Dining out is a great way to unwind and socialize with friends and family, but it can take a huge bite out of your budget. No worries—we’re not going to try convincing you to give up your favorite restaurant. Instead, consider these hacks to trim your bill when dining out.
1. Look Left
When looking at a menu, most people’s eyes drift to the right. Restaurants know this and purposely put their most expensive items on the right side of the menu. Check out the left side of the menu for cheaper options, or appetizers that can make a full meal, before looking right.
2. Eat Out On Mondays And Tuesdays
The beginning of the week is slow for the restaurant industry. Take advantage of specials and discounts that eateries offer only on Mondays and Tuesdays.
3. Skip The Chef Special
The Chef Special you’re looking at on the menu is actually not that special at all. This “special” is a way to highlight a higher priced menu item. To resist the temptation of ordering the special, look at the menu ahead of time to decide what you’d like to order. This way, you can politely decline when the waiter asks, “Would you like to hear our specials for the day?”
4. Don’t Eat Out On Major Holidays
To make major holidays super-profitable, many eateries only offer fixed-price menus on these days. These menus might sound cheap until you consider that the four-course meal going for $55 is a lot more expensive than the $18 entrée you’d have otherwise ordered. If you’d really like to celebrate these special days with a restaurant meal, consider eating out the day before or the day after the holiday.
5. Take It To Go
Pick up food from your favorite eatery and enjoy it at home. You’ll save on server tips, beverage costs and extras, too. Oftentimes, restaurants will prepare more food in the to-go containers. But, to make it super-cheap, only purchase the entrée. Then, roast some veggies and potatoes at home for a quick side and crack open a tub of cookies ‘n cream ice cream for dessert.
6. Drink Water
Restaurants are notorious for marking up beverage prices. Soft drinks can be marked up by 400% and alcoholic beverages by 600%. Happy Hours can save you if you like to enjoy alcoholic beverages with meals, but for absolute savings, ask for water. It’ll save on your check and those empty calories on your waistline.
7. Don’t Pay Full Price
Never walk into a restaurant without first checking for online deals and coupons. Visit the eatery’s website and also check out restaurant deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Restaurant.com and OpenTable. Following your favorite restaurants on social media will keep you in the know if they post any promotional deals. You can get amazing deals and these are nice when visiting big cities or vacationing.
8. Share a Plate
Instead of ordering individual portions that look like they were created for giants, split an entrée with your dining partner. Sharing a few appetizers can save costs as well and you’ll typically get the same amount of food. This is also a great option if you like trying multiple menu items. Sharing a plate only works if you regularly leave the restaurant without taking leftovers. If you’re planning to save on lunch the next day, order your own entree and take the leftovers.
9. Eat Like a Kid
If the restaurant allows, order from the kids menu. The items are always priced better and you might find that the portion is the perfect amount for you without having to waste food or be miserably full. If you just need a quick bite to eat, the kids menu could be right for you and your wallet.
10. Skip dessert
It takes our stomachs awhile to get the memo that we’ve had enough. Don’t order dessert right after scraping your plate clean. Wait a few moments and you might find that you’re so full, you can’t eat another morsel. Can’t pass up dessert? Enjoy it at home. Many restaurants offer dessert options you can easily remake or buy from the freezer aisle of your local grocery store for a fraction of the cost.
Dining out doesn’t need to be avoided altogether to save money. These easy tips can help to keep your savings account on track and allow you the treat of not having to cook for the night.
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