This is a minor issue, but it may be worth mentioning. For those people who enjoy dining out there are some simple things to remember that can significantly reduce the cost. Many restaurants offer “early bird specials” for people who are willing to eat dinner between 4 and 6PM. One of our favorite Italian restaurants, for example, reduces the cost of meals from about $16 to $9 and only slightly reduces the amount of food. It also offers wine at half price during that time. Some restaurants charge less for a glass a wine if a meal is eaten in the bar area rather than in the main dining area. Chains like Chili’s and Bonefish Grille offer 2 for 1 drinks, Happy Hour specials, and other reduced price specials at specific times. Most chain restaurants offer memberships and rewards programs that can shave as much as 20% off the cost of a meal. Coupons on junk mail flyers also offer special deals. My wife and I enjoy a particular grilled salmon dinner at a restaurant that serves an enormous amount of food, so we split the meal, and cut the cost in half (most restaurants do not charge a split-plate fee, but it’s always wise to ask about that policy). Many restaurants offer gift cards at dramatically reduced prices because people lose their cards or never use them and they’re a hugely profitable item. We, however, never lose our cards (haha), and we will often buy a $200 or $400 card when the discounts are more than 25% at a restaurant that we enjoy visiting. As soon as I became aware that certain restaurants offer special deals and cater to repeat customers, I began asking all of the restaurants we visited about their specials and was often surprised to learn of deals that are never advertised. If you enjoy dining out, it never hurts to ask about this sort of thing, and if you’re a regular customer, you may get some special treatment. One of our favorite restaurants stocks a particular table wine that we like just for the times that we and our friends visit, and the manager cooks us special appetizers to sample (grilled artichoke hearts, for example–yum yum) from time to time at no cost!
Great ideas. We spend so much less on dinners out now that we had my son (who goes to bed at 6:30/7). If we want to go out to dinner, which we rarely do, we always hit the early bird specials!
I use websites like GiftCardGranny for any clothing purchases, usually can buy gift cards for 15%-25% off and then shop clearance for max savings, but never thought about doing it for restaurants!
Good tips. I’d also recommend subscribing to email lists for chain restaurants so that you can get coupons. If you’re worried about getting too many emails, just create a separate email account for just for this purpose. Also, if you like fast food in particular, there is usually some kind of survey link on your receipt that you can do online to get a coupon code for free food.
@zendancer Eating out has been a huge financial suck of mine in the past. We do MUCH better these days by eating at home for most meals. However, when we do get the bug to go out, we try to keep it REALLY cheap. You’d be amazed how awesome going out to your favorite pizza or taco joint can make you feel! We can usually do an outing like that for around $20. Not too bad for going out to eat!
Some great tips here! Never hurts to ask and become more informed! We go the meal prepping way ourselves most of the time due to having two kids under five lol!
Here’s a great story. A few years ago I competed in a newspaper competition regarding the best money-saving tips. They pick the best 50 entries and invite the winners to a nice luncheon where they give awards and discuss personal finance. I submitted 10 or 12 entries. Some of my entries explained ways to save thousands of dollars, some hundreds of dollars, and some fifty dollars or less. Subsequently, I was notified that I was a winner, and I was very excited to be able to join some folks who were as serious about financial matters as I was. They didn’t tell me which of my entries had won, so I assumed it was one of the suggestions that could save people thousands of dollars. My wife and I had fascinating discussions with people at our table, and we were amazed at some of the creative things people had done to save money. As the 50 awards for the best suggestions were given out, more and more people were named, but I remained unnamed. I began to think, “Oh, I’m going to be the last person named because my top suggestion would save people thousands.” Finally, the announcer said, “And our 48th winner goes to ********(me), a happy-hour type of guy, for his suggestion of how to two people can go to a local restaurant and eat a full meal with a glass of wine for $11.97 which includes a 20% tip and taxes.” Haha! I was stunned. Yes, a local restaurant offered a chicken taco appetizer plate (that was enormous), and during happy hour they reduced the wine to $2/glass, so it was possible to eat a full meal with wine for $11.97, but that was my most trivial suggestion of the ones I had sent in, and I had submitted it only to show people that sometimes it’s possible to get a real deal at a restaurant. After all my friends heard about the suggestion that had made me a winner, they began to continually tease me by calling me “the happy hour guy.” I can tell people how to save thousands of dollars, but I won an award for telling people how to get a cheap meal! Too funny.