How often do you go out to eat? If you are the kind of person who never says no when invited over for lunch, dinner, or drinks, you might find yourself in the terrible situation of seeing your budget shrinking day by day. If you want to keep up with your socializing habits, but still be budget-minded, here are some tips to save up money.
Choose restaurants with self-serving
The number one reason why restaurants are expensive is the impressive number of staff they have to hire to tend the tables. When you look at the price of that entrée and sigh, because it’s 20 bucks, you should know that a big chunk of it goes to the wait staff.
Pick wisely, and go hang out in places where customers do their own service. There, you will mostly pay for the food you eat, and not for being waited on.
Lunch is less expensive than dinner
If you want to start saving up money, and you need to decline invitations from your friends, don’t lose hope on socializing with them over good food. You only need to adjust your habits a little. Here is a quick tip.
Lunch meals are less expensive than dinner meals, so if you pick this time of the day to meet your friends, and cook dinner at home, you can become more budget-minded, with little effort.
Split your order with a friend and don’t waste anything
Restaurant portions can be huge, and that causes some issues. If you force yourself to eat everything from your plate, it means you’re overeating, and that will show in your waistline soon enough. Should you be mindful of your diet and eat only half of it, you’re just throwing money off the window.
The solution is simple. Ask a close friend to split the meal with you, even if you don’t have a kitchen scale. This way, you will both eat only as much as it is needed, and you will not waste money either.
In case you cannot split your order with anyone, for various reasons, you can do something else. Have the waiter pack your leftovers so you can enjoy them later at home. You can eat them as dinner the next day, or even as a small breakfast if the food is the kind that can be eaten first thing in the morning on your kitchen table.
Don’t order any drinks
Anyone expects restaurants to charge more for the food they make since they provide a service. However, you may be quite surprised to hear how much they overcharge for drinks. A beer can cost up to four times more, and soft drinks are an even worst deal, as a can of soda can cost you eight times more than what you would pay if you bought it from a grocery store.
A good idea would be to ask just for tap water with your meal. Restaurants don’t charge for it, and you will be able to enjoy eating out, without having to worry that your night out will make a hole in your pockets.
Don’t hesitate to search for deals and credit card options
Restaurants and other establishments are in a constant race for customers, and you should profit from that. There are plenty of online sources for finding excellent discounts and deals. Some even offer group deals, so if you go out with your friends, see what places you can frequent for excellent food and equally excellent prices.
Some businesses offer attractive deals if you pay with certain types of credit cards. Find in advance about these places, and take the right card with you. The cash back options available can end up saving you some serious cash.
Happy hour is a good option, too
If you don’t want to skip drinks altogether, there is a solution. Go during happy hour and enjoy appetizers at half the price and drinks with their prices cut, too. You and your friends will have a good time, and you will not have to carve into your monthly budget with a shovel.
Order side dishes and daily specials
Even if you don’t plan on becoming a vegetarian, it can help you to skip the meat in your meals once in a while. And you know what else will benefit from this habit? Your wallet. Side dishes and appetizers can make a satisfying dinner and cost less if you don’t have any meat-based courses.
Here is another way that will let you eat cheaper when going out. See what daily specials are available, and order those. Restaurants often offer such deals on some of their courses, so you don’t have to overspend to eat well.
Search for restaurants that let you bring your own wine
It may not sound like a common practice, but the truth is that some restaurants allow their patrons to bring wine from home. Skipping expensive drinks will definitely make your meals more affordable, and you don’t have to give up on wine, either.
Restaurant coupons are a thing, as are no-tip eateries
You may already use coupons for various items, but it is possible to use coupons for restaurant meals, too. According to people who already practice this, you can save up to 15% of the price of a meal, and, if you eat out regularly, you can save up quite a lot of money.
Tips are for service, but if you go to places where you take care of filling up your plate on your own, you will not have to do that. Fast-casual places will help you save up some money this way.
Order the good stuff
There are plenty of items on the menu you can make at home for only a fraction of the cost. However, restaurants cannot overcharge on the good stuff too much, so you’d be better off ordering their more sophisticated dishes, instead.