Enjoy eating out at restaurants, but hate spending the money? Me too! Here are some tried and true tips for how to save money eating out. Many of these will also save you money when eating at fast food restaurants!
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1. Sign up for restaurant loyalty/reward programs.
You’ll get emails and/or texts to notify you of their specials, discounts, and often receive a special offer on your birthday! Check if they offer an app in your appstore- most of them have coupons or ways to earn rewards. If you don’t want them cluttering up your email inbox, create a new email account just for newsletters.
2. Pay with giftcards you bought at a discount.
Sam’s, Costco, Amazon, Walmart, and Target all sell gift cards and have sales when you can get them even cheaper! Sometimes your local grocery stores and drug stores will also have good gift card promotions.
Many online sites now sell discounted gift cards, and allow you to buy or exchanged gift cards at a discount. You can get a great deal and make some money back on gift cards you won’t use.
3. Have your spouse sign up for rewards programs too.
Restaurants may send different promotions to different customers, and your spouse will get any special birthday offer too!
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4. Order a small drink.
Craving that soda or tea with your meal? Get the smallest size if it comes with unlimited refills. It’s overpriced as it is, so why pay more for a larger size when it’s unlimited?
5. Find out what days/nights the restaurants have specials or Happy Hours.
Some restaurants may have a different special every day, or have half price appetizers at certain times. Earlier in the week they might have specials to bring in more customers. Check your favorite restaurant and plan ahead.
6. Don’t order a kid’s meal, or do!
As long as the restaurant doesn’t mind, share your meals family style and you won’t need to pay extra for a kid’s meal for your child. Or if they’ll let you as an adult order off the kid’s menu, you can get a smaller portion and save some money there too!
7. Drink water instead of sodas or teas.
A soda can easily cost $3 at a restaurant, adding almost $10 for three people- if you have a bigger family, it’ll be even more! Save your money, and your health, and drink water. (Or save your sugar intake for a yummy desert later!)
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8. Order a larger size meal.
If there’s a lunch serving and dinner serving, sometimes it’s better to order a dinner serving and take the rest home for another meal later in the week.
9. Order appetizers only and share food.
You’ll get a wider variety of food and you can also take advantage of refillable appetizers at some restaurants. Or order an appetizer and a larger meal and share.
10. Look for coupons in local papers, magazines and flyers in your mailbox.
11. At fast food restaurants- order separately.
At fast food restaurants, you and your spouse can save more money by ordering separately and taking advantage of multiple deals or coupons.
12. Check for deals beforehand.
Do a quick Google search for the name of the restaurant + coupons to see what you can find. Also look at Groupon, Living Social, local deal sites, Slickdeals, Brad’s Deals and the restaurant’s social media pages.
13. Get it to go!
You might often get larger portions and a discount for ordering “To Go” online or via their app. You’ll also save money on drinks and desserts by eating dinner at home.
14. Take advantage of holiday deals!
During some holidays (like Christmas) or special times of year (like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or graduation season), restaurants will offer free gift cards with a gift card purchase. Check your favorite restaurants and be ready to buy! Get some extras for stocking stuffers and birthdays coming up!
15. Use credit cards that give you points or cash back.
Credit card companies may offer more points or extra cash back for eating out at restaurants. (Just be responsible with your credit card spending!)
16. Use free gift cards!
Earn points by shopping, taking surveys or watching videos online and redeem them for restaurant gift cards at sites like Swagbucks, iBotta, Rakuten, InboxDollars, instaGC!
17. Eat a late lunch and have a smaller dinner at home.
Save some money when eating out and take advantage of lower lunch prices. Bonus- you won’t have that stuffed feeling after dinner. (I’ve been there, bleh.)
18. Ask if they offer discounts.
Especially if you’re a senior, first responder, military personnel, veteran, student or teacher. The restaurant may only have certain days or times when they offer these discounts.
It never hurts to ask- small savings add up!
19. Buy local fundraiser coupon books or purchase Entertainment Books.
To get the most for your money, take a good look at the restaurants available in your area, and expiration date(s), and consider what offers you’ll really use before that time. The fundraiser books will also help out a local organization in your community!
20. Kids eat free specials!
Several restaurants have kids eat free specials on certain days or time(s) of day. Normally there is a purchase requirement with it, so read the fine print.
21. Look for combo meals.
Lots of restaurants offer a set course for two, with some combination of drinks, appetizer, main course, and/or dessert.
22. Take advantage of survey receipt offers of free/discounted food.
Many restaurants offer free food or a discount to use on your next purchase in exchange for you completing their survey. Check the bottom or the back of your receipt for the survey invitation.
I’ve saved the best for last-
23. STACK YOUR DEALS!
Stack any of these whenever possible to save the MOST money when eating out. Ask your server ahead of time and read the fine print on coupons and specials. Stacking may be prohibited, but using a gift card and a coupon will normally be accepted.
Reminder: If you had great service at the restaurant, don’t forget to tip your server based on the amount of the bill before coupons!
BONUS TIP: Order off of the $1 menu!
Several restaurants have a $1 menu or a “value” menu where you can get great deals. For example, these restaurants all have some sort of value menu or dollar menu:
Or Don’t Eat Out?
Of course the ultimate money saver would be not eating out, but eating in restaurants can be such a fun treat! Saving money while doing it makes it even better!
I hope these tips make dining out on a budget a little easier for you and your family.
Do you have a favorite hack for saving money at restaurants? Comment below!
My husband and I do a lot of these. We joined the loyalty programs for all of our favorite restaurants and check out the deals before we decide where we are going for date night. If we really want to save, we order an appetizer and share an entree. Good tip about both of us joining the program separate! We will have to add that one.
It is cheaper for us to eat out as it is only my husband and I right now but these are GREAT tips and suggestions to help us save even more! I can’t wait to utilize some of these great tips. Thanks for sharing!
I love this list and will have to try some of the tips! I like #9 to order from the appetizer menu and share. That way we can have a good variety and same money in the process.
I love also boxing up half as soon as I get my meal. I usually can eat the whole meal, but I know I don’t need to and it will save me money!!