If you love dining out, you’ve probably noticed how much more expensive it is these days. In addition to inflation, many restaurants are adding fees to your bill. Order delivery or use a delivery app, and you’ll see multiple service charges tacked on. Many restaurants are adding surcharges onto customer bills to offset rising food and other costs. MasterCard and Visa raised transaction fees, which costs business owners another $1.2 billion.
Luckily, there are many ways to save money while dining out. In this guide, we’ll delve into some clever budget dining strategies to help satisfy your cravings and your wallet.
Research and Compare Menus
Before dining out or making dinner plans, research local restaurant menus. Many eateries now offer their menus online, allowing you to compare prices and dishes before you get there. You can find budget dining restaurants or menu items you’ll enjoy without overspending.
Lunch Specials and Happy Hours
Take advantage of lunch specials and happy hour deals, which can significantly reduce your dining expenses. Many restaurants offer discounted prices during off-peak hours, making it the perfect time to enjoy your favorite dishes at a fraction of the regular cost. Be on the lookout for lunch menus, early bird specials, and happy hour promotions to make the most of your dining experience.
Sign Up for Rewards Programs
Many restaurants have loyalty or rewards programs designed to incentivize frequent visits. Sign up for these programs to earn points, discounts, or freebies with each meal. Over time, these benefits can accumulate, helping you earn free meals or items.
Portion sizes at restaurants are often more substantial than what you might consume at home. To keep expenses in check and reduce food waste, consider sharing dishes. This way, you can sample a variety of dishes without paying for multiple individual meals. You can also save by ordering an appetizer and entrée to share instead of ordering two full meals.
Avoid Extra Add-ons
Your restaurant bill can escalate quickly when you add extra toppings, sides, or beverages. Keep your expenses in check by skipping unnecessary add-ons and focusing on the main course. Some restaurants don’t offer refills, and that mistake can get costly if you’re ordering a drink that’s $5 a glass. Sandwich shops can charge extra for things like avocado or certain types of cheese. Make sure you know what things cost before you add them on.
Look for Coupons and Deals
Browse through coupon websites, local newspapers, or restaurant apps for exclusive deals and discounts. Restaurants often offer promotional deals or coupons to attract new customers or reward loyal patrons.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage)
Some restaurants permit customers to bring their own alcoholic beverages, typically charging a small corkage fee. Just make sure you know what that fee is before you bring your own bottle to a drink.
Budget dining doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite dishes or restaurants. By remembering these tactics, you can enjoy your favorite foods from time to time without hurting your financial progress. From researching menus to exploring happy hour deals and rewards programs, there are plenty of ways to enjoy budget-friendly dining.