Being frugal doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. Believe it or not, you can still go out and have a good time. In fact, there are plenty of ways to cut costs while still being able to join friends for an occasional restaurant meal.
The first step is to know exactly how much money you have to spend, and to take that amount with you in cash. If you instead rely on a debit or credit card, you might be tempted to spend more than you’ve allotted.
Another important point: Don’t skimp on the tip! Be sure to include both the tax and tip when you’re setting your budget. Beyond that…
How to save money when eating out
- Ask around to find local spots. We asked some friends for suggestions when we first moved to the area and discovered a fantastic Cuban place in the area. Their lunch specials (entree and two sides) start at $5.95, and their dinners start at $7.95. The portions are great, and I usually end up with a to-go box. Plus, they even have a live band on the weekends.
- Make sure you have leftovers. Be sure to take advantage of whatever freebies the restaurant offers. For example, you can take the edge off your appetite with chips or bread. Also, if your dinner includes a salad, then you should eat that before starting on your entree. I usually end up having plenty of leftovers to take home. Two meals for the price of one!
- Go out for lunch instead of dinner. Most restaurants offer better prices at lunch vs. dinner. Yes, the portions are typically smaller, but you can save a good bit of money by doing this.
- Skip the appetizers. Instead of ordering an appetizer, just go straight to the main course. Appetizers are often overpriced, and most restaurants provide large enough portions that they’re really not necessary.
- Mix appetizers. If you don’t want to skip the appetizers entirely, you can often save money by ordering two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entree.
- Skip dessert. Another great way to slice a decent amount off the bill is to skip dessert. Like appetizers, desserts are often overpriced. Not only will your wallet thank you, but so will your waistline.
- Get a discount. Take advantage of weekday dinner specials, use coupons (e.g., the Entertainment book , and/or use a site like Restaurant.com to get gift certificates on the cheap.
Now it’s your turn…
Do you have any tips for saving money when you eat out?