Read any money-saving resource, and you will be advised to eat in rather than out. Dining out is undeniably expensive and if enjoyed regularly, it will cost you a fortune. However, while this is sound advice, it is not always easy for certain people to give up on dining out. People who live very busy lives often don’t have the time to make meals at home. And there are those people who have a real passion for different foods and who adore the overall experience of eating at restaurants and cafes. If you need to save money, but you are not able, or willing, to sacrifice dining out, here are some money-saving tips just for you.
Think about your drink
Restaurants add hefty markup costs on alcohol served in their establishments. Even just one bottle or two will make a significant difference to your bill and will probably be the most expensive item on there. If you want to have a bottle of wine with your meal, a good way to save money is to choose restaurants that offer bring your own bottle (BYOB). This allows you to take advantage of the lower prices of alcohol offered by supermarkets and off-licenses. Restaurants will charge a corkage fee for every bottle served that was not bought on the premises. The amount they charge is at the discretion of the restaurant. Some restaurants charge as little as $10, while others require a sum of $250. So, make sure your decision to bring your own bottle is worth it.
If you are happy to go without alcohol, opt for soft drinks that are much cheaper, or tap water, which is completely free.
Have a budget in mind
Decide how much you can afford to pay for dining out each month. Having an exact budget allocated to this luxury will prevent you from overspending (as long as you stick to it).
Use daily deal sites
These websites work with businesses to offer new deals and discounts every day to customers. Daily deal sites often include coupons that can be exchanged for a discount or an exclusive offer, like buy one meal get a second free, at a particular restaurant. The disadvantage of using daily deal sites is that you don’t get to pick the establishment that you dine at. It all depends on what offers are available at the time that you are searching.
Sign up for loyalty schemes
Many restaurants offer reasonable discounts to members of their loyalty schemes. Look on the restaurant’s website to find out if they run a scheme such as this.
Choose the time that you dine carefully
Off-peak times, for example, during the week and before the dinner rush, maybe a cheaper time to eat at certain restaurants. Eating at lunchtime, no matter whether it’s during the week or at the weekend will typically cost less than dining in the evening.
You should also keep an eye out for restaurants that offer pre-theatre menus, set menus, and early bird offers.
Have a snack instead of a full meal
If it’s the experience of dining out that you love, you can still achieve this (minus the hefty price tag) if you choose to eat snacky meals instead of a full three-course feast.
Opt for restaurants that include snacks and “light bites” on their menu. Or, visit establishments that are specially designed for snack-eating customers. Bars and coffee shops often offer light meal options to enjoy with a drink or hot beverage. The added benefit of eating at large coffee shops is that they often offer rewards for completing customer surveys. If you complete the Starbucks survey at www.mystarbucksvisit.com, for example, you could be in with a chance to win a handsome prize. Perhaps you could put this towards another delicious dining experience?
Don’t forget your leftovers
Get the absolute most out of your money spent at restaurants by asking for a doggy bag. If you have a lot of leftovers, you could effectively pay for one meal, but actually get two. Even if you have only a small amount of leftover food, it could still come in handy for fleshing out a meal the following day.
Share your food
Sharing your food with your dining companions is another great way to save money when eating out. It is nothing to be ashamed of. At the end of the day you are paying for the dining experience, so you can order as much or little as you want. You might decide to share the cost of an entrée with your companion and have a main each, or share a main course that is big enough for two.
Eat a course at home
You will save money if you eat one of your courses at home. For example, why not look up recipes for restaurant-quality food you can make at home? Enjoy some soup before heading to your favorite restaurant for your main course and dessert. Alternatively, finish off your dining out experience with a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate pudding at home.
Get social with your favorite restaurants
Most restaurants, bars, and cafes will have a website and several social media accounts. Follow and friend your local favorite restaurants on social media as a way to keep informed about deals and offers. Sign up for restaurant newsletters as well. Subscribers to these newsletters are often rewarded for their continued support.
Don’t be tempted by added extras
While eating out, you will often be coaxed into buying various side dishes that, in most cases, you don’t actually need. These side dishes add up, and before you know it, your bill has spiraled out of control. Ask what comes with your main course, to avoid over-ordering. Be firm with your order. Realize that your waiter or waitress isn’t trying to improve your meal, they just want more money out of you.
These tips have, hopefully, prove to you that it is perfectly plausible to save money without sacrificing dining out. If you are interested in some related reading, have a look at this article on spending less and eating well.