How to Save Money When Eating Out: A Guide

For many, dining out is one of the small pleasures in life. But it comes at a big cost. The average American household spends $3,000 per year on going out to eat.

It seems like a shocking amount of money. Since it’s spent over the course of a year, rather than all at once, it’s easy to not even realize how much you’re spending. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to budget.

Wondering how to save money when eating out? Is it possible to still enjoy the fun of your favorite restaurants, without overspending?

Read on to learn the best tips and tricks for saving money at restaurants so you can continue enjoying the pleasures of dining out, even on a budget.

Look for Daily Specials

Many restaurants will offer daily specials, usually designed to attract diners into the restaurant at slower times of the week. Often, this will be earlier in the evenings, around 5pm, advertised sometimes as the “Early Bird Special.”

Early in the week, such as Mondays and Tuesdays, are also quieter days for many restaurants, so they may offer daily specials at a lower cost than other menu items to attract customers looking for a bargain. Keep an eye out for restaurants offering these, as they are an easy way to enjoy a delicious meal at a lower cost.

The ever-popular evening Happy Hour can also be a good way not just to find cheaper drinks, but often, appetizers and snacks are discounted during this time.

Bring Your Own Wine or Avoid Alcohol

The bar markup cost on alcohol in restaurants can be insanely high; up to 200%! Beer, wine, and spirits are huge earners for restaurants, and often bring in more profit than food items for restaurant owners. This is because the wholesale cost for alcohol is often much lower than for food, so there’s a larger profit margin when selling drinks.

Of course, the best way to save money when dining out (when it comes to drinking) is to stick to water or soft drinks, which often have free refills. With water, tap water will be at no cost, while sparkling water usually has a charge, so specify to your waiter as to which you prefer.

However, it’s great to also enjoy your meal with a lovely drop of wine.

Look for restaurants that offer BYO (bring your own). This usually refers to wine, but occasionally beer as well.

If you bring your own bottle, the restaurant will often charge a small corkage fee, but much less than the cost of purchasing from the restaurant. It’s a top way to enjoy drinks with dinner at a much lower cost.

You can also skip the coffee or tea at the end of the meal, opting to make your own at home instead.

Share Meals

Portions at restaurants are often extremely generous and filling, making a meal enough for more than one person to eat. Sharing a meal between two people, or ordering several meals for a group and everyone sharing, can be a good way to save money when eating out.

Use Coupons

Coupons are a helpful and easy way to save money when eating out. They can often be found online or discount dining vouchers can be purchased through discount websites. Coupons are also often found on restaurant websites, like these Brann’s Steakhouse coupons, or can be found in newspapers or local magazines.

The discounts may be something like 10% off a meal, buy-one-get-one-free, or free appetizer or desserts with purchase. Any savings go a long way to help when budgeting, so keep an eye out for coupons for your favorite restaurants.

Look for Free Kids’ Meals

Eating out as a family is a lot of fun, but the costs can add up quickly. Luckily, many restaurants offer free dining for kids, usually with the purchase of an adult meal. This can be an easy way to save money when dining out as a family.

Get Take-Out

Take-out, although perhaps not the same as dining in your favorite restaurant, is another good way to save money. By dining at home, you’ll save on the cost of both drinks and a tip (although a tip is appreciated if you’re having your meal delivered), but you still get to enjoy the same delicious food.

Often, restaurants will have special take-out offers, so look out for these before placing your order. There may be discounts for ordering online as well, to encourage customers to use the restaurant’s website instead of calling to order.

Join Restaurant Mailing Lists

If you frequently dine at the same restaurant, consider signing up for their mailing list, usually done via email. In addition to keeping you informed about special events and opportunities coming up, restaurants often include coupons or discount offers only for subscribers, as a thank you for their loyalty.

Many restaurants will also send a special something to subscribers on their birthdays, such as a free meal or free drink.

Make a Meal From Appetizers

One way to creatively save money is to make a meal just from appetizers. They are often much cheaper than main meals and are usually large enough to still be filling. A few appetizers shared among a group can be an easy way to save money, especially if you’re not that hungry.

Or, consider ordering your entree, but skip on appetizers and desserts.

Know How to Save Money When Eating Out

Ready to get started? Now that you know how to save money when eating out, you can start incorporating the above tips into your routine. You and your family can still enjoy the amazing cuisine at your favorite restaurants, but in a way that’s friendly for both your taste buds and your wallet!

Did you find this article helpful? For more useful food articles, check out some of our other great blog posts.