9 Money Saving Idea’s For Dining Out
Going out to dinner is a fun, relaxing, even exciting experience. It’s a shame that it can be such a hardship on your pocketbook. But you can still enjoy all the perks and treats of being waited on at a nice restaurant while still being money savvy. You don’t have splurge to eat out if you know how to cut the right corners.
1. Go for lunch.
The lunch menu often features the same entrees as the dinner menu, only with slightly smaller portions and a smaller price. So try going out to lunch on Saturday afternoons instead of dinner Saturday nights.
2. Drink water.
Water is usually free at most dining establishments, and a few slices of lemon can make it a very crisp and refreshing drink that will cleanse your palette and help bring out the flavors of your food. You can save more than a few dollars by ordering water over soda, tea, juice, and especially alcohol.
3. Dining “To Go”.
Maybe you want the savory chef-prepared food but the noisy crowded restaurant atmosphere isn’t for you. You can avoid the crowds and still enjoy a good meal if you get your food to go, and as an added bonus you will save by not having to tip as much. You’ll still want to tip a few dollars, especially if you have your food delivered to your home, but it’s much less than the 15 to 20 percent gratuity required at most restaurants.
4. Hit the buffet.
If you are really hungry, you can get more than your money’s worth from the buffet. Here’s a tip though: skip to the middle of the buffet and avoid the first few items they offer you, which tend to be breads and pasta, carbs that will fill you up before you get to the more expensive items. Notice how the meat is always at the end of the line? They want you to be full before you get there. So head straight for the good stuff and eat your fill, and you’ll get the best value.
5. Save dessert for way after dinner.
You may be temped by the dessert cart that the waiter insists on bringing by your table, but resist. Many restaurant desserts are expensive enough to make your bill a bit of a surprise when it comes around. So save dessert for home. You’ll extend the evening and save money by enjoying practically the same store-bought (or even homemade!) cake and ice cream that is half the cost it would be at a restaurant.
6. Get half the portion, all of the luxury.
If you find yourself never finishing your plate, you can ask the waiter if half portions are available. They may not appear on the menu, but you can often get a smaller portion for a smaller price if you ask.
7. Or do a doggie bag.
Your other option if you can’t eat it all is to take the rest home. You’ll get two fancy meals out of one and have a scrumptious lunch for the next day.
8. It’s ok to fill up on bread.
It’s true! Like I said, doggie bags are a great way to stretch a meal, and if you want to enjoy everything that comes before your main course, such as bread and salad, go for it. You’ll still get the same amount of entrée, and if you can’t finish it at dinner, you will eat it the next day. It’s another way to turn two meals into one and still enjoy the dining out experience.
9. Be a visitor.
You don’t have to be from out of town to take advantage of the great deals many restaurants offer visitors through your local chamber of commerce or tourism board. They have coupons that offer specials at many of your town’s most popular and famous dining establishments, so why not use them yourself?
Dining out doesn’t have to be a treat saved for only the most special occasions. It can fit into most budgets if you allow yourself to follow a few simple tips. The whole of the experience is unchanged, but your bill will be much lower. So go ahead, treat yourself to a night out! You deserve it.
© 2008 AmericanCreditFoundation.org®. Michael G. Peterson is a co-founder and Spokesman of American Credit Foundation, an IRS 501 (c)(3) non-profit consumer credit counseling organization that has assisted thousands of individuals and families with their financial situations through seminars, education, counseling services, and, debt management plans. For more information, and free consumer resources visit www.americancreditfoundation.org
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