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The Cheapskate’s Guide to Eating Out: 16 Ways to Save Money When Dining Out

save money when eating out

When Mayank and I were young -{er!} and were dating, eating out was fun and a must-do for pretty much every weekend. I used to stay in the YWCA and he was staying in bachelor’s accommodation, so the only way we could meet, after work,  was when we’d go out for a meal.

Dining out has, unsurprisingly, become a favorite family activity of yours even now with Manini enjoying it as well. A meal out is a cherished luxury – no dishes, no prep, no cleaning up, varied cuisine to choose from, gorgeous ambience, bliss!

However, when you’re living on a budget and loving it too, you need to be savvy about dining out without being Scrooge-y. Yeah, we’ve done that with our desire to travel on the cheap so no reason not to apply it to eating out frugally as well.

So, here are 16 of our favorite ways to save money when eating out:

1. Choose tried-and-tested favorites

One of our favorite restaurants is also the one we end up going to the most. The reason is that we’re absolutely sure of the quality of food and service and are never ever disappointed. Choosing tried-and-tested favorites when you’re on a budget and still want to indulge is a surefire way to actually save money.

2. Visit your favorite restaurant on the weekday

TGI Fridays is a family favorite around here and the reason is simple. They have these awesome weekday lunch and dinner menus that are super-affordable and give us a choice of entrée, main and dessert. That’s right. Find out if your favorite eating out joints have specials on weekdays and then, plan accordingly.

3. Use deals and coupons

Mayank is really gifted with scouting for deals and coupons for different restaurants, especially the ones we’ve been wanting to visit but haven’t done so because of budget reasons. A 50% off coupon sure comes handy for wanting to test out a new eating joint.

Whether you’re in India or the US, you can be sure there are restaurants giving out deals and coupons to help you save money when eating out. Check online or your local newspaper and get clippin’.

4. Redeem credit card spending for restaurant gift vouchers

Again, this is one of Mayank’s forte {sadly it seems all I do is eat, right!}. He’d shared earlier how he chooses our credit cards and uses them wisely. Well, one of the wise uses is that the reward points we earn are often redeemed for restaurant vouchers.

5. Reserve fine dining restaurants for truly special occasions

Landed a HUGE new contract? An anniversary? These in our book are truly special occasions and we splurge by reserving a table at a fine dining restaurant. BUT then for the rest of the month, we don’t really eat out much or order takeaway. So, yeah, give some, lose some.

6. Factor eating out into your budget

Want to make eating out possible? Factor it into your budget. That’s right. Have some spending money for dining out and you’ll not cringe when paying the tab.

7. Find out about customer {or diner} loyalty programs

Again, something we’ve used with great success.  TGI Fridays’ for instance has a loyalty program that gives us a flat 50% off on birthdays and anniversaries. So, guess where we go on those days?

8. Go out for drinks and snacks

Sometimes, you just want a quick break from the monotony. Drinks and snacks is a good way to do that especially when you land up during Happy Hours.

9. Skip the drinks and snacks

On the other hand, if you are going out for the full meal, skip the drinks and snacks and just order mains. Big money saver!

10. Avail of “early bird specials” or “mid-week” specials

One of the benefits of being a work-at-home mom is that you can go out for lunch or dinner in the middle-of-the week or like, really early. Generally, most of the places we like to go to have either specials for “early birds” or mid-week deals. Nice!

11. Take a buffet ONLY when you can do justice to it

A lesson learnt the hard way. I would always head to the buffet floored by all the choices and the glorious dishes in front of me. But then, by the time I’d made my way through the appetizers I was too full to eat anything else. Long story short: order or pay for a buffet only when you REALLY can eat through all that. Else, just order one mains and be done with it. Really!

12. Delight in dessert at home

Desserts in most places are outrageously priced for abnormally small portions. So, skip dessert and instead eat something sweet at home, if you have to. Ice cream, anyone?

13. Split large portions or order a “meal for two” combo

Ooh, we love this one. SO good when you WANT to eat out but are also on a diet. Yeah! So, if a restaurant offers large portions, split it with your partner or the kids and do your budget and waistline some good. We also love meal for two combos where we both get a main and a drink, and we order something small for Manini. Cheap and good!

14. Drink water

That’s right. Sodas aren’t good for you, your teeth, your waistline and definitely not your budget. So, skip them and save yourself some money, will ya?

15. Get a gift card

We’ve yet to try this one but friends of ours have and it seems to be a good way to eat out cheap. Next birthday or anniversary,  ask friends and family members to get you gift cards or vouchers to some of the restaurants on your wishlist. Guess who’ll be doing that?

16. Make smart choices

Finally, one of the top ways to dine out frugally is to choose wisely. Don’t experiment with those expensive shrimps or caviar. Instead, choose dishes that you’re sure you’ll enjoy. Also, make smart choices for WHEN to eat out. Sometimes you can whip up a great meal at home and indulge yourself but on days when things are all over the place, or you’re unwell, or you have a great occasion to celebrate, it pays to eat out.. on the cheap.

How do you save money when dining out? Share your frugal hacks with me in the comments!

Prerna


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Comments

  1. Prerna, it’s so comforting to hear that TGI Friday’s is a favorite of yours, too! I have loved that place since I was a teenager!! I am sometimes a little ashamed of loving such a pedestrian, mainstream place, but I really do! Their food is great, they are always happy to see my kids, and I find their prices very reasonable. We go there almost every time we go out to eat!!

    • The Mom Writes says:

      Thank you Bitts.. SO glad to meet a fellow TGI Friday’s Fan!! Yay.. And I don’t think you should be ashamed of it at all.. As long as a place serves good food, has a fun ambience, lets your kids be kids.. it’s a winner!

  2. Wow Prerna.. another good one. I am becoming a regular at your site and love reading your articles. We eat out quite often and I can completely relate to most of your tips though may not always follow these.

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