Growing up my family went out to eat every Friday night. When we got married I just assumed that is what we would do. However, it didn't take a couple of Friday nights at Applebee's for me to figure out this wasn't something that we could afford. For a year or two our budget was just too tight to have the room to go out to eat regularly. But, eventually as we started to have a bit more room in the budget we started dining out again. I have learned a few tricks and tips since then.
There are ways to still enjoy going out to eat without completely blowing your budget. With a little planning you can find a way to eat out and save money too. These 7 tips to save money when dining out have really helped my family save.
Bring a Coupon- There are so many fantastic deals out there with groupon and living social. Try out a new restaurant and save money in the process. Often you can save up to 50% off with a coupon.
Drink Water- I think drinking water is probably the easiest way to save and will save you the most money. So many restaurants charge $2-$3 dollars for drinks. A family of four could save $12 just by ordering water. If you don't like plain water, ask for a lemon. I like to squeeze the lemon to give the water some flavor.
Skip the Tip- No, I don't mean that you shouldn't tip your waiter or waitress. Don't dine at restaurants that have table service. There are so many fast casual restaurants that don't require tipping. Panera is one of our favorite fast casual restaurants. You can order at the counter and clear away your own dishes to save more money.
Kids Eat Free- There are plenty of restaurants that have some awesome kids eat free programs. Steak and Shake is one of our favorites. They have free kids meals all weekend long. Some restaurants have certain limits or times, so check out all the details before going.
Newsletters- If you have a favorite restaurant make sure you sign up for their newsletter. You can often get freebies on your birthday and coupons all year-long. Bob Evans is a family favorite with us and they often send out buy one get one free coupons. It makes dining there very affordable.
Dine at Family Owned Restaurants- Often those small family owned restaurants are more affordable than the large chains. Ask friends and family what their favorite family restaurants are. We love a barbecue place where the three of us can eat for $14 with a tip. If we went to a chain it could easily be twice that.
Split a Meal- Some restaurants have insanely large portions. You can save money by sharing a large portion. We often get a small appetizer and then share a meal. It helps save a couple of dollars and we don't leave feeling so stuffed. Plus, this avoids leftovers which we have a terrible habit of leaving in the car. 🙂
If you are eating at a restaurant with table service remember to tip on the full amount before coupons and discounts. Dining out doesn't have to be a large budget buster. You can enjoy eating out from time to time and still keep it a reasonable cost. What are your tips for dining out on a budget?