Just because you are on a budget does not meant that you can not splurge every once in a while on a dinner out with the family or on a nice date night. If you only save, save, save, your quality of life will certainly suffer. You need occasional treats as a reward to keep yourself going. That being said, a meal out does not have to break the bank.
If you want to enjoy a nice dinner out with the family, here are some simple ways that you can save some money and not spoil your good time.
Free Kids Meals
Many restaurants will advertise free kids meals with the purchase of an adult entree. This could be for a special event or it could be a regular weekly event.
Around me, for example, at Texas Roadhouse, kids eat free on Tuesdays when you buy an adult entree. That is a savings of about $8 per kid or $16 for a family of four. Not a bad deal, especially since feeding my kids is hit or miss. It is a lot less frustrating watching them not eat a free meal rather than one that is costing me.
Do a quick search of restaurants that offer free kids meals and what days they do this. Keep track of them so that you have a restaurant to pull out of your hat on any day.
Deals Up To 75% Off
One of my favorite ways to save money is with a deal from Living Social. You can often find savings of up to 75% off of dining.
Restaurants use places like Living Social to attract new clients. Instead of spending their ad budget on a TV or radio ad, they place an offer on a discount. If you are planning on a night out, check out the deals in your area before you make a decision.
Taking advantage of the deal is easy. Purchase one on the website and then download it to your phone or simply print your offer. Present it to the restaurant and take advantage of your savings.
The great thing about these deals is that it allows you to experience new places to eat. Many of these will be new establishments or restaurants that you may have never heard of. Sometimes it is fun to explore.
Most restaurants these days have well established websites. If you visit their website, at the bottom of the page, there will usually be a link to join their eClub.
Go to the website of all your favorite places and join this eClub. You will then start saving money occasional discounts, coupons and offers in your email box. It might be a $10 off of $40 offer, maybe a free dessert or a complimentary appetizer.
In any case, a free offer is a free offer, so get what you can get.
Some things are better deals than others at a restaurant.
The biggest profit margin items at a restaurant are drinks. This of course includes alcoholic beverages but it also includes soda. There is absolutely no reason that a soda should cost $4 but it does, so skip it. Instead get a glass of water but skip the lemon.
If you like an appetizer, chips and salsa are usually very cheap, if not free at some locations. In addition, even if you pay for them, they can usually be refilled for no cost.
As far as the meal goes, consider splitting an entree. Most restaurant meals are well over 1000 calories a piece which is almost about double what you need in a sitting. Even if the restaurant charges you a splitting fee, you will still come out ahead both in your pocketbook and your waste line.
There are several ways to save when dining early, especially during a week day.
For starters, you of course have early bird specials at many places. Entrees are often discounted 25% or more in an attempt to fill up the establishments down time.
Also, happy hours can be a great savings opportunity without even drinking. There are discounted appetizers and often free stuff. A Mexican establishment near me has a complimentary nacho bar during happy hour with free queso. A few free helpings of nachos allows you to eat a smaller and cheaper dinner plate.
If you like to have a glass of wine with dinner, you know that it is expensive to do so at a restaurant that serves alcohol. You can get around this by finding a place that does not serve alcohol and allows BYOB.
Just bring an inexpensive bottle from home and save an easy $20 off of what you would have spent on alcohol.
Dine Fast Casual
Fast casual restaurants are all the rage. They offer the same level of food quality without the table service. You order at the counter and have the food delivered to you and refill your own drinks. In exchange, the food is cheaper and there is no tipping so you save 15 to 20 percent alone right there.
Tina’s Last Word
Dining out is a great way to enjoy a night out with family. On a tight budget though, regular dining out is often something that has to be given up.
Still, you need to splurge every now and then to maintain your sanity. That does not mean that you have to blow 200 dollars, but you can still have fun. If you make smart decisions though and plan your trip, you can have a good time without busting that budget.