How to Save Money When Dining Out

| June 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

Family enjoying lunch at cafeMost of us strive to serve home-cooked dinners to our families, but sometimes it’s nice to go out for a meal. Some families do this regularly, and others wait for special occasions. One thing is for sure, though: Restaurant meals are usually exponentially more expensive than what you would pay to purchase and prepare the foods yourself. Eating out is about the experience moreso than the food, in most cases. If restaurant meals are eating up more of your budget than you would like, or if you would like to squeeze some into your monthly budget without breaking the bank, here are some tips on saving money when eating out:


  • Go for lunch instead of dinner. Lunch prices are often less expensive than dinner prices, and some restaurants have a lunch special that will make sense, financially speaking. If that’s not the case at the restaurant that you want to go to, your appetite might be a bit smaller at lunchtime, allowing you to pack up half of your meal to enjoy for dinner later. If you don’t want to go for lunch, try for an early dinner: Many establishments offer an “early bird” special if you go before the typical dinner hours begin.

  • Take advantage of specials. Our local Moe’s offers $5 burritos on Mondays. Another local restaurant offer a kids eat free special on Tuesdays. Take a look into the policies at the various restaurants in your town; maybe every day of the week will be covered! Chain restaurants like Chili’s, Applebees and TGIFridays sometimes run specials that allow you to buy two appetizers and two entrees for one low set fee, such as $20.

  • Use the “to go” option. When you place an order for curbside delivery, you save most of the money that you would have spent on a tip, and you don’t have to buy drinks. All you need to do is call in your order, then park in front while a server brings it out to you. A few dollars for a tip is sufficient; you don’t need to top the full 20 percent that you would tip a waiter or waitress.

  • Don’t buy a meal for each person. Restaurant portions tend to be quite large, so you may be able to share, particularly if you have younger children in your party. Don’t feel like you have to purchase a kid’s meal for each child; two children can share a full-sized entree, or the kids can share from your plate. You can also choose an appetizer for a child’s meal, or even for your own meal if you’re not very hungry. Check the extra-plate policy with your server; in some cases there is an extra charge for each person who is not ordering a meal, but this is often waived if the person in question is a small child.

  • Look for coupons. You might find coupons in your Sunday paper, in the weekly ads that end up in your mailbox, on the restaurant’s website or in the Entertainment Book, if you have one for your town. You could also buy gift certificates at The premise is that you spend a few dollars for a $10 or $15 certificate for a particular restaurant. Be sure to read the fine print so that you understand how much money you have to spend in order to use your certificates, as well as any blackout dates or times.


Eating in a restaurant can be a fun family bonding time, especially if it’s something that you don’t do very often. You can save money by planning ahead in a lot of cases. Do you have any great tips to share?

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