When times are tough, eating out can be one small pleasure that most of us find hard to give up. Especially on the weekend after a busy week of work, school, cooking and cleaning, it feels like a great reward to have a meal served to you and not have to do the dishes!
For lots of us, eating out has also become a form of entertainment too. Trying new foods, checking out new local restaurants, or even just experiencing the anticipation of enjoying a favorite dish at a favorite restaurant are all things we can look forward to as we go through the week. No wonder there are long lines at so many restaurants on Saturday night!
Though it can be expensive to eat out, not many people are ready to give up eating out all together. And, you don’t necessarily have to give up restaurant dining completely and replace it with cheaper fast food meals. Maybe just cutting back to once or twice a week will be enough to have an effect on your budget. Don’t despair! You may just need to take a look at how you are eating out.
Rethinking Eating Out
Here are some tips to help you keep the restaurant tab reasonable and not spend your hard-earned money for little value.
- Skip the Alcohol (or BYOB) – Restaurants make a killing on beverages, especially those with alcohol. And if you compare the cost of a glass of wine in a restaurant to a full bottle at home, you definitely feel ripped off. More BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) restaurants are popping up, but if you can’t find one, and you can’t give up that drink, get takeout!
- Find Inclusive Meals or Combos – Some national and local chains, and even savvier local restaurants offer combination meals. These usually include an appetizer, entrée and dessert for one set price. Sometimes there’s even a two-for deal, because most people eat out with someone else.
- Take Advantage of Happy Hour – This is the latest secret in cheap restaurant dining. Even some top-end restaurants are getting in on it by offering many of their entrees at Happy Hour prices in the bar seating area. Often the Happy Hour specials are scaled-down versions of the normal dinner entrees, but surprisingly, some places offer the full-sized portion at a cheaper price.
- Find “Kids Eat Free” Deals – Some chain restaurants offer Kids Eat Free Deals on certain nights. It may be on a Monday or Tuesday, not your normal night to eat out, but you might not be able to resist the savings if you have more than one child. You could easily save $20 on your bill with this plan.
See?! There are little hacks you can use if you really don’t want to give up on the pleasure of eating out, but your budget is being stretched just a little too tight. And don’t forget to download the SideMoney app. You can earn free gift cards just for doing what you love online!