Dining Out on a Budget

Just because you’re trying to save money and stick to a budget doesn’t mean you should never get to eat a meal out of the house. Going out to dinner can be a very enjoyable excursion for the whole family. It’s nice to have a change of scenery, do something special and have someone else do the cooking. You can try new foods and explore new cultures. Dining out is more than just grabbing dinner, it’s an entire experience. You may want to eat out to enjoy some alone time with your spouse, get the kids out of the house, or just because you’re out of groceries and don’t feel like shopping tonight. Whatever the reason, everyone should get to eat out once and a while. Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s still possible to go out for dinner. Here are some tips for dining out on a budget.

Save on Kid’s Meals

If you’re going out to eat with the whole family and you have small children, look for family-oriented establishments. Your young kids probably don’t eat very much, so go somewhere with a kid’s menu. There are lots of restaurants that run “kids eat free” specials, so look for those. You might want to even consider ordering yourself something that your child will like, especially if he or she is just a nibbler, and sharing it.

Drink Water

One of the quickest ways to run up your tab is to order beverages. Sodas, coffee, alcoholic drinks, and teas can be very expensive, and even more so if refills aren’t included. You can save a few dollars per person just by only drinking water. Not to mention it’s healthier, too.

Use Deal Sites

If you want to go out to eat, take advantage of daily deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial when they offer restaurant vouchers. You can also use a website like Restaurant.com to get $25 vouchers for as little as $2. Be careful to read the fine print, though, as many of these vouchers can only be used on certain days and require a minimum purchase. If the fine print works for you and you’d easily be spending the minimum anyway, consider getting a voucher ahead of time to save big on your total.


If you’re going to a restaurant that has notoriously large portions, consider sharing an appetizer with someone else. You could easily split what you get, and most places don’t mind if you ask for an extra plate.

Go Early

If you want to eat dinner out, consider going earlier than usual to take advantage of early bird specials. Find out if the place you want to eat at has an early bird menu and what time it runs, then take advantage of it.

Use Coupons

Look in your local papers and online for coupons to restaurants. If you want to go somewhere in particular, visit their website or do an online search to see if you can find any coupons for it. Sometimes you can find coupons for a dollar amount off, or a free appetizer, or an entire free meal.

Get a Doggie Bag

If you have any leftovers, be sure to bring them home to stretch your value as far as possible. If you can use your leftovers as the next day’s lunch or dinner, you will be getting even more for your buck.

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