9 Simple Ways to Save Money Dining Out

24/7WallSt
By Chris Lange September 14, 2015 2:10 pm EDT

Something that everyone loves doing is eating out, going to a nice restaurant or even staying in and ordering food. For some it’s nice not having to cook for oneself and being able to take a night off. On the other hand, some people have a lifestyle of dining out almost every day of the week. Whether one is more the former or latter (especially the latter), eating out can be an expensive affair.
24/7 Wall St. has brought its readers a new “How to Save Money” series on various aspects of daily expenses and covering personal finance. The aim to help consumers cumulatively save millions of dollars over the course of each year.

We have put together a few simple and handy tips that any consumer has the ability to do in an effort to save real money on the next trip dining out. Most importantly, these simple tasks can be adopted and used in many future meals as well.

Before we begin, the most important takeaway from this is to have a budget and take care of your money.

Let’s begin with research. Before you go out, it is important to know where you want to go, in terms of what deals or specials may be offered that day. Even perusing the Internet for promotional codes or coupons to your favorite joint can prove fruitful as well. Popular websites for this include RetailMeNot and Groupon. Some restaurants allow their patrons to BYOB if they would want to enjoy their own wine, which can save the 100% to 200% markup per bottle.

A more traditional method for saving money in this context is using coupons. This may be one of the more tedious methods for patrons, to obtain these coupons for local or national chains one must go through junk mail, newspapers or magazines.

A very popular strategy for saving money when going out is to check the Restaurant.com website. At this site you are able to purchase a gift card to a restaurant for a significant discount. Hypothetically you could get a $50 gift card for the low price of $20, which is huge savings!

(FreeBham Editor’s Note: I have personally seen $50 e-gift certificates for Restaurant.com as low as $15 .  The key to extra savings is to take advantage of their occasional extra percent off sale events and search for what you are looking for on their full site as usually only local deals are shown.)
Similar to airlines offering frequent flyer miles, some establishments offer “frequent eater” clubs or loyalty rewards. Despite being at other ends of the spectrum, places like Starbucks or Landry’s bother offer loyalty cards that effectively act as rewards.

One new trend that has picked up speed is social media. Restaurants, bars and coffee shops have increased their presence on social media over the past few years to better connect with their customers. As a result, they post coupons or deals on their Facebook pages that loyal consumers can take advantage of. Some places even offer special deals on Yelp for a favorable review.

Apart from the aforementioned ways of saving when dining out, there are a few more basic ways to save money. For example, some people don’t feel the need to order as much food (and spend more money) when they go out if they eat a snack at home before going to the restaurant. Others, in an effort to control portion sizes and spending, will opt to split a dish with a friend or significant other to save on money and calories. Finally, a classic way to save money when going out is to just order water to drink. The odds are it is more natural and healthier than what you were going to order in the first place.

Many people on a first date might not want to take food home, but the reality is that restaurant portions can be huge or customers can easily over-order. Taking your leftovers home doesn’t save you money right there on the spot, but it then acts as a “free” meal the next time you sit down to eat it.

Many patrons love eating dessert or having coffee after dinner. Some even see this as a ritual. Still, just one coffee and one dessert can easily cost you in the area of $10 or more per person after you add in the tip and tax. There is no need to preach what this means for calories and overstuffing, but multiply that figure up once or twice a week and scale it out over the course of a year, and the money that you could save is astounding.

These were a few tips and tricks that 24/7 Wall St. saw that can save you a few bucks when you are eating out. If you have any other suggestions for saving money that we might not have seen, let us know on Twitter: @247WallSt.

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