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Eating out is often one of the first things that people cut when they start budgeting. It makes sense when you think about it, after all, it is a lot cheaper to eat at home than it is to eat out at a restaurant.
Despite eating out being more expensive than eating at home, sometimes you will want to go out and have a nice meal at a good restaurant. It might be a special occasion with your significant other, or perhaps a night out with a group of friends – it doesn’t really matter. The main thing you need to remember, is that even when you are on a budget, there are ways to spend less when eating out.
1 – Utilize Coupons
I pretty much never eat at a restaurant unless I have a coupon that will save me some money. Sometimes it might be something like a buy one get one free, or buy one get one half price – I love these type of deals!
2 – Check the restaurant ahead of time
Using coupons is one thing, but if the restaurant is super expensive, then there is a good chance that the coupon is just bringing the meal down to a normal price. The best way to combat this is to take a look at the menu online prior to booking a table. That way you can see the prices ahead of time and compare them with other places to eat in a similar area.
3 – Don’t Tip
I live in Australia, and tipping just isn’t a big deal over here – some people do it, others don’t. Now I know that tipping is expected in some countries, and in those cases I would consider giving as small of a tip as I can manage without offending someone. Or if you can, go somewhere where tipping isn’t expected.
4 – Try going out at Lunch Time
Often places will charge a lot less if you decide to eat out at lunch time rather than at dinner time. I’m not sure of the exact reason for this, but in some cases you are able to save upwards of 15-20% on meals. My guess is that because a lot of places have less patronage throughout the day, they reduce their prices to try and get as many people as possible through the door.
5 – Do dessert elsewhere or not at all
Some restaurants charge insane prices on their dessert menu items. I have personally been to restaurants that have charged $15 just for ice cream – needless to say, we didn’t have dessert there.
Something that my wife and I do whenever we go out and want dessert, is to stop off on the way home at a local ice cream shop where the prices are a lot more within our budget. Other times we will just skip dessert entirely, either way we are saving money compared to eating dessert at the restaurant.
6 – Offer to provide a positive review on their website for a discount
My last tip is a little obscure, but it has worked at least once for me in the past, and that is to offer to leave a good review for the restaurant on their website in exchange for a discount on the meal, or a free dessert.
This almost never works unless the owner or manager is the person you are talking to, but if you can hunt them down it can be worthwhile. In my instance the owner ended up giving us a meal for free in exchange for the review.