When trying to save money, going out to dinner becomes a real treat. This one is about going out for a great meal, having some fun while keeping your wallet in mind. It takes a little planning and a bit of work, but with some clever strategies, you can still enjoy a good night out.
Tons of restaurants offer free kids meals with the purchase of adult entrees. There are websites dedicated to helping you find these restaurants in your area. Check around online and keep a list of those restaurants your family likes and when they offer free kids meals.
Some restaurants require an adult meal per kid meal; others offer two kids meals for each adult meal. Pick which one suits your families needs best. You can easily spend $20-30 for a family of four at that restaurant with the arches these days, but the same amount of money can mean a good BBQ joint with free meals for the kids and something tastier for the grown ups.
Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
Whether you find them in the Entertainment Book, the newspaper, or local savings magazines; use them. I recently discovered a great coupon that turns up monthly in our local circulars. A family meal for four, including salad, breadsticks, drinks, and two family sized entrees at a great Italian place for $19.99. Even with a tip, the four of us were full for $25 and have enough leftovers for the three kids to enjoy the food again for lunch. If I take them to another Italian place, I could easily spend three times that for the same amount of food.
Many places offer buy one get one free coupons. You need to plan a bit with these, since you are stuck with two people eating the same thing. Though if you can make this work for you, it is a great deal.
An extension of the coupon phenomenon is purchasing gift certificates for specific restaurants on discount websites. You can usually pick up the certificate for less than half price, and if you have a promotional code, the deals are even sweeter. With a little luck, I have picked up $25 Restaurant.com gift certificates for $3 here.
If you are going out to eat and can’t find a coupon or a deal, avoid the extras. Drinks are marked up a tremendous amount; up to 400% in some cases. Have water or seltzer if it is free, and save your money for the meal. Skip appetizers and desert. That $5.00 piece will buy you a whole cheesecake to eat when you get home.
Another option is to make a meal out of appetizers. Truly, the portion of most appetizers is more than enough to fill you, especially for lunch. Share two appetizers with your dining companion and you get variety and a smaller check.
Personally, I hate to eat alone and dining out makes it easier. Still, I live on a limited budget and can’t waste money on eating out. Seeking out the best deals while still going out to dinner translates to having my cake and eating it too.
This is yet another article in the How to Save Money on Everything. Check out the whole ebook for free by signing up for the newsletter (also free) here.