Dining in a restaurant is typically more expensive than eating at home. When you eat out, you’re basically paying for someone else to do your cooking for you, and depending on what establishment you choose, it can go from quite affordable to really expensive. While it’s more ideal to cook your own meals, there are days when you really can’t avoid eating out.
The good news is, eating out doesn’t have to break your wallet. But if you’re not careful, it could take a huge chunk out of your budget. Much about eating out at different restaurants is also about the experience, so it helps to know some saving tips while you’re at it.
1. Time it right.
If you HAVE to eat out, try and eat out during lunchtime. The items on the lunch menu usually cost significantly less than what you’ll find on the dinner menu. This means that if you keep dining out during dinner, you’re paying for something almost twice as expensive.
Another thing you should be aware of is that many restaurants actually have lunch specials, and it doesn’t have to be exactly noontime for you to avail of this. Also, there are restaurants that offer special deals during certain occasions (e.g. anniversary special, graduation) and specific times of the year (e.g. Valentines Day, Easter), so you can also time it this way.
2. Get rewarded.
Loyalty cards are there for a reason, and if you actually find yourself dining out at the same restaurants over and over again, you might as well get rewarded for it. Don’t be quick to shrug off offers for a membership or a loyalty card, because there are some really great deals that are exclusively available to members only. Usually, members also get a special treat during their birthday.
Loyalty cards also work in such a way that the more you dine in, the more rewards you get. It’s usually a point system wherein a particular dollar value is equivalent to a certain number of points.
3. Split your meals.
When in doubt, always ask for the serving size. But even if you don’t ask, restaurants usually serve bigger portions nowadays. This means that more often than not, you’ll be finishing with some leftovers, which is a shame because you paid for the entire plate. Even if you end up taking the leftovers home, what that means is you could’ve saved a few bucks by splitting the meal. In some restaurants, you can directly ask them to split the meal in two. Otherwise, just ask for extra plates.
4. Just water.
If you think the markup on food is high, it is even higher for drinks. The insane markups mean that if you’re on a tight budget, it would really be better if you avoid ordering drinks. As much as possible, just ask for table water, which costs nothing and will quench your thirst just the same. Another advantage to ordering just water is that you don’t get the additional calories from the drinks, and you can truly reserve your palate for the various rich tastes that you will encounter as you eat.
5. It’s raining deals.
Now who would say no to a discount when it’s handed to you on a silver platter? Okay, maybe not a silver platter, but the point is there are so many promos, deals, and discounts lying around, waiting for you to take advantage of them. You can see the hot deals and seasonal promos of certain restaurants as you go to their websites or to the place itself, but there are also other ways to do it.
You can go to websites that offer coupons, gift vouchers, and group deals. Sign up for their newsletter or alerts so that you’re informed as soon as a new promos come up.
6. Be happy.
Happy hour is called happy hour for a reason. Simply by timing your visit right, you can get your cocktails and other included beverages for significantly less. The good news is happy hour doesn’t only just apply to drinks. Many restaurants now offer a big part of their menu for as much as 50% less the normal price when you dine there during happy hour. This normally means you’ll have to order everything before 6pm, but what you save will be worth it.
7. Kids eat free.
If you have kids, another great way to save is to target specific restaurants that have ‘kids eat free’ deals. Usually, they set this at a certain day of the week and they already have a set meal or menu items for the kids to choose from. You just have to visit them during the day, order your own meals, and enjoy the fact that your kids are eating for free.