Reduce Your Restaurant Bill

by Jessica Mayo

Related Articles

5 Ways to Save while Dining Out

Insider Reports: Restaurant Savings

10 Tips for Dining Out on the Cheap

Going out to eat can be a costly pastime, but it's a well-deserved treat even for those on a frugal budget. You can minimize the shock when you get the bill by being aware of one of the highest unsuspected costs on the menu: drinks. Many restaurants don't even include prices next to their drink offerings, so diners unsuspectingly add almost half or, in the case of alcohol, over half of their meal price in order to quench their thirst. Dining out should be a pleasant experience, not one filled with regret over the unexpected cost. Consider these tips the next time you're eating away from home.

  • Drink water. If you don't like the taste, ask for a slice or two of lemon. It can improve almost any quality of water.

  • Refuse refills. If you are ordering a drink other than water, find out if there are free refills. If not, ask that it be brought out with the food, not before. Refills get expensive. You can also cut down on the need for refills by using water to quench your thirst and your other drink for taste.

  • Bring your own wine. Nice restaurants charge anywhere from $5-$15 for a single glass of wine. Unless you're a true connoisseur, that's $5-15 for a glass you might not even like! Bottle prices vary widely, but they're almost always more expensive when bought in the restaurant than beforehand. If you have a bottle of your own that isn't too expensive, you may be better off paying a corking fee. Do a little math ahead of time.

  • Save with sobriety. Think about skipping alcohol completely. It's never cheap, but buying a case at the store and having a bottle when you get home is sure to beat the price at the restaurant. That said, if you decide to drink before going out, make sure you have a designated driver.

  • Prioritize. Which is more important to you? Getting a specialty drink or having dessert? If you want to splurge, do so in moderation. Don't buy impulsively. Decide ahead of time and avoid the guilt.

  • Be wise about size. Yes, it is cheaper per ounce to buy larger sizes. But if you are not going to drink it all, or if you are eating at a restaurant with free refills, it really isn't worth the extra quarter.

  • Order to go. At fast food restaurants, you're sure to save if you order your meal to go and help yourself to a drink from your own refrigerator.

Saving money when dining out may seem like a contradiction; if you want to save money, stay home. But eating at a restaurant is a great way to reward yourself for a well-kept budget, and it's a common way to celebrate birthdays and other special events. But don't leave all of your money saving tips at home. Saving on drinks can really add up. You can plan another night out just from your savings on a couple meals!

Take the Next Step

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

True or False

We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!

Stay Connected with TDS

It's tough raising kids today!

Dollar Stretcher for Parents is a weekly newsletter designed just for parents that will help save your family both time and money.

Little Luxuries

And get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt