When finances get tight or you are saving up for a wedding, a holiday or an investment, eating out is often one of the first luxuries to be cut. However, if you are trying to improve the quality of your life by improving the quality of your finances, that doesn’t have to be done at the expense of all of the perks in life. There are plenty of ways you can still afford the luxury of restaurant meals without breaking the budget:
- Share an order. Portion control is an important step in maintaining a healthy weight, but this practice can go out the window when you dine out and are served huge portions on even bigger plates. While this is great value, it is only a good buy if you eat it all, and instead of continuing to eat until you can’t move, order one meal and ask for two plates so you can share your order with your partner or a friend.
- Free drinks. Drinks are a significant part of any restaurant bill, especially if you are drinking wine by the glass and even bringing your own wine attracts a corkage fee. Therefore, stick to water while you’re out, or look for free refill offers
- Restaurant coupons. You can find coupons for your favourite restaurants in the local papers and junk mail. The offers could be buy one get one free or a discount off of the total meal price, to put meals out back on your budget.
- Have lunch or dessert. Dinner is the most expensive time to eat out at a restaurant, so if you want the experience without the expense, go out for lunch instead. Or, you could have dinner at home and go to your favourite restaurant or cafe for dessert and still enjoy a delicious night out, for a fraction of the price. Also dining during the week can be cheaper than going out for dinner on the weekend or a public holiday.
- Order in. If you want the food but not necessarily in the restaurant, order your meals to take home. This will save you buying wine and drinks or paying corkage, you won’t have to pay a tip and you won’t be tempted to order more food or expensive desserts by the smells and sights wafting from the other tables.
- Take away. When you are ordering your meals, if you’re not sure you’ll be able to eat it all but aren’t able or willing to share, order something which will travel easily and can be reheated so you can take home a doggy bag and have the rest of your meal for lunch tomorrow.
- Restaurant loyalty programs. Most of us have a favourite restaurant so make sure you are rewarded for that loyalty by joining in any restaurant loyalty programs. Some restaurants will have an email newsletter list you can sign up to, and may even send you out specials on your birthday. In other cases you can use third party sites such as www.opentable.com which allows you to search and book restaurants and when you make a reservation through the website you earn points which go towards cash back offers on your meals. At www.idine.com you can link your credit card to the site so that when you dine out you can qualify for up to 15% off of your meal simply by filling out an online survey afterwards.
- Restaurant rewards credit cards. Many credit cards – especially gold credit cards or dedicated rewards credit cards – will offer you specials and discount at selected restaurants. Therefore, if you are in the market for a new credit card, look for one which is partnered with your favourite restaurants and you could receive a complementary bottle of wine, bonus credit card rewards points or cash back on your meal.
- Take note of specials. Many restaurants will run specials such which may mean that every Wednesday night is risotto night so you get a risotto and a glass of wine at a discounted price. Other restaurants will have nights where kids eat free, or early bird specials. It can also pay to look at the specials boards when you are in a restaurant, as the specials should be things which the restaurant has an abundance of because the ingredients are in season for example, and so they can offer the meals at a cheaper price than usual.
Alban has written dozen of articles on how to save money. When is not blog posting, Alban reviews high interest online savings accounts at Savings Account Finder.