I know, I know. When things are tight financially, the last thing you should do is go out to eat! In fact, cutting back on dining out has saved us a ton of money over the past year, and I highly recommend it.
Sometimes, you just need to go out. For your own sanity. For the health of your marriage. Whatever the reason may be. Every once in a while, it’s good to ditch the kids (or dogs, in my case), get cleaned up, and dine in a restaurant that doesn’t allow you to watch TV while you eat. You know what I mean?
The good news is, you can go out to eat without breaking the bank. Here’s how.
- Plan ahead. No last-minute, spur-of-the-moment decisions allowed! Plan for the week or month ahead, depending on how you budget, and set aside money for dining out ahead of time. Ryan and I know at the beginning of the week, if we’ll be going out on the weekend, so we set the money aside then. Occasionally, that means turning down friends or family for a dinner out because we haven’t accounted for it in our budget, but that’s okay. There’s always next time, as long as you plan ahead.
- Pay for discounts. Another way to stay on budget while treating yourself to a meal out, is to shop for discounted restaurant gift cards or certificates. For example, you can buy $75 worth of gift cards to Longhorn Steakhouse for $71.48 at Sam’s Club. Or, you can buy a $20 certificate to a local restaurant for only $12 on Groupon. Some other resources for gift cards and certificates are Ebay, Raise, Cardpool, Local Flavor, and Restaurant.com.
- Look for coupons. Yes, restaurants have coupons, too! Occasionally, you’ll find a few in your Sunday newspaper, but most of the time, you should go to the source. Go to the restaurant’s webpage and see if they have any coupons available (they may require you sign up for their mailing list). Follow them on Facebook or other social media platforms, so you’ll be notified of any specials or discounts they’re running. Local Flavor also has an abundance of coupons that you can print or download to your phone, in addition to the certificates they sell.
There you have it! Three easy ways to save money the next time you want to go out to a restaurant. You don’t have to do it all the time but, just like it’s okay to have the occasional dessert when you’re dieting, it’s also okay to go out to eat every now and then when you’re living on a budget.