A young couple smiles while they eat dinner because they saved money with coupons and specials.

How to Save Money Eating Out

Eating out is a convenient change of pace, but it can cost you if you make it regular event. Unfortunately, when households must cut costs, the restaurant experience is one of the first items to be trimmed from the budget. Here are some ways you can still enjoy eating out every now and then without totally wrecking your budget.

Discount Deals

There are many third party companies that offer downloadable discount apps and subscriptions. You can access these discounts by downloading the company's app to a smartphone or other mobile device. Most discount companies also allow consumers to subscribe to receive emails that advertise deals, which typically include restaurants. You simply present the coupon from the third party company to the restaurant to redeem the discount.

Daily Specials

Strategically planning when you will visit a restaurant can lead to tremendous savings. For example, many bars and pubs offer happy hour specials on food and drinks. Restaurants often have a special reduced price lunchtime menu or a daily special on certain items. Upon arrival, you should ask your server to tell you about any specials for the day.

Skip Alcohol and Sodas

Bars and restaurants make a large bulk of their revenue on alcohol sales. As a consumer, you can slash your bill by simply sticking to water or even a soft drink. You can easily save yourself money this way, and it also prevents you from drinking and driving.

Stick to Appetizers

Appetizers are typically less expensive than entrees. Oftentimes, the appetizers are simply smaller portions of the main meal offerings. By exercising portion control and simply ordering an appetizer, restaurant goers can save money. When meeting up with friends, it can be cheaper to order a couple different appetizers and then split the cost.

Use a Booking Website

Third party websites for making dinner reservations may also offer savings. By booking through sites like OpenTable and Savored, you can save upwards of 30 to 40 percent through discounts offered by the reservation site; no coupons are necessary.

Always Tip

The tip might seem like the obvious way to save money when you eat out, but no matter how tight your budget is, you should always leave an adequate tip for your server. This simply shows appreciation for the work and attention he or she gave you. Remember, your server is probably on a budget as well and waiting tables is his or her livelihood.

Fortunately, being on a tighter budget does not necessarily mean bar and restaurant dining has to come to an end. Like saving in all other areas of your life, you simply have to think ahead and do a little research. These practical tips will take the sting out of spending money when dining out.

Last Updated: September 17, 2015