Reduce Your Restaurant Bill

by Jessica Mayo

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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

  • Start receiving snacks by mail today by signing up for Graze. Join today and get your first box for free!
  • Put only the cash you are willing to spend on your meal in your wallet then go have a great time!

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