May 5, 2010

Tip of the day—Saving Money When Dining Out

I posted this a while back but thought you all might like to take a look again. If you have any additional tips, please leave a comment so that all might benefit.

Enjoy eating out? Here are some tips for saving money when dining at restaurants. Check this post for more information on saving money on restaurant gift certificates.

  • Have a budget and work within that budget to avoid overspending
  • Use coupons and half off certificates to save money. Make sure these are cost effective—there are times when you might spend more because of having a coupon. A “Buy $25 and get a free dessert” coupon may cause you to spend more than a “Buy 2 entrees and get a free appetizer” coupon. As with any coupon or certificate, be mindful of the expiration dates.
  • Save dining out for a special occasion. Going to restaurants all of the time can lose its charm, not to mention what it can do for your waistline.
  • Try brunch or lunch instead of supper. Or, go out for dessert instead of the entire meal.
  • When trying a new restaurant, look on their website ahead of time to view their menu. This will give you an idea of whether or not it is in your budget.
  • To make it special, stick with ordering something you do not normally make at home. And, as my dad always said, “Don’t order a hamburger at a Mexican restaurant”. When dining out, ask the waiter what the specials of the house are—these will usually be the chef’s best recipes.
  • Ask your waiter if there are any special deals or discounts. There may be unadvertised specials or ones you would not have known about.
  • Don’t be cheap. Tip your servers. If the service is good, tip well. If the service is excellent, also take the time to let the owner or manager know.
  • Don’t order beverages or cocktails to save money.
  • Split an entree. If dining alone, save half for the next day.
  • Price an appetizer as a main course—see if it is a better bargain.
  • If you are a senior citizen, law enforcement officer, or military, be sure to use your discount if the restaurant offers it.
  • If you have AAA or another dining club or travel discount, ask if the restaurant will honor it. My friend Jen also suggests checking with U Promise to see if you can earn points at the restaurant.
  • Ask if the restaurant has a lunch sized portion or will let adults eat off of the kids menu.
  • Go veggie—vegetarian meals are often less expensive.
  • Don’t eat something you do not like just because it is cheap. Enjoy the experience as much as you can.
  • Ordering pizza? Pick it up to save on delivery. When calling your order in ask what specials the store is running. Compare those specials to those at the pizzeria's website to see which is a better deal.
  • Go to restaurants’ websites to see if they offer an e-newsletter. If they do sign up. This will be a good way to stay up to date on any discounts they are offering.
  • I found this post about birthday clubs at restaurants. Sign up to get all sorts of freebies for your birthday!
  • If traveling in a foreign country, look at the meals at other tables. Ask your waiter where that item is on the menu. When I was in Warsaw, I knew very little Polish. I saw the Polish word for steak on the menu and thought I was safe ordering that. The waiter brought me ground steak tartar—raw egg on top and all!
  • When traveling, ask the locals where the best restaurants are. They will be able to tell you about places you might never have found on your own. Often, these are less expensive places than ones that cater to tourists.


  • Let small children eat off of an adult’s plate. Many restaurants will let you bring snacks from home for the children to eat.
  • Compare the price of a side dish to a kids meal and see which is a better bargain.
  • If you have multiple children, let them share an adult sized entree.
  • If they are in the “I want my own meal” phase, give them a price limit or 3 options to choose from to keep costs down.

Please include any additional tips you may have to share in the comments section.

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