That sinking feeling when your waiter comes with your check and you realize you shouldn’t have ordered that second mac and cheese appetizer is familiar to all of us. Dining out is hard to budget for since you’re probably hungry when you walk into a restaurant. It’s difficult to restrain yourself when the options sound delightful, and your mouth waters at the sight of the food being enjoyed around you. Waiters are taught to carry the food low so diners can be tantalized and enticed, making them order more than they can handle. Don’t get sucked in by these restaurant tactics — save money while still dining out with these tips.
Skip Drinks: BYOB
There are plenty of unusual situations that you’ll want to have a good poker face for, such as when the check comes and you realize that you’ve spent too much money out to eat. Again. But it’s time to put that poker face into retirement. One of the fastest and deadliest ways you could rack up a huge bill is buying drinks. At most bars and restaurants, drinks range from $6 to $12 per drink, and when you’re dining out with multiple people, drinks can even surpass the food total. Research restaurants in your area that allow you to bring your own drinks, or drink before you get there. Buying a bottle of wine or a pack of beer to share amongst friends could be a nice alternative.
Skip the Appetizer
Appetizers are a restaurant’s best way to get you to pay more because you’re hungry. They come quick and they satisfy your taste buds, but they’re usually about half the price of an entree. They usually only come with a few bites in each, and aren’t worth the price tag — especially if you’re buying multiple entrees. Drink water and be patient for your main course to arrive. You’ll thank yourself at the end of your meal.
Make it a lunch appointment! Lunch menus are consistently cheaper than the dinner menu, but with the same quality and portions. Seek out restaurants you would love to dine at for dinner, and check out their lunch options. Plan a weekend daytime outing and save a chunk of money while doing it.
Ah, happy hour. It’s not just to grab a drink after work. Happy hour offers incredible discounts on the full menu, especially appetizers that you can order multiples of and make into a full meal!
The classic birthday deal. Who doesn’t love receiving free treats on their birthday? This list of birthday freebies is sure to keep your tummy satisfied on your special day without breaking the bank.
Discounted Gift Cards
Check out sites like Cardpool or Raise which offer discounted gift cards at big-name places like The Cheesecake Factory. They’re guaranteed to last a year, and some offer great discounts like 15%.
Plan ahead of time and sign up for email listings. Sure, email spam is annoying, but it’s worth it for a coupon off your meal at your favorite restaurant. Many restaurants also offer loyalty programs or email you deals every now and then if you’re a frequent customer. Stay on top of this and sign up early to not miss out.
Choose a heavy entree option that might be a bit pricier — but split the meal! Many restaurants actually over-serve to appeal to guests, making it seem worth the hefty price tag. However, everyone can agree that leftovers are not nearly as good as getting it hot in the restaurant. Skip the takeout box and enjoy the perfect amount of food with a shared meal.
The trendy fast-casual dining scene has been growing rapidly for a while now because of their quick and accessible options that remain just as tasty as restaurant-quality meals. They save time, but also save money by being cheaper than dining in a full-blown restaurant with impeccable wait staffs. Make it a casual meal, and save money on tipping since most fast-casual places appeal to customers because tipping is optional.
Lastly, skip out on the dessert. Although after a savory meal, your tastebuds will be craving a sweet treat, hold out until you get home and enjoy something in the fridge. Desserts are pricey for the portion you get, and you could probably buy two tubs of ice cream for a restaurant’s single-scoop. Plan ahead and maybe bring something with you, or buy a pack of cookies that are waiting for you later.