For some, dining out can be the rare, special treat. For others, dining out may be a nearly daily occurrence.
While I’m not on either extreme of this spectrum, I won’t tell you which side of the middle I fall on. (Though, you can probably guess!) 😉
On average though, it’s clear that Americans like to eat out at restaurants.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average household spends more than $3,000 a year on dining out.
Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE to eat out. But, when I do, I try to keep it frugal-ish.
If it’s time to give your wallet a break, you don’t have to give up dining out altogether. Here are 6 ways you can save money when dining out.
1. Browse Groupon
Check Groupon for new restaurants and established eateries around your town. Discounts may be applicable towards appetizers, special entrees or a flat percentage off your bill.
This can be a great way to try out new places or new dishes while saving money.
Note that Groupon sometimes offers a promo code for anywhere between 10% to 20% off. Be sure to check prior to your purchase to make the most of your money.
Bonus Saving Hack
Want to save even more money when buying from Groupon? Use Ebates to earn cash back on your purchase!
2. Use Discount Gift Cards
Using your money to buy gift cards for your dining out may not sound smart at first. But, if you can buy discount gift cards, you’ll be able to save some money in the process.
Plus, using gift cards can help put a natural limit on your spending if you don’t keep other cards in your wallet when you go out to eat.
Gift Card Granny is a website that helps consumers search for and compare savings on discount gift cards. The cards can be used to save anywhere between 5% to 20% on your favorite restaurants such as TGI Fridays, Domino’s and my favorite, Starbucks.
3. Order Smart
Want to save money after you get to the restaurant? Make smart decisions about what your order.
First, skip ordering an appetizer in addition to your meal. Most of us tend to eat too much anyway, so we don’t really need the extra calories.
Next, stick to water. Avoid soda, tea or coffee as these costs can add up quickly, especially with larger parties. Remember to check on BYOB policies for additional savings on alcohol.
Finally, don’t order dessert. I know this may be your favorite part of the meal. If that’s the case, try eating dinner at home and going out only for dessert!
4. Check Social Media
Before you head out, look online for features or deals at your favorite restaurants.
Local establishments will often post specials on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to entice connected customers during slower times.
Use these specials to your advantage to save money on dining out.
5. Sign Up for Loyalty Programs
Many restaurants will provide freebies, discounts and coupons to customers who register to receive special promotions directly in their email inbox.
Pay extra attention to emails around your birthday in case they send special offers such as a complimentary entrée or dessert.
Just be careful not to use these loyalty programs as an excuse to eat out more often than you would’ve anyway.
6. Clip Some Coupons
Although I’m not a fan of extreme couponing, you should toss that coupon section that’s included in your local newspaper!
Check the circulator for coupons to local eateries as well as simpler fast food options.
I also regularly get coupons in the mail to some of my local restaurants too.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to be a hermit who never eats out in order to save money. There are plenty of easy ways to save money and still enjoy dining out for some of your meals.
How often do you dine out? How do you save money when dining out?