Is dining out chewing through your wallet? You don’t need to avoid restaurants altogether. Eating out on a budget and on occasion will allow you to treat yourself while upholding your financial well-being. Below are a few creative approaches to make restaurant meals more affordable during your next outing.
How to make eating out more affordable
1. Opt for water
Beverages at restaurants, whether it be soft drinks or alcohol, can significantly increase your bill. At a fast-casual restaurant, one soda alone can cost around $3 (plus tax and tip). If you’re interested in saving money, opt for tap water – it’s free! You can still enjoy soda at home or work; purchasing them from the grocery store is much less expensive comparatively.
2. Use a credit card
The best credit cards allow you to earn points or rack up cashback. The former can be redeemed for things like gift cards to fund your next restaurant outing. Cashback, on the other hand, can help offset costs because you can apply it to your card balance as a statement credit.
3. Search for coupons
Before heading out the door, search online or in the newspaper for coupons. You can also check the restaurant’s website or Facebook page for exclusive offers or coupons. Sunday newspapers or neighborhood newspapers often include coupons to local favorites.
4. Join the rewards club
Many restaurants offer a rewards club that sends out coupons for free items or discounts throughout the year. They may even offer free meals for your birthday! Lately, many restaurants have begun rewarding customers for downloading or using their mobile app. Take advantage of these discounts or freebies – especially if it’s a place you frequent.
5. Take advantage of specials
Restaurants may offer special prices on food if you dine early or late. It could even be a daily special during the week such as $1 taco nights or other specials. Dining on national days (e.g. National Ice Cream Day or National Chicken Wing Day) means you could take advantage of free or discounted food. There’s a day of observance for almost every food you can think of – stay tuned on social media to see what’s coming up and see an unofficial National Food Holiday Calendar here.
6. Buy discounted gift cards
You can get more food for your dollar when buying restaurant gift cards at less than face value. Restaurant.com, for example, is a website that sells certificates for a fraction of their worth. You can purchase gift cards or certificates to your favorite restaurants for less from sites such as Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com. Additionally, warehouse stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club sell packs of gift cards for a reduced price.
7. Look for kids-eat-free deals
Eating out on a budget with family? Restaurant tabs can add up with kids. Some restaurants offer kids-eat-free deals on certain nights (or some, all the time!) where you can save quite a bit of money and still enjoy a night out with loved ones. A quick search online can show local restaurants where kids can eat free or nearly free. Just be sure to call and check before loading up the car. Some deals may not apply to all restaurant locations, especially if they belong to a chain of restaurants.
Dining out is fun and can be relaxing – avoiding it altogether for the sake of your budget isn’t. By using the tips above, living within your means, and tracking your progress, eating out on a budget is an attainable goal. General Electric Credit Union (GECU) members who use Online Banking or our mobile app can utilize Money Management to easily track spending right their device. Plus, we offer both points-based and cashback credit cards with perks that satisfy. Explore our menu of options, then apply for one online in minutes!