How do you eat out on a budget or when you’re limited on cash?
If you’re like me, eating out is one of your favorite pastimes. Grabbing lunch or dinner at a local restaurant can be a real treat, but when you have a limited budget, it’s not always possible. While it will almost always be more affordable to prepare meals to eat at home, it is entirely possible to score a great deal at a restaurant, making it possible to eat out even when you’re faced with a tight budget.
It’s not always easy to stick to a budget, especially when it comes to eating out. But with a little bit of planning and some creative thinking, you can easily enjoy a nice meal without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips for eating out on a budget.
Check for happy hour specials.
Many restaurants offer discounted prices on food and drinks during specific hours – typically early evening or late night. If you’re hoping to save some money, aim to head to your chosen spot during happy hour. You may not be able to order from the full menu, but you can still snag a great deal on appetizers or smaller items.
See if there are any coupons or deals available.
Coupons can be a great way to score a deal on dinner for the family. Before you decide on a restaurant, do a quick search online to see if there are any current coupons or deals available. You might be surprised at how many discounts are out there – all you have to do is look for them! Check your mail, the Internet, and the advertisements on the back of your grocery store receipts to see if you can find a coupon to print off or download. Many restaurants offer BOGO coupons or deals that take a percentage off of your total purchase, which can come in handy when you’re living on a budget.
Stick with water.
One of the easiest ways to save money when you’re out to eat is to stick with water instead of opting for soda, alcohol, or other beverages. Not only is water free (or very inexpensive), but it will also help you save calories and make healthier choices overall. If you’re really craving something else, see if the restaurant has any tea or coffee options that might be more affordable than ordering a mixed drink.
Share an entrée.
If you’re dining alone or don’t have a large appetite, consider splitting an entrée with a friend or family member. Most restaurants serve portions that are larger than necessary, so by sharing a meal, you can save both money and calories. Not to mention, you’ll have more funds available to order a starter or dessert to share!
Order from the appetizer menu.
Appetizers are typically smaller and cheaper than full entrées, so if you’re looking for a way to cut back on costs, consider ordering from the appetizer menu instead. You might not be as full afterwards, but your wallet will thank you.
Grab lunch, not dinner.
Lunchtime menus typically offer smaller portions and lower prices than their dinner counterparts. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, consider ordering from the lunch menu – you may not have as many choices, but you’ll be able to find something affordable. Just keep in mind that some restaurants stop serving lunch items early in the afternoon, so you may need to head out earlier in the day if you want to take advantage of lunch prices.
Celebrate your special day.
Lots of restaurants offer a free meal – or, at the very least, a free dessert – when you’re celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. If you’re celebrating a big occasion, odds are you’ll be able to score a great deal on your meal. Call ahead and see what kind of specials, if any, your favorite restaurant offers.
Check out Groupon.
Groupon is a great way to find discounts on restaurants, hotels, spas, and more in many U.S. and international cities. You can typically find coupons for 30–50% off of your total purchase, making it easy to save a significant amount of money. Plus, you can use Groupon even if you’re not planning ahead-just pull up the app or website and see what deals are available in your area.
Eating out doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy a delicious meal at your favorite restaurant–even when you’re on a tight budget. Try some of these tips the next time you’re looking to save some money and still treat yourself to a night out.