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Last updated Jun. 28, 2024 by Peter Jakes

How to Save Money Eating Out

Dining out can be a delightful experience, but it can also quickly become a drain on your wallet if not managed wisely. However, enjoying the occasional meal at a restaurant does not have to break the bank. With a little planning, resourcefulness, and savvy, you can relish restaurant meals without harming your budget. Here are some practical tips to help you save money while eating out.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning is an essential strategy for saving money, and dining out is no exception. Know your dining schedule in advance to avoid impulse decisions that can lead to overspending.

  • Research Menus Online: Many restaurants post their menus online, allowing you to check prices and plan your meal choices ahead of time.
  • Look for Specials and Promotions: Restaurants often have specials, happy hours, or promotional deals. Knowing these in advance can help you dine out more economically.
  • Consider Off-Peak Hours: Eating out during off-peak hours, such as late lunch instead of dinner, can also be more affordable as many places offer reduced prices during these times.

2. Use Coupons and Discount Apps

One of the easiest ways to cut down on dining expenses is to use coupons and discount apps.

  • Coupon Websites: Websites like Groupon or RetailMeNot offer discounts on meals at various restaurants.
  • Restaurant Loyalty Programs: Sign up for loyalty programs that offer rewards, discounts, or even free meals after a certain number of visits.
  • Credit Card Rewards: Use credit cards that offer cashback or reward points for dining out.

3. Share Meals

Portion sizes at many restaurants are often large enough to share.

  • Share with a Friend: Splitting an entree with a dining companion can cut the cost of your meal in half.
  • Order Appetizers Instead of Entrees: Appetizers are generally cheaper and can serve as a smaller meal if you’re not too hungry.

4. Drink Water

One of the simplest ways to reduce your bill is to skip beverages and drink water instead.

  • Avoid Alcohol and Soft Drinks: These drinks can significantly increase your bill. Stick to free tap water.
  • BYOB: Some restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle of wine with a small corkage fee, which is usually cheaper than buying a bottle there.

5. Opt for Takeout

Getting food to go can be less expensive than dining in.

  • Save on Tips and Service Charges: Takeout allows you to save on tipping and service charges.
  • Enjoy Leftovers: Order a larger portion and split it into multiple meals, enjoying the leftovers at home later.

6. Be Smart About Tipping

Tipping is an important part of eating out, but you can be smart about it to save money without being stingy.

  • Understand Tipping Etiquette: Make sure you understand the standard tipping rates in your area. Over-tipping out of ignorance can add unnecessary costs.
  • Happy Hours and Specials: Some places might already include gratuity in the bill during specials or happy hours.

7. Take Advantage of Student and Senior Discounts

Many restaurants offer discounts for students and seniors. Always ask if such discounts are available.


Q: How can I maximize savings with restaurant loyalty programs?

A: Sign up for multiple programs to receive various offers and discounts. Regular visits can accumulate points that translate to free or discounted meals.

Q: What are the best apps for finding restaurant deals?

A: Some of the best apps include Groupon, Yelp, and OpenTable. They offer promotions and discounts that can significantly cut your dining costs.

Q: Is it better to choose chain restaurants or local eateries for savings?

A: Both have their perks. Chain restaurants often have consistent pricing and ongoing promotions, while local eateries might have better specials and more flexible pricing.

Q: How can I ensure a quality meal while focusing on saving money?

A: Research restaurants ahead of time to look for reviews and recommendations. This way, you can find places that offer good value.


By planning meals, taking advantage of discounts and special offers, sharing meals, opting for takeout, being smart about tipping, and using loyalty programs, you can significantly cut down on the cost of dining out. Small, mindful choices can add up to big savings over time, allowing you to enjoy the joys of eating out without the accompanying financial strain.

✓ Short Answer

Planning, utilizing discounts, sharing meals, opting for water, and taking advantage of loyalty programs and off-peak hours can significantly reduce your dining expenses without compromising on the overall experience.

Further Tips for Saving Money

8. Choose Buffet or All-You-Can-Eat Restaurants Wisely

While buffets or all-you-can-eat restaurants can offer value for money, they can also lead to overeating. Choose them wisely based on what is offered and your appetite.

  • Stick to Your Budget: Decide in advance what you are willing to spend and stick to it, even at a buffet.
  • Skip Extra Costs: Avoid extras like premium drinks or desserts that can quickly add up.

9. Use Group Deals

Dining out as a group can help you save money through special group deals.

  • Family Meals: Opt for family-sized meals that are often more economical when shared.
  • Group Promotional Discounts: Check if the restaurant has any promotional discounts for larger groups.

10. Try Lunch Instead of Dinner

Many restaurants offer the same items on their lunch menu at a lower price than their dinner menu.

  • Lunch Specials: Take advantage of lunch specials which can be significantly cheaper than dinner.
  • Same Food, Lower Price: Order the same meal you would have at dinner for a fraction of the cost.

FAQ Section

Q: How can I save money at upscale restaurants?

A: Dine during lunch hours, share dishes, order appetizers instead of main courses, and look for prix fixe menus which often provide a multi-course meal for a set price.

Q: Is it cheaper to dine out on specific days of the week?

A: Yes, many restaurants offer specials on slower days like Mondays or Tuesdays to attract more customers. Check the restaurant’s website or call ahead to see if any deals are available.

Q: Can I negotiate prices at restaurants?

A: While negotiating prices isn’t customary at most restaurants, you can look for promotional deals, use coupons, and take advantage of loyalty program discounts to reduce costs.

Q: Are there any etiquette tips for sharing meals?

A: Yes, always check if the restaurant has a sharing fee. Some upscale restaurants might charge a fee for shared meals. Also, politely ask your dining partner about their preferences to ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Q: What are common mistakes people make that increase their dining costs?

A: Common mistakes include ordering drinks besides water, dining out during peak hours, neglecting to use available discounts or loyalty programs, and failing to plan meals in advance.

Q: How can my family save money when dining out?

A: Look for kid-friendly restaurants that offer free or discounted meals for children. Also, consider sharing larger portions, bringing your own drinks, and dining during family special hours.

By implementing these tips and strategies, dining out doesn’t have to be synonymous with overspending. You’ll be on your way to enjoying delicious meals while maintaining a healthy budget.

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