Sense & Centsibility Blog

How to Save Money While Dining Out

Over the summer I especially struggle with wanting to cook. While I've trained myself to cook more this year than ever before, I still have my moments of weakness. However, I have found some simple ways to make sure I'm not spending too much.

Here are easy ways to save your hard-earned money while dining out.

Use Coupons/Deals/Apps

If you're ordering a pizza, you likely never need to pay full price; I am always getting coupons in the mail.

So try to find coupons for a place you like to go or if the restaurant has their own app, by downloading the app some places may even give you money off your first meal. Be sure to also check out the restaurant's daily specials for some good deals.

Bonus tip: watch for a day of the week where kids eat free.

Drink WaterCouple in restaurant

Drinks are expensive, especially if they're alcoholic. If you have a couple, your beverage price might be as much or more than your meal.

So instead drink water at the restaurant and wait until you get home to have a drink.

Split a Meal

Unless you're dining at a fairly fancy restaurant, portion sizes are typically pretty large.

So instead of getting two meals, try splitting one. Or, split a cheaper appetizer and an entree which will still fill you up and save you some cash.

Skip Dessert

Dessert is just a bonus and will save you some calories if you skip it. Plus, a one-serving dessert out is much more expensive than making something or grabbing a pint of ice cream at the grocery store.

So if you are craving something sweet, plan ahead and make some cookies or something or hit the store on your way home. Don't go to an ice cream shop though either.

For one serving there, you can likely get something from the store for at least two people for the same price or cheaper.

Get Take-Out Instead of Dining Out

If you really don't care about actually going somewhere to eat and it's just about avoiding cooking, get take-out instead.

Call ahead and pick up your food as opposed to getting it delivered, saving delivery charges and tip money.

Estimating for two people, skipping two $6 drinks plus splitting a $12 meal will save you about $24.

And if you dine out a few times a month an employ these tactics, that's quite a bit of money saved. Just make sure you're not dining out too much, defeating the purpose of saving that money. 

Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling. LSS is a nonprofit organization that helps people overcome their debt, build savings and achieve financial stability.