7 Ways to Save Money When Dining Out

We all like to eat out, but if we do it too often, it can get expensive. Still, it is a nice break from the routine, and it is a fun way to spend time with your friends and family. If you like to eat out a lot, and you would like to save some money, here are few tips to save when dining out.

Limit Yourself

If you dine out regularly, you can limit the number of times that you go out to save some money. For example, limit yourself to once a week or twice a month. If you keep up with how often you eat out, you are more aware of how much money you are spending. When you are more aware of how much money you are spending when you eat out, you are more likely to limit yourself to save some money.

Choose Inexpensive Restaurants

Choosing a restaurant with less expensive menu options is a great way to save money. If you go somewhere where the salads all cost $30, you’re going to have a hard time saving any money. This does not mean that you have to eat at McDonald’s, but that you can choose the fun diner instead of the swanky restaurant.

Order Light

One of the best ways to save money when eating out is to order light. For example, you can order an appetizer for your meal or a vegetarian option as these are usually less expensive. Fish (and seafood) is often, though not always, less expensive than red meat. In many restaurants, one of the pricier options is often the filet.

If appropriate and if you want, you can usually split a meal with one of your friends or family members.

Tip – If you are eating late, don’t be afraid to have a small snack at home. This will help you from over ordering when you do get the restaurant.

Don’t Order Alcohol or Soda

This is actually one of the easiest ways to save a few dollars when you eat out. All you have to do is stick to drinking water. Soda and tea will often cost a $1 or $2 and alcoholic drinks are often very expensive at restaurants. However, if you really want wine, order a reasonably priced bottle instead of a glass, as three or four glasses is often much more expensive than a bottle.

Split Dessert

Do you really need the entire 1000 calorie piece of chocolate cake? To save some money, try splitting dessert or simply do not order it. Instead try baking a cake or cookies once a week or so at home. This way you will generally have something inexpensive and sweet on hand for dessert.

Take Some Home

If it is appropriate, you can save some money by taking home the leftovers. They can be a meal or a snack later, which helps you save some money.

Be Observant

Last, but not least, you will want to be observant with your bill. For example, some restaurants, especially if you are dining with six people or more, will add in gratuity, generally 18%. This means that your total will already reflect the tip. In many cases, you do not want to tip twice. Even if you do want to add an extra tip, you will want to be aware of what has already been added. Also, mistakes are sometimes made, so you will always want to glance over your bill to make sure that everything looks right.

Do you eat out on a regular basis? Where do you dine, and what strategies do you use to save money when you dine out? 


7 Ways to Save Money When Dining Out — 30 Comments

  1. Solid advice on dining out and saving at the same time.

    On the other side of this coin, many restaurants survive because they serve alcohol. They need that income. I’ve talked to a restaurant owner – actually more than one and they make a good bit of their income from alcohol sales.

    This might be part of the reason why you can save when dining out.

    • I bet they do make tons of money from alcohol sales. When the market up is 100-300% you can make a killing. 2 double shots in a restaurant will most likely cost you the same price as the bottle :/

  2. Many restaurants’ serving sizes are so huge these days, my wife nearly always tries to split a meal, or she’ll take half or more home.

    For the restaurants we like, we pay attention to specials. Many have daily lunch specials or one night a week with discounts.

  3. We rarely go out to eat anymore… having a toddler will do that 😉

    But on the few occasions where we do go out, my husband and I usually split a meal. Sometimes if we really want different things, I will order a small appetizer and a side salad.

  4. We generally get water and try to find a coupon before we go. Dining out for lunch instead of dinner can often be cheaper. Sometimes we will split a meal or order one of those three course specials to split.

  5. In most cases, our choices are inexpensive non chain restaurants. Many of them have loyalty programs. We never get dessert and in most cases I take take the food to go. In the one or two cases when we get dessert, we split it to keep the calories down and secondarily save the money.

  6. We have been eating out a lot lately because life got really busy. We have all switched to just water and it is amazing how much cheaper the bill is that way (there are five of us).

    I can’t imagine ordering dessert out unless it is a really special occasion. I can bake a whole pan of brownies or a batch of chocolate chip cookies for cheaper than the cost of one dessert.

  7. We go out once a week at the most and rarely order drinks unless it’s a happy hour. All your tips are pretty good.
    We usually don’t order dessert either. By the end of the meal, we’re full.

  8. I’d add share a meal if you can. Mr. LH and I usually can’t eat an entree on our own, so we find one we both like and split it. Then ordering only water gets us out of a restaurant fairly inexpensively!

  9. We actually saved money eating out when we toured the US! Your prices are half what we pay over here in Western Australia (where a cheap family restaurant will see little change from $90 for two, and no leftovers at all) – and no such thing as free soda refills here! Our weekly grocery budget is about 10% higher than what we spent eating out for every meal over there, and I shop as frugally as possible (mostly at the growers’ market and cheap supermarkets). We’re coming back in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to not only spending less on food, but getting a decent meal for our dollar – not to mention a heck of a lot more gluten-free choices than we could ever get here!

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