Eating out is one budget item that we try to minimize as it’s typically a ‘want’. To compensate, we do a lot of cooking in the evenings and often in bulk so that it can be brown bagged for lunch during a work day. However, on occasion, we do like to splurge a bit and go out to a nice restaurant. Or other times when we are too tired to cook, we’ll grab a quick sandwich from Subway or Quiznos. Even with the luxury of eating out, there are still ways to save money to keep the luxury expense to a minimum.
Here are some of those strategies that I use often to save money while eating out:
Before heading out to Quiznos for a sandwich, I always jump online and see the current specials or if there is a coupon available. Sometimes they offer a free drink with purchase, or even a free sub with equivalent purchase. Most big chains have coupons or specials during various days of the week that can be used to save a few dollars off your meal. The more you eat out, the more you’ll save with using coupons or waiting for specials.
If you have a significant other, sharing your meal is another great way to reduce the cost of eating out. For example, whenever we got to Subway we order one large sandwich with chips/drink and split the works. Providing that I’m not overly hungry, it’s plenty of food for us and light on the pocket book . Even entrees in main stream restaurants can be quite large and more than enough for two people, just ask the server to bring out an extra plate.
Unless I’m out for a social event, I typically order tap water with my meal. With a pint of beer or glass of wine costing $5-$8, or even a soft drink costing $3, with tax and tip on top, those little charges can add up in a hurry.
Ever notice that desserts can be disproportionately priced higher than the regular food items on the menu? It’s because the markup on dessert can be quite high. For us, if we have a sweet craving afterwards, we head out to the local ice cream shop where soft serve ice cream are relatively low cost.
Perhaps one of the more strategic ways to save money while eating out is to time it! As mentioned earlier about finding specials, most restaurants have attractive pricing during the days that are slower, for a lot of them it’s Monday – Wednesday. Or another example is when we travel to the mainland, we enjoy getting our fill of Dim Sum. If you go in the off hours which is after the lunch rush, the dishes get a reduced pricing.
Get to Know the Owners/Managers
If you frequent a particular restaurant, make an effort to get to know the restaurant ownership or management. Restaurant owners appreciate regular visitors, and may kick in free extras during meals or even a discount off your bill.
For those of you who frequent restaurants, what are your strategies to save money?