extra credit: 9 ways to save when you eat out.
I’m not sure there are many things I love more than trying new restaurants. Between you and me, I might eat out several times a week if our budget would allow it. Also I would hire a babysitter because really it’s just more fun that way.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spent $208.75 a month eating out in 2010. Our entertainment and dining out budget is $125, and admittedly this feels tight for our family of 4. But let’s be honest: it might be unrealistic to not eat out at all, so I’ve put together some ideas for saving some dough while still having some fun and dining out:
1. Get Social.
By following a restaurant on Facebook or Twitter, you will likely get access to discounts that you would otherwise not receive. Some restaurants post incentives just for liking or following them, others post passwords you can tell your server to access special deals.
2. Time Your Meal.
Many restaurants have specials to attract guests during their down times. So check for lunch or late night specials at your favorite restaurants.
3. Check In.
4. Get Your Happy On.
Many restaurants offer a Happy Hour for discounted appetizers or small bites, which are great ways to sample the restaurant’s menu without having to fork over extra cash for one main entree. In fact, it’s become a tradition for Andrew and I to grab a seat at the bar for a Happy Hour at one restaurant, then go to another on our list for a light dinner.
5. Sign up for Email.
Yes, I know email can clutter your inbox. BUT, if you sign up for a select few email newsletters from restaurants you enjoy and that offer specials or birthday deals, I say do it! That way you can earn additional discounts or receive a little something on your birthday or anniversary.
6. Bring Your Own Wine.
By bringing your own wine to a restaurant with a minimal corkage fee, you can save a bundle even over the cost to buy a bottle full-pop at the restaurant. Let’s say the corkage fee is $15 and your bottle is $10, it’s likely still less than buying a bottle of wine at the restaurant and paying full price.
7. Check Out Online Deal Sites.
It’s become quite popular for restaurants to incentivize new guests by offering deals through Groupon, Living Social, and Restaurant.com. Typically you can save 50-75% by pre-buying through these sites. But you have to act fact or the deal might disappear.
8. Kids Eat Free.
A number of places offer Kids Eat Free on certain nights, when accompanied with a parent. Here’s a kids eat free site I found that might be helpful.
9. Think Before You Order.
I realize these things are kind of a given but here are a few tactical ways you can save when dining out:
- Skip dessert and grab a bowl of ice cream when you get home.
- Share with the kiddos instead of getting them their own kids meal.
- Opt for water instead of alcohol or soft drinks.
- Order a large meal and share (and tip well, for the sake of your server 🙂
What are your strategies for eating out on a budget? Do tell…