Dining Out On A Budget

Eating out at a restaurant is popular for many reasons:

  • It’s a chance to socialize with friends or family
  • It provides a change of scenery from your kitchen at home
  • You don’t have to do any of the cooking
  • And, arguably the best of all, you don’t have to clean up either!

This may all sound very attractive and inviting, but if you’re not careful, the luxury of being served your food and beverages may end up costing you more than a pretty penny.

The cost of eating out at a restaurant can easily top $30 per person which may be deterring some folks from heading out for a meal.

But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Restaurants are always competing with one another for your business. 

It’s a fact; every restaurant out there wants you to enter their establishment and spend your hard-earned cash.


This subsequently opens up opportunities for you to visit restaurants more frequently without hurting your finances.

But beware, restaurant owners with their crafty marketing teams, may try to trick you by offering you deals which could be more expensive than their daily specials.

So, be vigilant when deciding to use a coupon.

Another way which you might be swayed by marketing trickery into spending more is when you purchase or obtain a discount certificate.

You have first to meet the minimum spending requirements, for instance, pay $20 and get a free glass of wine – this ploy is attractive, but could you have bought a meal and a drink of wine for under $20?

Again, be vigilant.

Finwell - Dining Out On A Budget (1)

Ask For Free Water

Drinks in restaurants, whether it’s alcohol or soft, can considerably increase the amount of cash you hand over when it’s leaving time.

A single glass of wine can easily cost $10 to $12

. Factor in tax and multiply that number by however many are in your party, and it all adds up.

Even sodas for the kids can reach upwards of $3.

Restaurants push bottled water, and if you buy it, you’ll be paying more for it than you would at Costco.

Dining Out On A Budget1


Asking for regular tap water is the answer; it’s certainly the cheaper choice.

However, if you do prefer a drink with your dinner, then why not have one at home first, or head home for that nightcap rather than buy it at the restaurant.

Utilize Restaurant Specials

Many restaurants offer deals such as all-you-can-eat ribs, or 2-for-1 burger night, especially during the week when business might be slower.

The trick is to find out when your favorite restaurant is offering such deals, and then choose those nights to dine out.

Use Coupons

Before you make that reservation, do a quick internet search on the restaurant you’re planning to visit and whether they’re offering any coupons for that day.

Another great place to find coupons is in The Sunday newspaper, and also in local weekly newspapers.  

Dining Out On A Budget2

Loyalty Bonuses

There are countless restaurants out there that offer you free items or discounts simply in exchange for your email address.

Some may even offer you great birthday deals like a free dessert, or a free glass of wine.

There are a few that will also offer deals for downloading their mobile app.

Happy Hour

Everybody has heard of this one, right?

If you visit some restaurants outside of peak hours, then you may find that dining early, or even late, can do your budget wonders.

This is because some restaurants offer lower prices on food and drinks outside of peak hours.

Be sure to check with staff regarding any special requirements to qualify for the special.

Online Deals

There are two websites, restaurant.com and opentable.com, that offer discounted dining vouchers – or coupons – that may save you some money.

If you search carefully, you can find certificates for as little as $4.

Restaurant selection, however, depends on which city you’re looking in, and each establishment has its set of requirements to meet.

So check the fine print carefully before you commit.

Reservation Loyalty Cards

Dining Out On A Budget3

Obtaining a ticket loyalty card (from Open Table, for instance) can be useful for saving on dining costs.

Every time you use the card and make a reservation, you get loyalty points.

These points will tally up over time, and when a certain number of points are obtained, Open Table will send you discount coupons good for any participating restaurants.

For example, reaching 1,000 points could potentially give you $10 off.

Daily Deals

When new restaurants open, they will often offer specials for customers to buy through some websites (groupon.com and livingsocial.com to name just a couple) but be sure to read the requirements first.

There’s a good chance that there will be a minimum spend requirement or other similar restrictions.

Make sure the deal is going to save you money before you buy it.

Meal Sharing

The size of the portions in most restaurants nowadays can easily feed two people.

Adding an extra side dish can supplement the meal if required.

Keep a look out for restaurants that make sharing easy.


Ordering appetizers instead of entrees can save you money.

Appetizers can contain generous portions, look more interesting, and cost a fraction of the price of an entrée.

If you can fill up on an appetizer, then skip that entrée. You’ll save.

Kids Eat For Free

Plenty of restaurants offer some kids-eat-free deal, but it usually requires an adult to purchase a meal first.

They may even limit it to 1 free kid’s meal per 1 adult meal bought, so ask the staff first.

Senior Discounts

Some establishments may offer a loyalty club for senior citizens.

Some have a separate senior menu while others offer a standard discount.

If you’re unsure about whether a restaurant offers a senior discount or not, simply ask if they do.

One such club, AARP, offers their members 10 percent off at select restaurants.

Advantage of Lunch Instead of Dinner

Going for lunch instead of dinner is a great way to sample more expensive restaurants without hurting your pocket.

What’s more is that you probably won’t want any alcohol, either.


  1. Pingback: How To Cut Down Your Monthly Expenses - FinancialWellness.org

Leave a Comment