Eating out can be expensive if you don’t do it in moderation. So I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you save money when dining at restaurants.
1. Sign up for restaurant loyalty programs. When Julia, Bobbi, and I grabbed lunch at Maggiano’s last year, we got a 10% discount just by signing up to receive their emails.
2. Don’t stuff yourself. Sharing an entree can cut your bill in half! Restaurants are known to serve large portions.
3. Use gift cards. Whether you buy discounted gift cards or gift cards with bonuses, you’ll get a deal on your meal. You can also earn gift cards to restaurant by using a site like Ebates!
4. Take restaurant surveys and tell them what you think to receive a code to save you a few bucks. I’ve done this at IHOP and have receive a free stack of pancakes for my time — it took me less than 5 minutes!
5. Doggy bag it. If you’re dining solo, bring your leftovers home. I love it when I can stretch a meal because it cuts down on dish washing!
6. If you’re not a member of a daily deal site. Sign up for one! More and more I’ve seen restaurant deals on these site.
7. Skip the booze and dessert. Restaurants tend to overprice these items. Stick to water with a lemon.
8. Have an appetizer as your main course. I always do this at the Cheesecake Factory — love their Thai Chicken Wraps!
9. Timing is everything. Hit the happy hour and early bird specials.
10. Ask for senior discounts if you qualify. Make sure to do so before ordering because sometimes you have to order from a special menu.
11. Card carrying members of AAA and AARP can score discounts of up to 20%.
12. Eat out during your birthday month to take advantage of birthday freebies.
13. Skip tipping. Before I get hate comments, hear me out. There are restaurants like Panera Bread, Quizno’s, and Chipotle where you can get quality food, but don’t get a server. You order at the cash register and pick up your own food. A tip is a must if you dine at sit down restaurants since you are being served. The amount depends on the service you receive.
14. Don’t leave the kids at home. Head to restaurants where kids can eat free.
15. Use the Entertainment Book and search online and in your local paper for coupons.
16. Use Restaurant.com. Julia shared in a post how Restaurant.com works in case you’ve never used the site.
17. Take it to go. When you dine in, you need to leave a tip and may even be tempted to order more from the menu.
18. Take advantage of Restaurant Week in your city. This is the time when restaurants lower prices to attract new customers. Dates vary from city to city, so look up the dates online.
19. Eat out during breakfast or lunch time instead of dinner. Prices are lower compared to dinner.
20. I found the following sites in ShopSmart magazine: Savored.com, BiteHunter.com, and EatDrinkDeals.com. (Note: I have only used EatDrinkDeals.com.) For Savored.com you pay $10 to reserve a table, but you can save up to 40% off your total bill. These sites are supposed to help you lower your restaurant bill.
Did I miss any other ways to save money when eating out? Please share them below.