We all deserve a break from the kitchen every now and then, making going out to dinner a worthwhile treat. However, that treat can turn into an expensive habit quicker than you might think. The average household will spend about $4,300 this year dining out — up 8% from last year! Luckily, there are a bunch of easy ways to enjoy your favorite eateries without burning a hole in your wallet. Keep reading for four tips you need to know about how to save money while eating out.
Nab 50% Off with Secret Deals
Restaurants offer money-saving promotions all the time — such as BOGO entrées, a percentage off your bill, and free appetizers — and now it’s easier than ever to find them! Simply visit RetailMeNot.com/coupons/food or download their free app, advises Heather Schisler, founder of PassionForSavings.com. “You can search by the kind of offer you want or the restaurant where you plan to eat, and it will show you a list of current promotions available!”
Trim Costs with a Peek at the Menu
Order more food than you plan to when dining out? Your server may be why! Brooke Eliason, founder of FemaleFoodie.com and a former waitress, explains: “As someone who waited tables for a long time, I can tell you that most servers will try to get you to order more off the menu by suggesting additional options.” And it’s not just for a bigger tip — they’re hoping that by trying other items, you’ll enjoy your experience even more and return again. To sidestep this bill-booster: “Look at the restaurant menu online ahead of time and make your choices,” advises Eliason. “This way, you’ll be less swayed by your server’s suggestions.”
Save $10 with Gift Cards
For instant savings, walk into a warehouse club such as BJ’s or Sam’s Club or visit their website, recommends Schisler. “There, you’ll find restaurant gift cards for both chain and locally owned eateries that cost less than their face value.” For example, Sam’s Club offers $50 in Bob Evans and O’Charley’s gift cards for just $39.98. Another option: Purchase gift cards directly from a restaurant. Many come with bonuses (such as an extra $5 gift card for every $25 gift card you buy) that can save you cash on your next visit!
Slash Your Bill with a Price Comparison
The easy way to find the restaurant offering the lowest price on what you want to eat: Log on to Yelp.com, type the meal you’re looking for into the search bar, such as “burgers”, then tap the dollar signs to choose how much you want to pay, such as “$” for under $10 per person or “$$” for $11 to $30 per person. Adds Eliason, “To find out exactly how much you’d be spending, there may be a ‘Full Menu’ link on the right-hand side of the page. Or look at the photos uploaded by users, which frequently include a picture of the menu with its prices.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.