9 simple ways to save money while eating out
Eating out is literally my kryptonite and the hardest habit to kick. I just love the convenience of eating out but it can really add up. Think about it: if you go out to lunch every day for a week at a conservative $7 a meal, you will be spending $35 a week and $140 per month! Let's be realistic, though, what restaurant can you go to for $7 a meal? Typically it is more like $8-10 or more if you order a drink and/or dessert. Therefore, at $10 per meal, you end up spending $50 per work week and $200 just on work days! It adds up quickly!
That isn't even including weekends.
Even though, eating out is my guilty pleasure, it doesn't help my wallet (or my waistline). Slashing eating out from your budget is one of the easiest ways to save money. However, it doesn't hurt to treat yourself every once in a while.
That is why I try to find simple ways to save money while eating out. Check out these 9 simple ways to save money while eating out.
Skip the Alcohol
I know you had a long day at work. I know it is happy hour and there are unbeatable drink specials. Unless the alcohol is free it is cheaper to wait until you get home to indulge.
Sure a drink may only be $8-10 but think about how fast that small amount can add up. Order 8 alcohol drinks out during a month and that is $64-80 per month. If you don't live in the Midwest, prices of drinks can easily be a lot more! Skip the alcohol to save money while eating out.
Share a Meal
Many restaurants provide enormous portions. Instead of having leftovers later in the week, split your meal with a friend. If you order one meal to share and that isn't enough, then you can always order more food. I typically like to share an appetizer or salad and an entree to ensure it is filling.
Beware of this option, though, some restaurants charge a fee for split plates.
Find a Special on a Daily Deal Site
There are so many daily deal sites out nowadays you can easily find a restaurant with a deal. Make sure you read the fine print of the deal so you aren't disappointed when the bill comes.
Bonus Tips: Even if you can't find a special on a daily deal site, make sure you ask what the special is for the day. Often times, specials are not widely advertised. It is important to always ask!
Order a Kids Meal
Depending on your appetite, a kids meal can be just enough to keep you fill! Many times a kids meal is coupled with a small drink in addition to a small main course. Ensure to read the find print on the menu to make sure there are no limitations to ordering kids meals.
Kids meals are typically 33% discounted (if not more) than the adult portion! Therefore, helping you save money.
Snack Before You Go
Going to a restaurant hungry is just like going to the grocery store hungry- don't do it! It can cause you to order more food because your eyes are hungrier than your belly. Make sure to have a snack before you go out to eat in order to save money.
Save the Leftovers for Tomorrow's Meal
Finish eating and have food left over? Make sure to order a to go container.
Personally, I am not the biggest fan of leftovers. In order to make leftovers more manageable, I heat the food up in the oven instead of the microwave.
Visit During Lunch Hour
If you are committed to going to a restaurant (especially one that is pricier), visit during lunch time. The portion sizes are typically more manageable and more reasonably priced. In addition, they may have special lunchtime combos.
Make sure your lunch time visit is planned in your budget, though. Regular lunch-time visits add up!
Try Restaurants where Kids Eat Free
Eating out can break the bank especially when you are making for more than just yourself. If you want to treat your kids to a meal, check out restaurants where kids eat for free.
Tuesday is typically the cheapest day that kids eat free nationwide; however, there can be deals found daily. Check out this brief list of restaurants where kids eat free!
Bob Evans: Kid's eat free on Tuesdays after 4pm with the purchase of an adult meal
Chik-Fil-A: Kids eat free Tuesdays 5:30-7:30pm with the purchase of an adult meal
Denny's: Kids eat free Tuesdays from 4-10pm (at some locations, Saturdays, too)
Hooter's: Kids eat free Sundays from 11a-11p
Moe's Southwestern Grill: Kids eat free Tuesdays all day
Pizza Hut: Kids eat free Tuesdays all day
Qdoba Mexican Grill: Kids eat free on Sundays and Wednesdays
Steak 'n Shake: Kids eat free on Sundays
White Castle: Kids eat free on Sundays from 4-8pm
*Make sure to check with your local restaurant as specials can vary*
Focus on your Goals
When it comes to eating out, it is most important to focus on your goals of financial freedom. It will help you to stick to your budget. At a restaurant, it will make the choice between a salad and a steak much easier. Or even water versus an alcoholic beverage.It is also why it is important to share your money goals with your friends. If your friends know the goals that you are looking to achieve, they may opt for a dinner hangout at a casual dining spot instead of a fine dining location.