Tips to help keep eating out budget friendly

Eating Out

by David Kimball

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Having frugal meals when eating out is easy with these practical money-saving tips. People love to eat out and for good reasons, too. Eating out means the whole family is together rather than running different directions. It's a chance to relax. It's a break from cooking and a time to feel a little pampered. The food is tasty, and the atmosphere is entertaining. But frankly, eating out is expensive and can take a big hit on the old budget. Here are some tips on eating out for less:

  • Time your outing so you can take advantage of Early Bird Specials. This is when some restaurants lower the price of meals if you eat during specified early hours, usually right before the dinner rush. Be sure the waiter has given you the Early Bird menu and keep in mind that your options will be more limited than the regular dinner menu.
  • Split the meal if it's going to be on the large side. Restaurants are making their meals bigger and bigger, and you can capitalize on this. Ask them to split it in the kitchen or give you an extra plate.
  • Have everyone drink water with the meal and see how much you save off your bill. Alcoholic beverages are expensive and a round of sodas for everyone can even add up.
  • Skip the appetizer and/or dessert. If you're absolutely famished, have a handful of crackers at home. This is wise anyway because then you won't order the biggest, most expensive thing on the menu. Likewise, you can have dessert at home later for much cheaper.
  • Use dining out coupons for restaurants. Those weekly coupon envelopes you get in the mail are sometimes full of gold, helping you to plan your frugal meals. Save coupons, especially the 2 for 1 kind, and put them in a folder. When you're in the mood to eat out, select one of the coupons from your folder.
  • Many restaurants have specials like Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays. If you have kids, take advantage of these deals.
  • All you can eat buffets can be a good deal if you are a big eater. Make it your midday meal and you might even skip supper later.
  • Ask the waiter about any specials. Sometimes they're not on the menu and you may not see them on the reader board in the front of the restaurant.
  • Eat lunch out instead of dinner. Lunches are usually smaller portions and less expensive. If you're feeling like a meal out, why not do lunch and save?
  • Eat appetizers instead of a meal. Often times you'll find appetizers to be filling and yet cost less than a main entree.
  • Bring home a doggie bag and eat your leftovers the next day. Concentrate on eating the sides and some of the meat at the restaurant and bring home the rest of the meat. Add a side or two of your own the next day and you've got a full meal.

Eating out in restaurants is a chance to relax, have some good food, and spend time with family and friends. Follow these suggestions for frugal meals when eating out so you don't have to spend as much of your hard-earned paycheck.

David Kimball is a personal finance coach, author, and speaker who is passionate about, and committed to, you living out a financially free life. Check out more of his easiest ways to save money.

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