photo by josef stuefer
Guest Post by Jennifer from Joy Ever After
One of our favorite things to do as a family is eat out. No cooking and
no dishes–what recreation! However, there is a problem when there is
also no money. We have learned some tips and tricks on spending less when we go to a restaurant.
::Know the specials. Many restaurants offer specials on certain days. For example, a barbecue restaurant in our area is giving $4 off a combo meal on Mondays through April. A few other restaurants have "Kids Eat Free" nights. Sometimes all it takes to save a significant amount is to read the white board as you enter the restaurant. Beware though, because sometimes those are just "features" from their regular menu at the regular price.
::Look for coupons. Several restaurants offer Buy One, Get One Free coupons in the newspaper. If yours doesn't, it might be worth it to buy an Entertainment Book for your area or an area you are vacationing in. These have many restaurants from fine dining to fast food with Buy One, Get One offers or 50% off.
::Share meals. I have grown tired of ordering two kids' meals only to have them both picked at and basically wasted. Sure, I can finish the food, but is that really saving the money?
Unless a meal is very small or the kids are unusually hungry, I split one between them. This can also work for my husband and me if a meal is large. Some restaurants offer smaller portion meals as well. One family I know buys a large meal at Cracker Barrel, orders one extra side and splits it between their four children. This is much cheaper per person than four individual kids' meals or even splitting two kids' meals.
::Skip drinks, dessert, and appetizers. This is a tough one if you are "celebrating", but ordering water and saying "No, thank you" when asked if you want an appetizer or dessert can knock $4-10 (or more) off your bill.
::Go out only for an appetizer or dessert. The exception to the previous rule is if that is all you are ordering. Of course it's much cheaper to buy coffee and a piece of pie than a full dinner or to replace the dinner with an appetizer portion. The latter option is healthier, too, providing you stay away from the deep-fried onion rings!
::Save "fancy" restaurants for special occasions. We budget a maximum of $35 for our family of 5 when we go out to eat. This includes the tip and everything.
Obviously, this cuts out some restaurants. Our rule of thumb is to avoid restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages. Even if you don't drink, you are paying in some way for their liquor license since the whole menu is generally higher.
::Join all the birthday clubs. For my latest birthday, I got free ice cream, free coffee, and two free entree coupons at two different restaurants. I didn't even have time to take advantage of all of them. Signing up for these "birthday clubs" is easy online or inquire about them at your favorite restaurant. (Go here for a list of freebies you can score on your birthday.)
::Go to buffets. These are great when your children are small because all you have to do is buy two adult meals and everyone gets as much as they want to eat.
::Combine savings tips. Here's a scenario we've done before: Saturday is kid's night at Denny's. We got the Buy One, Get One Free coupon in the paper. We ordered full kids' meals for the kids, two entrees for us and drinks (if we were really on a tight budget, we could have skipped the drinks). By getting the kids' meals free on top of using a Buy One, Get One Free coupon for the adult meals, we ended up paying less than half of what our bill would have been.
Important note: remember to always tip on the full amount you would have paid before the specials and coupons, though. Your
server does not do less work when you use savings strategies.
::Do it less. This is perhaps the toughest and most helpful tip of all. If you are accustomed to going out three times a week, cut it down to once. If you usually go out once a week, go every other week, and so on. You'll find when you do go out, you'll enjoy it a lot more.
Jennifer Self has been married to her best friend, Jeff, for almost ten
years and is mommy to three little blessings, Jessica (6), Jeffery (3) and
Jerrod (6 mos.). She blogs to encourage Christian women in
their roles as wives and mothers at www.joyeverafter.blogspot.com.
From Crystal: How do you save money when eating out? I'd love to hear your tricks and tips!