Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Save Money while Dining Out

Dining out can be expensive. Some spend hundreds, if not thousands per year on meals alone! Here’s how to enjoy dining in Restaurants without going broke.

1. Look Before you Tip! Automatic gratuity is common at many restaurants, especially for larger groups or parties. Don’t shortchange yourself by double tipping! Always look to see if a tip has been added before adding it in.

2. Coupons are your Friend-Use them whenever possible. You can usually find them online saving up to 50% of your bill, or in other places like the Entertainment book, newspaper coupons etc. Some people feel silly pulling them out or even cheap, but in today’s economy I assure you nobody will look down on you for wanting to save a little money.

3. Go Family Style-Sharing dishes is not only a tradition in many countries, but with larger portions, it is the perfect way to share with friend(s) or family. This way you get to try a little bit of everything and discover your favorite dishes, without the price to match.

4. Share Dessert! Sometimes you want something a little sweet to cleanse the palate after your dinner but aren’t sure you want to drop $6 on one. Sharing a dessert amongst 2-4 people will not only save you money, but the extra calories too! It’s a great way to enjoy the finer things without feeling guilty afterwards.

5. Insist on a Separate Bill- Many people enjoy eating in large groups but when the bill comes a few people always wind up putting in a little more for those that didn’t put in enough, to ensure the bill is paid with a suitable tip. An easy way to avoid overpaying it to request your own bill. You can also control the tip based on your specific experience.

6. Avoid the Alcohol! There is no faster way to drive up the check than to order alcohol. Sure it’s social but why not have a drink before heading out of the house. Instead, drink water with lemon a refillable drink like iced tea or coffee. You will notice a dramatic reduction in your restaurant bills if you change this ONE thing!

7. Save Room for your Entrée-Skip appetizers when you can, or share one or two with another person/couple to try out different items. Most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomach, so to speak. They feel so hungry when they order that they order too much and often feel stuffed by the second bite of their entrée. However, if you order an entrée only and are still hungry afterwards, then order more food at that point. If you absolutely must, share an appetizer, is just as fulfilling.

8. Extra Sauce is Extra Cost! With the increase in grocery items these days, so too comes the increase for restaurants, and believe me, they WILL pass that cost onto you when it comes to the little extras. If you want extra sauce or dressing, many eateries are adding those costs onto your bill, the $2 and $3 here and there starts to add up.
9. Share your Celebration- Tell your server what you’re celebrating. Many servers will even ask you if you’re celebrating a special evening etc. Often, especially for birthdays, you might snag a free dessert, a discount etc. It’s worth it and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

10. Speak Up- Places like Starbucks are notorious for letting their customer switch up their drink if they don’t like it. Well, the same holds true for restaurants. Let your server know that you are dissatisfied and why. If they don’t offer it up, tell them you’d like to return it to the kitchen but would instead like to have the “x” dish. There is no sense paying for a meal that you don’t enjoy. If it’s just a matter of food being overly well done etc, they will in some cases comp it on your bill or at least provide a discount all while replacing it with a new meal.

11. Save money by always bringing your leftovers home. You may not want to think of another bite while you’re at the restaurant but leftovers can turn into a snack or tomorrow’s lunch. So, why not save on your grocery cost by bringing home whatever there is left over, no matter how small the portion may seem. After all, you did pay for it!

12. Happy Hour! Many restaurants offer happy hour, and we're not just talking greasy wings at the bar kind of happy hour. Many sushi and other restaurants offer certain times and weekdays (usually between 4-7pm) where a variety of meals are offered at discounted rates or even half price! Use this to your advantage and head to a restaurant after work to catch these great deals. Also note that lunch is always cheaper than dinner!

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