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Five Tips For Saving $5 Every Time You Eat Out

Updated on May 31, 2010

Many personal finance books will tell you that one of the best ways that you can start to save money is by not eating out at restaurants on a regular basis. However, the modern world doesn't always allow us to eat at home or to take food from home with us every time that we go out. And actually, if you're a single person living alone, getting all of your food at the grocery store can actually be more expensive than interspersing your groceries with meals on the road, especially if you know how to eat smart at restaurants around town. Here are five tips to get you started on your way to saving at least $5 every single time that you eat out.

  1. Don't Order More Than You Can Eat. The number one way that most people increase the cost of their meals every time that they go out is that they order more food than they actually need. You don't have to get drinks, then an appetizer, then an entrée and then a dessert every time that you go out to eat; it's really just too much food! More often than not, this your-eyes-are-bigger-than-your-stomach syndrome is a direct result of the fact that you are already hungry when you get to the restaurant. To curb this effect, you should have a light snack before you head out to any meal. Keep pretzels or granola bars on hand in your purse, car or cubicle to make this easy. Also, when you arrive at the restaurant, drink the first glass of water while considering your order. This will help fill your stomach and diminish the desire to order everything. Limit yourself to one or two items (an appetizer and dessert or just an entrée) and you'll save at least $5 with every restaurant trip.
  2. Appropriate Appetizer Options. There are a few different ways that you can approach the appetizer of every meal and still save some money. The first is, of course, to skip the appetizer altogether. But sometimes the treats are just too tempting. If that is the case, consider making the appetizer your main meal. Many appetizers are large enough on their own to make a good meal and you'll save the cost of an entire entrée by ordering just the appealing pre-meal delicacy. If you simply can't decide between your appetizer and your entrée and want to go with both, ask the people with you if they would like to share the appetizer. You split the cost and the calories! If you do go with an appetizer and an entrée all on your own, reduce the overall cost of the meal by avoiding drinks and desserts (see Tip #1).
  3. Realize that alcohol ups the bill considerably. Drinks at restaurants tend to be pricey. Your best bet is not to order them at all - have water with every meal and you'll find that you're improving your health and saving your wallet all in one. However, social drinking is a modern art and if you want to drink with dinner, you can do so wisely so that you don't spend too much money on the liquids. One option is to make sure to only order a single drink. Another is to be sure and check what the happy hour options or drink specials are, especially at restaurants which you frequent regularly. Yet another way to save money on drinks is to share them with others at the table, especially in the case of wine, which can be ordered by the bottle and split among the group.
  4. Don't underestimate the saving power of veggies. Meat dishes are often considerably more expensive than vegetarian dishes at most restaurants, so even if you are normally a meat-eater, you might consider going with vegetarian options when you eat out. If you do feel that you need some meat in your diet, a quick perusing of the menu will prove that chicken dishes are generally less expensive than red meat or seafood dishes. There are usually plenty of good choices at any restaurant, so pick a few entrees that sound good and then go with the least expensive of them.
  5. Don't forget the doggy bag. Many people don't eat their entire meal at restaurants and then fail to take the leftovers home with them. Or they take them home, stick them in the fridge and toss them weeks later when they realize they have been sitting in there for too long. By taking your leftover treats home with you and enjoying them a day or two after the meal, you save yourself money that you thought had already been spent. You avoid eating whatever groceries you might have consumed that day ... or even eating out for another meal. This saves you at least $5 on each meal brought back to the home.

There's no need to get rid of going out to eat. In the modern world, restaurants are a place for social activity and even professional necessity. But you don't have to break your bank every time that you enjoy a restaurant either. By following these few simple tips every time that you eat out, you'll rapidly find that you've saved yourself a small fortune.

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