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7 Ways to Save Money When Dining Out

Who doesn’t love to go out to eat? You get a night off from cooking and doing dishes, you get tasty food that you may not be able to recreate at home, and you get to relax. Unfortunately, you usually have to pay a rather large bill, especially if you are dining out with your family. Eat out several nights a week, and you could easily spend $400 to $800 a month on dining out alone!

However, there are several ways you can enjoy eating out without paying full price.

Consider the following strategies:

  1. Skip the drinks. A bottle of beer can run $5 to $8, and even a soft drink often costs $2 to $3. You can drink these so much cheaper at home. Just have water at the restaurant.
  2. Take advantage of Facebook deals. Many restaurants offer incentives when they are trying to grow their Facebook page. For instance, my husband and I love Famous Dave’s restaurant. When they offered a buy one get one free coupon to people who liked their Facebook page, we both liked it and got to eat at Famous Dave’s twice, but we only paid for one of us each time. Likewise, Outback Steakhouse gave out free steak dinners one time; I snagged a voucher, and we used it when we were on vacation. (You may want to wait to like a restaurant’s Facebook page until they run a promotional offer; also, even if you aren’t currently on Facebook, it is worth signing up just to get companies’ freebies.)
  3. Eat where kids’ meals are free. Many restaurants including Chili’s and Applebee’s sometimes offer up to two free kids’ meals with the purchase of one adult meal. This can be a great way to save money! Call your local restaurants and see if they have a regular day when kids eat free and plan to dine out then, but you might want to go early because the restaurant will likely be busy.
  4. Use restaurant.com certificates. To get the best deal with this, try to choose a restaurant that requires you only spend $35 if you buy a $25 voucher. You will buy the voucher and get $25 off your order, but many restaurants stipulate you have to spend $50, which is $25 you must pay out of pocket. Instead, choose restaurants that only require you to spend $35, and you only have to pay $10 out of pocket. Stretch your savings even further by buying when the restaurant.com vouchers are on sale. Sometimes you can get the $25 off certificates for only $4 instead of the stated price of $15.
  5. Use deal sites. There are plenty of deal sites you can use to save money on dining out. Popular ones include Groupon, Living Social, and Double Take Deals. Most require that you pay $10 upfront to get $25 off when you visit the restaurant.
  6. Join the restaurant’s e-mail list. I like Qdoba, and they frequently send out e-mails with coupons or promotions. We regularly get buy one get one free coupons from them. Joining your favorite restaurants’ e-mail list is a great way to get free food.
  7. Take advantage of nightly specials. Many restaurants have specials listed when you first enter the restaurant. These nightly specials are often 15 to 20% off the menu price. We often try to buy our meals from the list to save.

Another great way to save is to order take out [3]. You don’t pay for the tip or the drinks.

Dining out can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these tips and save money every time you dine out.

What are your favorite ways to save when dining out?

(Photo: adforce1 [4])