Reduce Dining Out Costs With These 5 Tips

Dining Out Costs

I don’t know about your area, but in Denver it seems like there has been a recent explosion in the number of new restaurants. From my personal observation, the increase seems to be tied to more and more low to mid cost restaurants opening; i.e. Chipotle, Panera Bread, Noodles & Co and Garbanzos. There must be a demand for it, but it makes us wonder, the money conscious guys we are, are there any dining out deals to be had? Can they help us reduce dining out costs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household spends $2678 or approximately 40% of our food expenditures away from the house. Yes, you read that correctly, 40%. Now we are all aware that food typically prepared away from costs more than what we can buy and prepare for ourselves. So how do we cut back?

Five tips to reduce dining out costs:

  1. Coupons and deals – use local coupons and deal finders such as the Entertainment Book, Groupon and Living Social to get 50% or more off. Two things to keep in mind, the deals are usually there to lure you into spending, so don’t end up spending more by adding on items like alcohol and desserts, and remember to tip your server on the full amount, not the discount. You received the same level of service; the restaurant should take the hit, not the waiter/waitress.
  2. Downgrade – moving from sit down restaurants to quick casual can help save, not only on the need to tip but also the overall cost. Why go to an upscale restaurant to order a burger and fries, when you can find an equivalent for cheaper.
  3. Reduce your portion intake – do you usually have a take home bag after a meal out? Then you probably have the “eyes bigger than your stomach” syndrome. Why not forgo the appetizer and just have the main meal, or split one appetizer between several people? The same goes for desserts. One of our keys; we split an appetizer and an entree regularly. This helps us reduce dining out costs, but still enjoy the dining out experience.
  4. Reduce the frequency – by cutting out one or two dining out trips a month by planning and preparing ahead. An hour or two preparing quick meals in advance can save you from needing to stop. We suggest making a big pot of chili or soup and putting some in the freezer for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking. Here are 5 meals that practically make themselves.
  5. Go out for everyone’s birthday – There are plenty of restaurants that offer free meals on your birthday. Get your full day of food for free. Check out this great list. 

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We know that these are not earth shattering ideas. What will be earth shattering is the amount of money you can save by just being a bit more money conscious about how you dine out. Dining out doesn’t need to take a big bite out of your budget. Implement the five tips above and it could help you reduce dining out costs by  10, 20 or 50%, giving you more money to put towards debt and your financial future, maybe even a meal on the beach.

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