Money Saving Articles

How to save money at restaurants

If you’re feeling the heat of the economy, eating out may be your only splurge. Follow these money saving tips to make your restaurant budget stretch.

Drink water

Water is free whereas a soda or iced tea is usually $1.50-2.50 per person, sometimes more. At any restaurant that offers different sizes, opt for the small one and take advantage of free refills. You can also make your own lemonade by squeezing fresh lemons into your water and adding sugar.

Happy hour

There’s a reason it’s called happy hour and it’s because the prices make customers happy. This timeframe is usually a few hours, from 3-6 or 4-7 and can save you 50% or more on alcoholic drinks, appetizers and sometimes entrees. Do your research and find out which restaurants offer the best deals and when so you can take advantage of these great discounts.

Fill up on (free) bread

Many restaurants offer bread or chips as a free starter for your meal so take this into account when ordering. If you fill up on free bread and only have to order a small appetizer for an entree, your wallet will love you.

Appetizer as an entree

Depending on the restaurant, appetizers can be enough food for one person and are usually much cheaper than entrees. Many chains have loaded nachos or tacos on their appetizer menu that is enough to feed one person for under $10.

Split a meal

If you’re dining with a friend who wants to split an entree, this is a great way to cut your check in two. If you’re worried about not having enough food, you can always add on an extra side, which usually only costs $2-3. If no one wants to share with you, split the meal with yourself and save your leftovers for lunch the following day.

Skip dessert

Dessert is usually $5-8, depending on the restaurant and unless it’s a delicious cheesecake or crème brulee, your wallet is better off if you stop at the grocery store on your way home for some ice cream.

Skip the tip

If you’re following the norm in America, tips can range from 15-20% of the total bill. Instead of eating at a full service restaurant, go to one that only has counter service, like Chipotle.


3 Responses

  • Posted by Sara on Mar 9, 2011

    I always split my entree with myself. I’ve never been to a restaurant that didn’t have huge portion sizes so I take my leftovers home for breakfast or lunch.

  • Posted by Jean on Mar 9, 2011

    happy hour is the best time to go out! great tip.

  • Posted by Deborah Spagnuolo on Mar 22, 2011

    It’s true that ordering water and skipping the sodas saves a little on each meal. I knew someone who would set aside the $2 for her children if they ordered water. Then when they had a large amount saved up, she would put it in their bank account. They were able to see the benefit of saving a couple dollars here and there.

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