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How to save money when going out to eat at restaurants

Updated on December 18, 2012

I love to go out to eat at restaurants. It's more fun than staying home, cooking, cleaning dishes, and eating the same food for the rest of the week for every meal.

Of course this adds up, though. However, there are a lot of things that I do to save money, especially when I go out with friends or co-workers more than once a week. Read my tips to learn about different ways you can save a little cash when eating out at a restaurant (but not involving eating less, because I like to eat a lot).

  • Find coupons or discounts online. I get a lot of coupons in the mail. There are also Groupons and other websites where you can find coupons. Do a Google search to see if there are any available before you find a place or to help you pick a restaurant. I like to use Restaurant.com to see where there are restaurants with deals; who knows - the place you go to all the time may have a deal that you can use for next time! You can also try looking them up on Yelp to see if they have any check-in specials or deals, or add your favorite restaurants on Facebook to get deals. You can sign up for e-mails from the restaurants too to get coupons in your inbox.

    I also live and work near a college, so there are lots of student discounts available. Sometimes there are discounts if you are a government employee too. And don't forget about senior discounts!
  • Consider being a Secret Shopper. There are some organizations that pay people to go to a selected restaurant and evaluate the service and other aspects of the meal. Learn more about what organizations may be available near you; search online for "secret shopper restaurant".
  • Take it to go! When you take it to go, you're not pay for service, so you don't have to worry about tips or even taxes sometimes.
  • Get cold food. Similarly, if you get cold food, you sometimes don't have to pay taxes on it. For instance, at Subway, you can get a cold sandwich tax-free, but if you get your sub toasted, it is "prepared" and you have to pay the tax!
  • Eat before or after. If I'm just trying to be social and want to go out with friends or co-workers, I will get something small at the restaurant, like a soup, and will eat more before or afterward.
  • You don't have to be fancy. A lot of the time, I'll just get a burrito, deli sandwich, or other cheaper item. These things are usually around $5. Even if I do this every day of the week, that's not as much as going to a fancier sit-down restaurant. And I can usually take these to go as well!
  • Don't get a drink. Easy tip! You don't need it. Especially alcoholic drinks - those are even more expensive.
  • Lunch is cheaper than dinner. Another basic tip! And if you're not as hungry at lunch, take it home and have it for dinner or the next day.
  • Go for the bigger portions. Those are usually better deals than the smaller portions because you can have leftovers - it's like two meals instead of one.
  • Go all-you-can-eat. It's the American way. You can get some great deals on buffets. Eat what you can in one sitting and you'll be good for a while (find a breakfast buffet if possible and it could last you all day!).
  • Think about it. Do you REALLY need to go out to eat? Don't you have those ingredients at home? Giving it a once-over for me helps me prioritize and think about what I could be spending that money on instead.

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    • profile image

      webtech coupons 2 years ago

      useful tips for save money by groupon coupons.

    • LeisureLife profile image

      LeisureLife 3 years ago from USA

      Great tips, thanks for writing this hub!

    • cosmomed profile image

      cosmomed 4 years ago from Sarawak. Malaysia

      Groupon is a good way on saving money on food, but here in Malaysia Groupon coupons only available at expensive restaurants.

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 5 years ago from Alabama, USA

      We look for deals before dining out. Just today, my husband and I went to Western Sizzlin for lunch because the offed buffet for 5.99 for seniors.

      We also clip coupons to some of the fast food places we like to eat. Thanks for sharing your suggestions.

    • profile image

      Giselle Maine 5 years ago

      Great tips here. I never knew the one about cold vs hot food at sandwich outlets! That is really helpful.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Good ideas. Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Great tips for those of us that prefer to eat out. I'm not big on cooking at home for the very same reasons you mentioned. I'm always looking for coupons and such. I need to look into Restaurant.com and Groupon for discounts. I have heard of them both, but haven't checked out their websites. Thanks for sharing your suggestions!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 5 years ago from New York

      Interesting tips! I'll need to look into some of them more. I never even considered a difference in taxes between cold and hot foods.

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 5 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Very helpful tips. I always order water when sitting down at a restaurant. Many places where I live charge approximately $1.99 for a glass of sweet tea or a soda! Thanks for sharing. Voted up, interesting, useful.

    • profile image

      mymoneywish 5 years ago

      thanks for these tips and tricks. Really useful information and stuff that will definitely come in handy!

    • joshnjessi profile image

      Where plus size women&men get together 5 years ago

      Lovely smile:)