10 Hacks for Spending Less While Eating Out

I absolutely love going out to a great restaurant.  Not only do you get to try new and interesting things, but you also can have a fun with your company. And best of all – there are no dishes to clean up when you’re done. You just tell the server whatever it is that you want and out it comes! What a great setup.

But like all things in life – eating out isn’t for free.  The luxury of having someone else prepare / clean-up my food comes at a price … and lately, a steep one at that!  Going out to eat these days can add up really quick – like “$100 or more quick” for a family of 4 if you’re not careful.

This can all really put a huge dent in our family budget, and take away from the money we could be putting towards our other household goals such as college for the kids or an early retirement.

That’s why the next time you go to eat, I recommend trying these 10 tips for being more strategic about where you go and what you order.  Here’s how you can enjoy an evening dining out without the fear of facing how much you spent on it the next morning.

1-Don’t pick an over-priced restaurant.

Why is it that some restaurants need to charge $30 or more for literally every plate on their menu? You know the places – they’re the ones where the servers wear clothes that are more expensive than what you and I wear to work.  If you’re taking your family out, keep it casual and stick to a place that has more reasonably priced meals instead.

2-Eat a snack before you go.

About an hour before we go out to eat, I like to have a quick snack to tide me over – something easy like a power bar or apple. This helps me feel more “full” before I get there.  And when that happens, I make better decisions about what to order.

3-Order water.

When the server asks you what you’d like to drink, forget the $3 soft-drinks. For a family of 4, that’s a savings of $12. By that same token, skip getting a $6 glass of wine or draft beer. Not only will ordering water save you a whole lot of unnecessary expense, you’ll also be getting the thing that’s probably the healthiest for you to drink. Ask for some lemon slices to give the water a little flavor.

4-Pass on the appetizers.

Appetizers are great when you’re having a big family gathering and just want to be social. But otherwise, they’re really just not necessary. You’ll likely already get more than enough food with your main meal. If you’d like to be strategic, pick a place that serves you bread or some other complimentary item ahead of time.

5-Pass on the soup and salad.

I love a good soup or salad before my meal.  But when I really think about how hungry I am or how many calories I’m about to take in, they just don’t work into the equation.  So unless your soup and salad comes with your meal already, don’t spend the extra money to add one on.

6-Don’t fall for all you can eat.

I know – that “all you can ribs” special may sound like a great bargain, but all it’s going to do is cost you twice as much as a regular meal and add FAR more calories to your waste-line than you need. Stick to a regular-sized meal instead.

7- Sandwich anyone?

Out of anything you can order on most menus, sandwiches are usually the most reasonably priced in relation to their proportion. Not only will they leave you feeling full, but they also usually come with something awesome – French fries!

8-Forget dessert.

The same logic applies to desserts as it does to appetizers – it’s just extra food that you really don’t need. As much as I would love to destroy a hot fudge brownie-bowl with ice cream, my more sensible side knows that it’s probably not a very good idea. So unless it’s your birthday and they’re giving you one for free, pass!

9-Leave a modest tip.

Leaving a good tip shows class.  But settle down Big Spender … you don’t need to pay for the server’s college tuition. A tip of 20 percent for adequate service is perfectly fine.

10-Get the points!

Don’t forget to pay for your bill with a credit card that specifically rewards you for spending at restaurants. We have several that offer as much 5 percent rewards.  That’s a pretty nice kick-back on top of a great meal!

More Tips

If you’d like more tips, check out all 31 of our tips for eating out at restaurants.  Or if you’re in the mood for something quick, check out our 15 tips for spending less on fast food.

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