My husband and I love eating out. We try our best to limit it to once a week but it’s hard when our schedules are packed that dinner is around 10pm. We also like to eat out because it gives us a chance to spend time with our friends since we don’t have a big enough space at home to hang out with them. Whenever we go out, I try save money in any way that we can. Some of my favorite ways to save money eating out include:
Use ID cards
A lot of restaurants offer discounts for military, students, and seniors. Some even offer days where children can eat free. Take advantage of this to save 5-15% off your total meal. In Hawaii, some places also offer Kama’aina discounts which give discounts to local residents who shop or dine in certain establishments. To get this discount, you would need to show your state ID or driver’s license. You can’t use all of your ID card discounts in one purchase but you should figure out which has the highest savings and use that towards your total bill.
It’s best to go to restaurants during happy hour (even though I don’t drink) or when they have late night or early bird specials. They have the deepest discounts for their food and you can find stuff that you don’t normally see on the regular menu. My friends and I like to go to Shokudo for their late night specials and get their spicy tuna nachos and jr honey toast for ~$4 each.
3. Eat out on your birthday or anniversary
Some restaurants offer free or discounted meals on your birthday or anniversary by signing up for their email list or through their loyalty cards. Over the years, for my birthday, I’ve received free drink at Starbucks, free ice cream scoop at Baskin Robbins, free entree at Tony Roma’s, and even free buffet meal at Makino Chaya. Make sure to read the fine line because there are expiration dates and other requirements that you must follow to get the freebie or you’ll end up paying full price.
4. Use stamp cards
If you have a favorite place that you go to, see if they have a stamp or loyalty card. You could get a free drink or a free entree after so many points or stamps. I was able to use it for free drinks at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and for free pounds of shrimp at a local seafood restaurant that closed down.
5. Skip appetizers or eat it as a meal
Appetizers are pricey. Some cost as much as an entree. If I really want to have an appetizer or if I am not that hungry, I usually have it as my entree since there’s just as much food as a regular entree. At Chili’s, my husband and I usually share the Tripler Dipper as there is enough food for the both of us.
6. Split a meal
In some restaurants, meals are big enough to share between two people. My husband and I try to share entrees if possible. We would also order a combo, a large, or a side order of additional food so that we pay a little more more food without having to buy full-sized entrees.
7. Look for coupons
Coupons are not just for groceries. Find coupons through the newspaper or email list. There’s usually coupons for Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, Popeye’s, and Pizza Hut in our local newspaper. Companies like Baskin Robbins and Tony Roma’s also have coupons when you sign up for their email list. In addition, I use Groupon (please use my referral link so I can get $10!) to get discounted coupons on restaurant. I got some really good deals on Starbucks gift cards and restaurants such as Hy’s Steak House.
8. Drink water instead
I always tell my husband to skip the soft drinks or juices when we order out and ask for water instead. Drinks can add up to $2-$7 to your total bill and they make you full faster. I’d rather spend money on the entree and dessert and skip the drinks.
9. Social media and yelp
We frequently use Yelp when we search for places to eat. The Yelp app has some discounts or freebies that Yelp users can take advantage of when they visit a restaurant and check-in on the app. We also like to follow restaurants on Instagram so we can see their specials or discounts they may have.
10. Check reviews
We use Yelp to check out the menu and pictures of food before going to a restaurant. I don’t want to spend money on food that we don’t like or food that didn’t turn out the way that I expected it to. It’s a waste of money. I like to spend some time comparing the prices of food for different cuisines along with the reviews and pictures to make sure that we get quality food for the right price.
Marion Crepes posted on Instagram that they had 30% off crepes.
11. Take home leftovers
If you are too full or an entree is too big, take it home for lunch tomorrow. You save it from going in the dumpster and you have a ready made meal for the next day. I hate seeing people throw away their leftovers especially when there’s a lot left. If you don’t want to eat it for lunch, you could give it away to a homeless person nearby.
12. Complete surveys
Don’t throw away your receipts. You’ll most likely find a survey or questionnaire with an offer for free drinks or meals when you complete a survey. You can usually find this in fast food restaurants like McDonald’s but I’ve also seen it on the receipts for chain restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings. If you visit the restaurant often, then it’s worth completing the survey to get free food or drinks for the next time you come back.
What is your favorite way to save money eating out?