5 Ways to Lower the Cost of Eating Out

The restaurant experience is a form of entertainment that can easily add several hundred dollars to the monthly budget. There are creative ways to save money on the cost of a restaurant meal, giving you the experience without the high price tag.

Put it in the budget. Rather than having a general food budget that includes all food, including groceries, separate eating out as its own item. Having a specific amount for outside food will help you track costs and stay within your budget each month.

Make it a date. Impromptu meals out can wreck a budget just as the impulsive spending of any kind. Have a specific day you eat out to reduce ordering pizza because you are too tired to cook. It will also allow you to take advantage of specials like dollar wings on Tuesdays or kids eat free on Wednesday.

Find discounts. The web has made a sport of couponing. Web sites such as Living Social and Restaurant.com offer savings up to 50% with a simple search. Local discount books can also provide a source of discounted meals. Other discount strategies include buying discounted gift cards, signing up for promotional emails from your favorite restaurants, and getting birthday freebies.

Order drinks sparingly. Beverages can double the cost of a meal if you add your favorite alcoholic beverages. Drinking water or choices with free refills can lower or eliminate the drink portion of the bill.

Take advantage of takeout. Picking up food and bringing it home will eliminate both the cost of beverages and the 20% tip. Foregoing the restaurant experience lets you eat out more during the month while staying within budget.

You can enjoy your meals out and save money by rethinking the way you enjoy a meal out.