Dining Out on the Cheap
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Dining Out on the Cheap

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 at 6:12 am
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Dining out is becoming increasingly expensive these days. It seems like every time I walk into a restaurant they have a new menu complete with higher prices. But if you, like me, love to indulge in a meal out once in a while you’ll definitely want to check out these money-saving tips for dining out on the cheap.

Use Restaurant Coupons

Before you do anything else, look for restaurant coupons. You’ll find lots of great restaurant coupons in our store deals section – from Quizno’s discounts to free burgers, we’ve got you covered! Check back often for new restaurant coupons and deals. Also, search your local newspaper for coupons you can use at local restaurants.

Purchase Reduced Price Gift Certificates

Sometimes you can find discounted restaurant gift certificates. For example, for $25 you would get a $50 gift certificate. You can check restaurant.com or you can purchase local entertainment books. These books will usually cost money upfront, but contain tons of coupons, discounts, and reduced price gift certificate offers. If you put it to use, it will be well worth your investment. Just be sure to read the fine print when using reduced price gift certificates because they will sometimes require a minimum purchase amount over the amount of the gift certificate.

Take Advantage of Discounts

Be sure to take advantage of discounts where you can. Many restaurants offer student, teacher, senior, child, or military discounts. Almost all restaurants have a discounted children’s menu as well, so if you are dining out with kids, you can save money by having them order a children’s meal. Some restaurants even offer free kids meals on certain days. Check each restaurant’s website to find out more details.

Skip Drinks and Dessert

Drinks and dessert are two unnecessary items that are guaranteed to significantly raise your restaurant bill. A soda alone cost a minimum of $2 at most restaurants nowadays. If every person in your party orders a soda, that alone can raise your bill by about $10. Additionally, some desserts can cost almost as much as an entire dinner entrée (unless it’s your birthday – then you should definitely take advantage of the free birthday dessert).

Order an Appetizer for Your Meal

Appetizers are cheaper than entrées and usually include enough food for one person. So, if you are trying to save money, ordering an appetizer may be a good way to go. This works especially well at restaurants that come with free starters, such as bread or tortilla chips.

Split an Entrée Two Ways

If nothing on the appetizer menu appeals to you, then you can save money by offering to split an entrée with someone else in your party and voila! You’ve cut your bill in half. Most restaurant entrées come with more than enough food for two people, but ask your server before you order just to make sure.

Eat Dinner Early

If you are going out to dinner, go early to save money. Most restaurants charge lunch prices until around 4 or 5 pm. Lunch prices tend to run around 20-25% cheaper than dinner prices, so eating a little early can save quite a bit of money.


Dining out with friends and family is a lot of fun, but it is even more fun when you can do it on the cheap. After all, being in good company is what counts, not how much you spend. So, let your money-saving tricks do all the work while you sit back, relax, and enjoy your meal.

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.