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Save Money When Dining Out

6 Simple Strategies to Save Money When Dining Out

August 22, 2018

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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.

Seeing that number in black and white almost makes me ill. That could be put toward so many better things, like paying off debt, saving for retirement, or even traveling the world!

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 Rakuten 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?


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13 responses to “6 Simple Strategies to Save Money When Dining Out

  1. I almost always order water to drink when eating out. At first I did it only to save money, but now I do it to save calories as well. I tend to drink a lot when I drink (in general, not drinking alcohol) so I’ll drink several glasses with my meal. Water is pretty much zero calories. If I drank soda pop, I could easily drink several hundred if not a thousand calories a meal!

    1. I drink water most of the time too. Occasionally I splurge and have pop, but not often. As you pointed out, water is so much better for us anyway and cheaper.

  2. A way that I do it is to also ask for gift cards for birthdays and holidays. I love getting a Starbucks card or a gift card to a local restaurant that I haven’t tried yet (or really love). When I don’t have a gift card, I also use loyalty programs and love buying Groupon deals!

    1. Those are some great ideas, Chonce! Getting a gift card to someplace you love or somewhere new cuts down on money spent eating out too! A side bonus is that you aren’t cluttering up your home with more stuff from gifts-not that other gifts aren’t appreciated, of course. But sometimes it helps others to know that what you really love to receive is a gift card to a favorite place instead. Good thoughts!

    1. I think it’s a great way to save a little on something you plan on doing anyway. I, for one, am not planning to completely stop going out to eat anytime soon. Sometimes it’s easier, faster, and even cheaper than cooking for one. Plus I could never stop going to some of my favorite places!

  3. Yes, seeing that big number changes how you look at going out to eat! As usual, the little things add up!

    I like the suggestion about going out only for dessert, and similar thinking can apply to some other situations. I know with coupons and other deals, it’s easy to spend more money than what you would’ve originally just because of a particular deal you found. You think it seems too good to pass up even if you don’t really need it, and that’s another way to overspend. Try to spend your money only where you actually want to!

  4. The largest money I have saved on meals on the go is through my corporate ID card. It always gets me a 10% discount on non-alcoholic meals, and I only go to places that take the card. Because it’s a Fortune 500 company, most restos accept it. And the argument that you are not trying different places does not make sense as I am not looking to be a food blogger on Zomato or something.

    I also like the idea of skipping the appetizers. Jump to the main course and you save at least 30%. Haven’t tried Groupon yet but I will soon. Thanks.

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