3 Ways to Save Money When Going Out to Dinner

by David@MoneyNing.com · 16 comments

save money going out to dinner

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.

save money on dinner1. Family Fun

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.

2. 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.

3. Discount Dining

If you are going out to eat and canโ€™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 dessert. 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 canโ€™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.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Charlotte Fleet says:

    My older sister wants to take her family out to dinner tonight to celebrate her new job, and she’d like to save money. It’s good to know that you can save money while eating out by buying appetizers to make a meal. In my opinion, it would also be smart for my sister to look into the reputation of potential restaurants so she can find one that provides affordable, high-quality meals.

  • Claire Masters says:

    I really like your tip about looking for restaurants with kid meals, especially since my son is such a picky eater. My son just recently graduated from elementary school and I wanted to celebrate his milestone with a family dinner. I’ll look into good family restaurants near me this week.

  • Maria Hale says:

    David all are excellent points! it also depends on the intent of the food you are going to order and level of restaurant you are selecting for dinner. In my point of view, you can also plan according to the given strategy:

    1. Analyze your current monthly spending limit
    2. Go online and browse websites of nearest or best restaurants. Make sure that you have visited their menu section to figure out meals and their pricing (you can even book your dinner as you book your travel)
    3. Check all items are inclusive or exclusive taxes and service charges are mentioned or not
    4. Ask from your family or loved ones that what they want to eat and then go out on a proposed date and have dinner with them without fear of going broke from eating out ๐Ÿ™‚

    People who go broke early are usually those who never plan anything. Planning and mapping out finances always help you in spending a happy life!! Thanks for sharing these tips David!

  • DNN says:

    If you go out on a date, have the agreement up front that the date is to go Dutch while dining at the restaurant. This way, if things go sour during dinner and conversation, no one has to wonder if they still have to pay for the others meal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Candy Clouston says:

    I’ve yet to see a cheesecake for $5 or even $7. Yes, the margins on desserts can be generous (and those for soft drinks even more so), and the calorie counts excessive, but a single restaurant dessert can be a good value if it prevents you from over-indulging in desserts at home. I rarely eat at restaurants (like once a quarter), and usually when I do, someone else is paying. I don’t eat much fast food, either (like maybe once a month). I do what I can to save on the food I like when grocery shopping, but what I save by not eating out more than covers my buying whatever pleases me in groceries.

  • Susie B says:

    While meals coupons and websites like Restaurant.com can save you a ton of money, please be mindful of the actual value of what you are getting when you go to leave your tip.

    The author of the article mentions a family Italian meal for four at the bargain price of $20 that was probably worth $60. A $5 tip on this meal means you aren’t really tipping your server appropriately for the value of the meal and the amount of work they are doing. Especially if you’re bringing along three kids.

    It’s all too often that those of us working hard to serve you quality food at a discount get the short end of the stick. It’s hard to want to continue providing stellar service for coupon-toters who only tip based on the discounted price of their meals.

  • Michelle Travers says:

    When I eat out it depends on who’s with me and what I do. If it’s just me and my daughter I usually just split a meal. If I go out with the family I use http://www.kidseatfor.com because then I can eat a a good place, i’m not restricted to a certain day and not have to worry too much. I don’t order a soda, appetizer or dessert. I think when I go out to eat with my family of four, we can get out for under $25 with a tip.

  • Evan says:

    I would absolutely add Restaurant.com . The best site EVER. When they are having delas you can get a $25 coupon for $3 (normally it is $10 which is still an insane deal)

  • Cd Phi says:

    I am an avid restaurant.com user. Sometimes they offer discounts on the coupons as well so it is even cheaper. Not only do you get to save money, but you can browse restaurants in your area and even try new ones that you may have been curious about. The only way i go out to eat nowadays is if i can find some kind of deal for that restaurant and that saves me a LOT of money while being able to enjoy eating out as well.

  • Credit Card Chaser says:

    I also pay with my cash back credit card that saves me anywhere from 1% to 3% off of the total cost of the meal. Not a fortune but it certainly adds up over the course of the year.

  • Ashley says:

    I’m a big fan of drinking water at restaurants. Also, if you’re an adult that doesn’t eat much, consider ording a kids meal as well. Same food, smaller portion, better price.

  • Craig says:

    Drinks are usually what jack up the price of a meal. Stick with water and split appetizers. That way you can save money, or get something for dessert.

  • Jack says:

    We always buy dessert elsewhere. $7.00 for a piece of cake is way too much. We get a whole one and have it for days for less than dessert out.

  • kenyantykoon says:

    when dining out the last thing that is on my mind is saving cash in restaurants but i should start being frugal in this area because if i don’t it will be a case of penny wise and pound foolish. It makes no sense to live frugally in many areas, save a lot of cash and blow it all on food or something

  • Dawn says:

    Great ideas for saving $. Eating out is definitely a treat, especially in these tough times.

  • John DeFlumeri Jr says:

    That makes a lot of sense, dessert and beverage alone is usually eight dollars plus tx Per Person. Use coupons, or know about early bird specials, and weeknight promotions, right again.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

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