How To Save Money When Going Out To Eat, According To Money Gurus
Of all the ways we tend to drain our bank accounts, going out to eat is one of the hardest to give up. It's a great way to get out of the house, spend quality time with your friends (or your significant other, or yourself), and probably eat better food than you would at home. Fortunately, you don't have to choose between irresponsible spending and giving up dinners out altogether. You just have to put a little bit of thought into where you're going, what you're ordering, and what resources you can use to keep the cost down.
The easiest way to spend less money on food is to keep eating out to a minimum, personal finance educator G. Brian Davis, tells Bustle. He recommends determining a monthly "dining out" budget and sticking to it. "Whether you spend it all on one expensive meal or split it among several less fancy meals is of course up to you, but the budget must be locked in advance," he says. "One of the great things about eating less food prepared by others is that you’ll end up eating healthier. Restaurants are not interested in how healthy their meals are."
That said, if you enjoy eating out, feel free to do so as often as you can afford to. Here are some ways to keep the cost down when you do.
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1. Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover
It's not worth the surcharge of going to a trendy, Instagrammable place when traditional Mom and Pop restaurants often have equally good food — and larger portions, financial planner Trevore Meyer tells Bustle.
2. Stick With Tap Water
One of the easiest ways to run up your restaurant bill is to order alcohol or soft drinks, says Meyer. Plus, plain water will do a better job keeping you hydrated.
3. Download Cash Back And Rebate Apps
Michael Newcomer, vice president of the financial planning firm Retirement Advisory Consultants, tells Bustle he recommends Ibotta, which lets you upload your receipt and often gives you some money back afterward. IDine is another good one, NYC-based certified financial planner and lifelaidout founder Roger Ma tells Bustle. A lot of fast food restaurants also have their own apps for you to collect savings and learn about deals.
4. Get Rewards By Taking Surveys
Some chain restaurants, like Checker's and Subway, have surveys on their receipts, says Newcomer. If you fill them out and turn them in, you can often get free food.
5. Get Discounted Gift Cards
Newcomer recommends sites like CardBear or CardCash to find these, while Ma recommends raise.com. Lots of popular fast food places including Jamba Juice and Chipotle sell discounted giftcards, says Ma. Some of them give you up to 40 percent off.
6. Use Your Birthday To Your Advantage
A lot of chain restaurants offer deals for people who have recently had or are about to have a birthday, says Newcomer. Check out these if you're within a month of your birthday — that's often close enough.
7. Use Opentable For Reservations
Each time you make a reservation on Opentable, you get 100 dining points, Ma explains. Once you get 2,000, you get a $20 gift certificate that you can use at any restaurant on the site. You can get even more points if you make reservations at off-peak hours.
8. Search For Coupons
9. Share Your Dishes
Every person doesn't always really need their own entree, says Ma — especially if you get appetizers, too. If the portion sizes are large, you and your dining partner can probably get by sharing two or three dishes.
There are a ton of deals constantly out there — the trick is just to know where to spot them. Download all the savings apps and keep coupon sites bookmarked, and you'll practically never have to eat anything at full price.