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20 Simple Ways to Save Money at Restaurants – One of the finer things in life is being able to dine out. Am I right? You get to enjoy having someone else make the food while you relax and engage in a musing conversation. And, you don’t have to clean up the dishes afterward! It’s pretty great – until you get the bill. Uh Oh. You just went over budget!
You work really hard to live a frugal life, and you deserve to reward yourself for all that hard work. You strive to save money wherever you can, but going out to eat really sets you back. Yes, you could cut out restaurants – but wouldn’t you rather learn how to dine out on the cheap? Let’s go over 20 ways you can do just that.
20 Simple Ways to Save Money at Restaurants
1. Order water
The easiest way to knock $10-$20 off your bill is to order water all the way around. Skip the soft drinks, juices, and alcoholic drinks. If you need a splash of flavor, add lemon slices to your water.
2. Dine out on Kids Eat Free nights
Some restaurants offer specials or a Kids Eat Free night a certain day of the week. Take the family out to eat on those nights.
3. Use Groupon or Living Social
4. Join their rewards program
Plenty of restaurants will give you something for free by signing up for their rewards program. Usually you receive an email or a text with a special coupon for joining and some even give you another freebie for your birthday!
5. Use a discounted gift card
Sites like these sell gift cards at a discount of up to 35%. Purchase one and avoid ever paying full price for your meal.
6. Split a meal
Instead of buying a separate meal for each adult and child, order a meal with large portions and split it. You know those kid’s meals they offer? Skip buying them altogether by sharing your meal with the kids.
7. Use a rebate app
Use this app for cash back on purchases from select restaurants. Download it and snap a picture of your receipt showing the purchase of a qualifying item. Get cash back!
8. Download restaurant apps
Lots of restaurants offer an incentive for downloading their app. Free fries, a free burger, or a BOGO deal. Most apps continue sending exclusive coupons throughout the year. Why not take advantage and enjoy the meal perks?
9. Skip dessert
Forego dessert for everyone. I know – it’s a rough blow – but restaurants mark up dessert like crazy. It’s just too expensive. Instead, make a cake at home, or buy one at the store.
10. Use discounted restaurant certificates
Instead of paying with a card or cash, use a discounted restaurant certificate from here for steep savings. Savings of 40% is typical, but they sometimes run specials where you can snag a $25 certificate for $4! And did I mention – they never expire.
11. Eat lunch, not dinner
The difference between a dinner and a lunch at a restaurant is that a dinner typically costs more. Most have separate lunch and dinner meals. Skip the dinners and opt for lunch.
12. Follow restaurants on social media
Sometimes restaurants will offer exclusive specials to their social media followers. It’s worth it to play along if it means free appetizers for you.
13. Use coupons
Before leaving to eat, check the restaurant’s website, the newspaper, and an Entertainment Book for coupons. (Next year’s Entertainment Book is available now and can save you up to 50% off.)
14. Go during happy hour
Happy Hour doesn’t always mean just discounted drinks. Some restaurants include discounts on small meals and appetizers during the hours winding down to dinner time.
15. Order it to go
Avoid having to pay a tip by ordering your meal to go. Bring it back to your place and split it with your better half. Add your own sides and drinks for a little bit more. (Triple saver!)
16. Ask about discounts
Discounts aren’t always publicly advertised. Ask the restaurant if they offer any discounts for senior citizens, students, or military.
17. Pay with a cash back credit card
Some credit cards will give you cash back for using your card to dine out. It’s usually somewhere between 3-5%. Take advantage of this if you’re able to pay it off right away.
18. Look for Early Bird specials
Sometimes restaurants have Early Bird specials to get people in the door in the morning. See if any of your favorite places are offering them.
19. Go for the appetizers
Most appetizers are big enough for a meal, but cost less. Order these instead of meals to save money on your bill.
20. Use free gift cards
You can earn free gift cards to your favorite eating spots. Earn as many as you like and use them to pay for your meals.
Even if you’re trying to save money, there’s no reason you can’t go out and enjoy an amazing meal every once in a while. It’s something to look forward to; a treat for all your hard work. You can still eat out, you just have to make savvy decisions and go about it in a different way. There’s no shame in splitting meals and seeking out free kid’s nights! Just don’t forget to use these 20 tips the next time you eat out.
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