Who doesn't like to go out to eat? The convenience of not having to cook and getting something delicious is worth a couple extra dollars, at least until you look at how much you really spend on it every month. It's an eye opener seeing how big that number is, but there are ways to keep the cost down without totally giving up that luxury.
Don't Go During Peak Hours
Everybody wants to go out at the same time: Friday and Saturday night. As a result, you are going to pay the most if you go then. Consider dining out on a different day like Monday or Tuesday. Restaurants are normally extremely slow then, and you are much more likely to get amazing deals and great service.
Another option is to forget dinner and instead grab lunch or go during the happy hour. You often will have similar options to the dinner menu, but the portions will be more manageable and much cheaper.
Just Pay for Food
You get to your table, check out the menu, and think, "hey, these prices are pretty low." Then the bill comes, and it's about three times more than you figured. Well, you probably didn't take into account the extras: drinks, appetizers, and dessert.
If you want to save money, just pay for the main course. Try drinking water instead of going with that Coke, and steer clear of the alcoholic beverages. I know that appetizer and all those desserts sound delicious, but are you really going to eat all that food? Looking at the menu might make your eyes a little bigger than your stomach, so don't order things when you know you're never going to be able to eat it all.
- Unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
- 2% at grocery stores
- 1% on everything else
Like any other thing in life, you save money by finding the deals. If there's a particular restaurant you always go to, try signing up for their rewards program or email list if they have one. A lot of the time you'll end up with some nice discount offers. Is it your birthday? Let the server know. Many restaurants offer you a free dessert for turning another year wiser. Last but not least, don't forget about any gift cards you might have. Mine always end up getting left in some drawer in the house and never used. Keep them handy, maybe just leave them in your car or wallet. You never know when you might end up at that restaurant, and now you're eating basically for free.
It doesn't have to be a major expense to dine out (as long as you're doing it in moderation, of course). If you are willing to look into cheaper times of the day or week, avoid add-on expenses like drinks and appetizers, and look into discounts, it's pretty easy to cut back on how much you're spending and still go on those regular outings with your friends.