Dining Out on a Budget
We 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 our personal observations, 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. These can certainly help when dining out on a budget, but these aren’t the only way to go.
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 home costs more than what we can buy and prepare for ourselves.
Four tips to reduce your dining out costs:
1. Use Money Saving Tools and Apps
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.
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 more common splits is to go to Chipotle, get a fully loaded burrito bowl and a bag of chips with guac. This usually comes in around $15 and we can split them both because the bowl is usually bigger than the burrito.
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 a few suggestions on how we eat all week for less than $100 with healthy meals.
Dining out on a budget doesn’t need to be a hassle. Implement the four tips above and you could save 10, 20 or 50% off of your budget, giving you more money to put towards debt and your financial future.
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