Restaurants

It is nearly impossible to live a lifestyle these days that does not include going out to breakfast, lunch or dinner at least a couple times a week. We all work and have busy schedules that often prevent us from cooking and eating dinner at home. As a result, dining out has become a necessity for many families. But dining out does not need to cost a fortune if you are careful about your choices. Here are six tips to help you enjoy a meal at a restaurant without worrying about breaking your budget.

Choose the Restaurant Wisely

Just because you decide to dine out does not mean you have to choose one of the most upscale restaurants in your area. However, you do not have to sacrifice your health and choose a greasy fast food restaurant either. Most cities have decent family restaurants that have menu prices that are reasonable for families who are trying to stick to a budget. Many of the chain restaurants also have affordable options for families on a budget. Look for these restaurants so you can have a nice meal and not stress out about the check arriving at your table.

Look for the Deals

Many restaurants offer deals for early diners and on certain days of the week. Others have specials that last for a limited time. Chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Chili’s have Two-for-One deals where couples can choose from a list of entrees for one low price. You might even be able to find coupons for restaurants online. A few minutes of research can save you hundreds of dollars a year while still being able to dine out a couple times a week.

Share Your Entrée

If you haven’t noticed in recent years, the portion sizes at some restaurants have become larger to accommodate the growing appetites of diners. If you are trying to eat less or if you often take home half of your meal in a doggie bag, why not just find something you and your spouse enjoy and share it? Many couples are doing that these days in order to save money on dining out and they are finding that they feel satisfied without being “overfull” at the end of the meal. Be sure to get a salad or an appetizer to share as well so you both get enough food.

Look for Coupons

Some chain restaurants offer online coupons that you can print for huge savings. Many times, all you have to do is sign up to be on their mailing list and they will send you coupons through your email at various times throughout the year. If it is your birthday, some restaurants will send you a printable coupon for a free dinner or a free dessert. Take advantage of these coupons and use them to have a nice dining experience while saving money at the same time.

Skip the Drink

Restaurants charge as much as three dollars for a glass of soda or tea. If you think about it, you can buy three two-liter bottles of soda for that much. And if there are two or more of you, that could add a lot of money to the bill. Of course, they offer free refills, but how much does one person actually drink? Choose water instead and see how much money you will save during one month by choosing not to order soda at the restaurant. If you need some taste with your beverage, ask your server to put a lemon in it. Lemons are complimentary and they can help your water be just as refreshing as a soda.

Look at the Receipt

Once the meal is over, you should study your receipt for two reasons. The most obvious reason to study your receipt is to make sure you didn’t get overcharged for one of your meal items. Servers are human and sometimes they make mistakes. If you ordered something and never received it, be sure to bring it to the server’s attention so you do not pay for it.

The second reason to look at your receipt is because many restaurants offer free menu items for taking a survey. The receipt will either list a phone number or a website where you can go and take a survey about your experience. You will then receive a code and when you bring that code back to the restaurant, you can redeem it for something free.

There are many ways to save money when you go to a restaurant. Whether you decide to use coupons, skip a soda or do a survey, you can save hundreds of dollars a year without sacrificing the experience of dining out. Simply put some thought into dining out and you can still do it on a budget.