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Save More When Dining Out

Have your cake and save money, too. Use these easy ways to decrease your bill when dining out at restaurants.

Save More When Dining Out

Many of us have missed dining out at our favorite restaurants or trying the new trend eatery in town. But one thing we haven't missed? The hefty bill that comes at the end of our meals. 

You can still enjoy eating out and keep your budget in check. Use these five tips for how to save money when eating out to dine smartly and savor every meal.  

1. Hit Up happy hour

Most restaurant happy hour menus include deals on both drinks and food. They tend to be on the earlier side, but there's a workaround! Head to the later part of the happy hour, put your order in, and linger over a normal dinner-time meal with happy hour prices.

If you love appetizers and small plates, happy hour’s a great time to go to a restaurant anyway. These are typically the most prominent items you’ll find on happy hour menus.

2. Listen to your stomach

We've been there — wanting to order one of everything because the menu is that drool-worthy. 

But according to a 2018 Tufts University study, restaurant portions are larger than is typically recommended. You might end up spending more than you need just to have a bunch of leftovers. And let's face it: Leftovers aren't always as tasty the next day.

Avoid extra food and spending by ordering only what you’re hungry for. Even better, split an entrée with your dinner date!

Or, order smaller plates one at a time. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal that you’re full. Pace yourself to give your body a chance to catch up. If you still have room, you'll have more money for dessert! 

3. Embrace your healthy side

You can often whittle down your restaurant bill by turning to the healthier options on a menu. Start with vegetarian dishes. Meatless meals are typically cheaper and have fewer calories.

Or, create your own meal by combining a couple of side dishes or fun appetizers. Apps and sides together are often less expensive than ordering an entree. 

4. Craft a cocktail strategy

If you want to drink alcohol, get strategic with your order. According to bar inventory software BinWise, the industry standard for profit margin on cocktails at restaurants is a whopping 80%. 

There are typically wide variances in wine-by-the-glass prices. Sometimes drinks are on special. You can usually drink beer for less than what a cocktail would cost. If you like a certain spirit, request your own mixer with it instead of ordering a cocktail off the menu, which could double the price.

Wine drinkers can save by splitting a bottle rather than getting individual glasses. Some restaurants also offer BYOB options, so you can bring your preferred vino with you.

5. Use your Save mailer!

Finally, check your weekly Save mailer for restaurant discounts and deals. See what types of specials are available, then plan your outings around those.

You can also sign up for email lists at your most-frequented spots to get their weekly deals and specials. For fine dining, or to try several places at once, check out community events like restaurant weeks.