Saving when eating out

I want to thank Cas in Ohio for suggesting this topic via FaceBook. Cas is entered into the drawing to win the Kill-a-Watt Energy Monitor. Ask a question for your chance to win.

Eating out can be really expensive. Here are some of my tips to save when eating out:

I love Restaurant.com. This is a site that sells gift certificates to local restaurants at discounted prices. Generally, a $25 gift certificate is $10. If you are going to use this site, register first and wait for your first email from them. Generally, they send out codes multiple times a month so you can get $25 certificates for as low as $3. Most of the restaurants have a minimum food bill (some of them are twice the amount of the certificate). A while back, we went to a really good restaurant in East Hartford, CT. We had two dinners (veal parm and chicken parm) with salad and bread, plus two sodas. With tip (18% of the total bill before discount), the total was $17.00. We paid $4 for the cerificate. Not bad for $21, plus it allows us to try out new places that we would not have normally tried. And the best part is that you print the certificates from your computer so you can purchase them and use right away.

I am a huge fan of eating at local restaurants. Many of them have great deals if you eat early (4:00 to 6:00) or on certain days. I find that most local restaurants are less expensive than a chain with similar food. Plus, you are more likely to get soup or salad with your meal than if you go to a chain. I got coffee this morning at a local coffee shop and eatery in my hometown. A medium coffee is 50 cents less than the chain up the street and I like their coffee better. If you got a coffee from your local coffee shop every day before work rather than going to the chain coffee place, you could save $130 per year. That’s not bad. Also, remember that by supporting your small businesses, you are supporting your community.

See if your favorite restaurants have a website with an email newsletter. Many restaurants send coupons and deals through their newsletter. Some restaurants have promotions for free food.Also check your local paper for deals and coupons. That coupon from your daily paper might pay for the newspaper for a month.

Don’t drink alcohol at restaurants. The markup is huge. If you are so inclined, have a glass of wine when you get home.  This can save you at least $4 per person each time you eat out. If you want to have a drink, just have one and order a glass of water with it. You’ll drink slower and stay hydrated. If you each out once a week, you can save $208 per year per person by cutting out one drink.

Get takeout. Some nights when I don’t want to cook, I’ll order food and have my husband pick it up on the way home. You’ll save money by not ordering beverages and you’ll save on the tip. It’s an easy way to save 15-25% off your bill. Unpack the food, light some candles and have a nice dinner at home. If your average restaurant bill is $30 and you tip 15%, getting take out once a week rather than eating at a restaurant will save you $234 a year. Do you order a couple sodas with that meal? At two bucks per soda, getting take out could save you an additional $208 per year. Add those savings together and you’ve got almost $450 in your pocket at the end of the year.

I also use an Entertainment Book. These are great for fast food and local restaurants. Most of the offers are BOGO (buy one, get one free). There are also great coupons for auto repair, movie tickets, local attractions and more. The book costs $30 in my area but we make that up in about one month.

My husband and I try to use some sort of coupon or deal everytime we eat out. There are times when we don’t, but when that is the case, we are usually eating at a local place where the prices are good and the food is awesome.

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