Great food, ambiance, company, conversation…Who doesn’t like a good night out? Dining out with the family is a wonderful experience. The chef in your house gets a break and you can enjoy the company of loved ones. Yet, dining out can also be expensive and wreak havoc on your budget.
It would be fun to eat out often; however, it is not always sustainable financially. Nonetheless, there are sensible ways to eat out at restaurants for the occasional treat. However, I do not recommend dining out often if you are on a budget. Yet going out once or twice a month using the tips listed below, will give you a fun endeavor and won’t break the bank. So pack up the kids and hit the town!
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10 Outstanding Ways to Save on Dining Out
1. Groupon – There are always amazing dining deals on Groupon. Check out the site before dining out. Just make sure to use your Groupon before it expires. Nonetheless, if it does expire, you can still use it for the face value paid, but that’s no fun! We want savings!
Tip: Go through Ebates to receive a percentage back of what you pay for your Groupon. Not a member of Ebates? Sign up here to receive a $10 bonus.
Tip: Check for coupon codes before you purchase, as Groupon often offers 10-30% off weekly.
Tip: Wait until the date you plan to go out to purchase your Groupon. Then you won’t have to worry about an expiration date.
2. Happy Hours – Most people think of great drink deals when they hear “happy hour” but many restaurants have great food deals too! Many restaurants offer specials on pizza, burgers, appetizers, drinks, etc. A fun way to enjoy the happy hour menu and try several items is to order a few appetizers for dinner. Order three or four and enjoy! Okay, Okay…have a glass of wine too!
3. Kids Eat Free – There are so many restaurants that have a “kids eat free” day. Here is a post from the money-saving mom that lists a round-up of choices! The Master List of Kid’s Eat Free (and almost free) Depending on the number of kids you have, this will save you the cost your kid’s meal. In my case, two meals.
Tip: You usually have to purchase an adult entrée to receive a free kids’ meal.
Tip: When bringing kids out to eat, pack an activity bag and snacks. This will keep them happy and occupied until your food comes. We have all experienced the toddler tantrum at a restaurant and it is best to avoid this at all costs!
4. Order Water – Order water for the family instead of unhealthy soda and save a bunch. Most restaurants charge $2.50-$3.00 for Soda or tea. For a family of four that is a $10-$12 savings right off the top of your bill.
5. Don’t Take the Up-Sell – The waiter/waitress is trained to ask costumers if they would like extra sides with their meal in order for the restaurant to make more money. Yet they often neglect to mention the sides come at an additional price then what the menu states. This is an upsell. Try ordering your dish with no extras. When the “extras” spiel is given make sure to ask the waiter/waitress if the sides such as a salad or waffle fries are extra before you indulge. As a rule of thumb, they usually are.
More Great Tips:
6. Split a Plate – Not that hungry? Split something with your date. My husband and I do this from time to time, especially if the restaurant is known for large serving sizes. Let’s face it, most of the time we go out to eat, we end up with leftovers. These leftovers are often left in the fridge and go to waste.
Tip: If you split a plate and you are still hungry, order dessert. You will have enough money since you only paid for one meal!!
7. Go out for pizza – Pizza is a reasonably priced meal that can feed your entire family. Find a local pizza place with dine-in and you may even have enough money left over to order breadsticks or dessert.
8. Tip-Free Sit-Down Restaurants – Go out to a restaurant that is a sit-down but doesn’t use a waiter/waitress. For example, places I love are Panera, Qdoba, Chipotle, Potbelly and Jimmy John’s. These are a step-up from fast food, but you don’t have a waiter/waitress which means you do not leave a tip at the end of your meal.
Tip: These restaurants are great for kids because you don’t have to wait for the bill. You can leave if your night out with the kids took a turn for the worst. Hey, parents…We’ve all been there!
9. Follow the Specials – Many restaurants offer specials by the day of the week. Try eating out on a Monday. The restaurant will be less crowded and the specials are usually better since restaurants are marketing to drive business on less busy days. Also, check online and flip through flyers for restaurant coupons.
10. Go Out to Breakfast – Skip the expensive dinner menu. Breakfast typically costs less than lunch or dinner. You could even do breakfast for dinner. Many Coney Island restaurants or Waffle Houses offer breakfast all day. Who doesn’t love a good omelet or pancakes for dinner once in a while?
Dining out is a treat but if you are going to do it, do it right. Obviously, if you have the money, go for it. However, if you are like the rest of us trying to budget and save, use some of the tips above to treat yourself once in a while. Continue to save and build up your emergency fund and you will be on your way to financial freedom.
Leave me a comment! I would love to hear how you save money on dining out with your family. What are your favorite restaurants?
Thanks for the visit! Take Care – Sarah
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