Whether you just aren’t in the mood to cook dinner tonight, you’re going out with friends, or you want a date night with your partner, eating out can be expensive. But what if you could eat out on a budget and still save money?
In this blog post, I am sharing 20 ideas for eating out cheap – perfect for the whole family or just you and your partner!
So many financial gurus tell us to stop eating out. And I understand why they give us this advice. But sometimes it can’t be avoided. And sometimes, it’s just nice to have a night off from cooking.
So, I am encouraging you to break the rules a little bit, but do it strategically. Just because you’re going out to eat does not mean you need to spend an arm and a leg!
Here are some hacks for eating out cheap.
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1. Sign Up For Email Newsletters
Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants, will offer discounts or freebies when you sign up to receive their email newsletters. This is a great way to save money eating out.
Plus, once you are signed up for their email newsletters, you will be notified any time they have sales and deals that you can take advantage of in the future.
2. Join The App or Other Rewards Program
Many chain restaurants and fast food places now have apps or rewards programs where you can collect points for purchases you make. These points will accumulate until you have enough to get a free item or a discount.
Collecting these points is a great way to eat out on a budget!
Plus, if there are ever specials going on, you can also be notified by the app on your phone. There’s nothing more exciting than when you’re dreading cooking, only to get a notification on your phone that your favorite restaurant is offering a special.
3. Look In Flyers For Coupons
If you still get flyers in the mail, then keep an eye out for coupons. I know I still get tons of these in my mailbox. You might be surprised at just how many buy-one-get-one coupons or discounted item coupons you will find when you do this!
4. Find Coupons Online
So, you’ve decided to go out for dinner that night. That’s great! But before you go rushing off, I want to encourage you to look online first to see if you can find any deals or discounts. Usually I will look at a restaurant’s website or social media page to see what they are currently offering.
Doing this before you go out will help you pick a restaurant to eat where you can save some money instead of just winging it.
5. Purchase Discount Gift Cards
Did you know that there are websites where you can buy discounted gift cards, i.e. you pay $25 for a $50 gift card, or coupons for particular restaurants?
Doing this is a great hack to eat out on a budget and is something not a lot of people know about.
The best websites to find these deals include:
6. Utilize Rewards Credit Cards
Do you use a rewards credit card? If yes, did you know you can use your points to pay for your meals when dining out?
Most rewards credit cards will give you points for every dollar you spend. You can then use these points at a variety of restaurants, usually outlined in the terms of your credit card.
Not only will you save money eating out, but you’ll also benefit from the rewards points. It’s a win-win!
7. Fill In Surveys
Have you ever actually completed the survey that they encourage you to do on the bottom of your bill?
Well, you should, because many restaurants will give you a free item or discount for your next visit as a thank you for filling in their customer surveys. They do this as an incentive for the feedback they want to hear from you.
The link to do the survey can usually be found either on the bottom or back of your bill. If there isn’t anything listed, don’t hesitate to ask your server if they provide any specials for completing surveys.
8. Go During Happy Hour
If you want to eat out on a budget, and you’re willing to go out a bit earlier than your normal dinner time, then you should take advantage of happy hour specials. Many restaurants offer deals and discounts on appetizers and drinks during this time to encourage more people to come in.
This is a great way to save money eating out. Especially if you are going out with friends to catch up and share a drink.
9. Choose A Night Of The Week With Specials
If you’re like me and like to eat out on occasion, try to be strategic with what night of the week you go. Almost every restaurant will offer specials throughout the week that you can take advantage of. This can include specials on appetizers, entrees, and even drinks.
For example, if you like going out for wings on occasion, try to find a restaurant that offers a wing night and plan to go on that day to take advantage of the savings.
10. Go On Your Birthday
Most restaurants will offer free meals or discounts on your birthday. Typically, all you need to do is provide proof that it’s your special day.
You can even call restaurants in advance to find out what they offer people for their birthday. Then you can choose the one where you will get the best deal.
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11. Take Advantage Of Free Kids Meals
At some restaurants, kids can eat for free, or at a heavy discount on certain nights of the week. Take advantage of this if you’re eating out with kids as it can help to save a lot of money.
Some restaurants will even offer free meals for kids when a certain number of adults dine.
12. Drink Water
One of the most expensive items on the bill at the end of the night can often be your drinks. And I am not just talking about alcoholic beverages. Even pop, tea, and coffee can be ridiculously expensive.
I’ve gone places where I paid $4 for my drink and $16 for my entree.
So, one of the best ways to save money when eating out is to simply skip the drinks and order water instead.
13. Skip Appetizers & Desserts
Your bill will start to add up when you’ve got drinks, appetizers, entrees, and desserts all stacked up. And honestly, you don’t need all this food. There are better ways to spend your money if you’re on a budget.
So, skip the appetizers and desserts, and instead order a filling entree option. Your wallet will thank you for it.
14. Order An Appetizer Instead Of An Entree
Do you have a certain appetizer at a certain restaurant that you just love? I know I do! If that is the case, then order the appetizer as your main meal and skip the entree altogether.
You might also find that one appetizer is cheaper than one entree. So, to save some money, you can just order an appetizer to eat as your main meal.
15. Snack Before You Go
One of the worst things you can do when you’re eating out on a budget is go to a restaurant starving. What usually ends up happening is you eat a lot more leaving a much bigger bill for you to pay at the end of the night.
So, to save money when you go out to eat, have a snack before you go.
16. Split A Meal
If you’re going out to eat with someone else, then you might consider splitting the meal. This is a great way to save money.
If you’re going to do this, I recommend being strategic about what you’re ordering. For example, you wouldn’t want to do this with a small portion entree. Instead, consider getting some pasta, a pizza, or something else that comes in a large portion.
If one entree won’t be enough, consider adding one side or one appetizer that you can also split between the two of you. This will still be cheaper than ordering two full entrees.
17. Plan For Leftovers
If you’re ordering an entree that you will eat by yourself, then consider choosing an option that will leave you some leftovers. This will give you so much more bang for your buck.
For example, I will spend an extra $5 on a pizza if it means that I will get enough leftovers for my husband and I to have lunch the next day.
18. Order The Cheaper Entrees
Listen, I love a good steak as much as the next person. But no matter what restaurant you go to, a steak meal will be expensive. And I find I can make a good steak dinner at home for a fraction of the price.
So, when we go out to eat, we tend to order the cheaper entrees. I still get a night off from cooking while also spending less money eating out with my family.
19. Order Off The Kid’s Menu
Did you know that most restaurants will let adults order off the kid’s menu? This is a great option when you’re trying to eat out on a budget.
You definitely won’t have as much of a selection to choose from, but you’ll still get a good quality meal that matches your budget.
20. Eat Dinner At Home & Go Out For Coffee & Dessert
Are you someone who likes to go out for dinner just to get out of the house? Maybe you like to go so that you can enjoy the ambiance and atmosphere of a restaurant? If either of these sound like you, then you might like this tip a lot!
To save some money, eat a small, easy dinner at home. Then just go out to the restaurant for coffee and dessert. Doing it this way still gives you an excuse to get out and enjoy the environment of a restaurant, but you’ll spend far less.
I think this also makes a really cute date night idea too.
21. Stack These Tips Together
And last, but definitely not least, when you want to eat out on a budget, you will get the best savings by stacking these deal and saving tips together.
For example, if a restaurant offers any discounts, coupons, or loyalty programs, make sure to combine them for maximum savings. Then, when you go out to the restaurant, follow some of the other tips like sharing an entree, drinking water only, etc.
By stacking these things together, you can save your family a lot of money. What’s also cool about doing this is that you can use your savings to eat out more, or put this money into another category of your budget.
I hope that this blog post has inspired you to do a little bit of preparation and research so that you can eat out on a budget with your family.
Remember, eating out can be an affordable indulgence. Enjoy this time with your family, and enjoy those saved dollars!
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