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21 Ways to Save Money at a Restaurant All Food-Goers Should Know

Are you someone who frequents restaurants 3 to 4 times a week or more? Or do you simply visit restaurants casually a couple of times a month? Regardless of your dining habits, eating out can be costly. But fear not! There are ways to enjoy regular restaurant meals without breaking the bank. Discover these 21 clever tips to save money while dining out.

How to Save Money at Restaurants

How to Save Money at Restaurants

1. Optimize Your Meal: Set aside half of your meal for later

By saving half of your meal, you can reduce your expenses when dining at a restaurant. Request a to-go box as soon as your food arrives at the table. Once you receive your meal, pack half of it in the to-go box you had requested earlier. This way, you can relish the remaining portion at home or have it for lunch the next day. Essentially, you're getting two meals for the price of one.

2. Utilize Coupons

Harness the power of coupons to secure discounts on your restaurant meals. Don't be shy about it; using coupons is a smart way to save money while still savoring your favorite dishes. Sign up for coupon services, and your preferred restaurants will send you email alerts. To avoid cluttering your primary inbox, consider creating a dedicated email address solely for coupon notifications.

3. Opt for Lunch Instead

Opting for a lunch date at a restaurant can be a wallet-friendly choice. Not only is lunch generally more affordable, but you might also enjoy additional perks like soup or salad included with your meal. These extras are often available at more reasonable prices compared to the main dishes served during dinner hours.

4. Forego Beverages

Remember that the primary reason for visiting a restaurant is the food, not the beverages. Instead of indulging in soda, tea, or coffee, a simple cup of water will suffice. Most restaurants provide water for free. By requesting water instead of other beverages, you can save around $3 per person on your dining bill.

5. Embrace the Birthday Discount

Make your birthday even more special by treating yourself to something extraordinary at your favorite restaurant. Fortunately, many restaurants now offer birthday discounts to their patrons. Regardless of the number of guests joining you to celebrate, you can multiply the discount by the total number of people you invite. Simply sign up for an online birthday club at the restaurant where you plan to commemorate your special day.

6. Skip the Appetizer

Opting out of an appetizer can be an excellent money-saving choice when dining out. This is particularly feasible if the restaurant you select offers complimentary items like chips, bread, or salsa. By taking advantage of these complimentary offerings, you can reduce your expenses by at least $9.

7. Share with a Companion

To economize, consider sharing a meal with a friend or sibling. Keep in mind that portion sizes at restaurants in the United States are often generous enough for one person, allowing you to split the dish. Even when sharing, you can still order an additional side to ensure you feel satisfied while simultaneously saving money.

8. Master Coffee Shop Hacks

While not exactly a restaurant, many people shell out a significant amount of money for a single cup of drive-through coffee before heading to the office. To save some cash on your beloved brew, consider ordering through a mobile app. This way, you can unlock rewards points and earn perks with each purchase.

9. Opt for Takeout

For a cost-effective yet enjoyable date, choose takeout instead of dining in at a restaurant. Take the food home and pair it with a movie rental to create a budget-friendly experience. However, when tipping the takeout person, it's customary to offer around 10% instead of the usual 20%. This is because the takeout process typically involves a shorter interaction, lasting about 5 minutes, without the added service of drink refills or unlimited salsa.

10. Explore the Kids' Menu

One of the 21 ways to save money at a restaurant is by ordering from the kids' menu. Adult portions are often substantial, and opting for the kids' menu can save you money without leaving you hungry. However, be mindful of any age restrictions set by the restaurant, as not all establishments offer a dedicated menu for children.

11. Opt for Mondays or Tuesdays

Choosing to dine out on Mondays or Tuesdays can lead to some substantial savings. These early days of the week tend to be quieter for restaurants, prompting them to offer special deals and discounted prices. You can find enticing offers such as inexpensive burgers, $10 pizzas, all-you-can-eat wings, and more.

12. Avoid Major Holidays

During major holidays, restaurants often implement fixed-price menus, which can be quite costly. Entrées alone can reach up to $49 per person on these occasions. In comparison, on regular days, the same entrées may only cost around $15 per person. To save money, it's advisable to skip dining out on major holidays.

13. Harness Your Lunch Budget

If you typically spend money on restaurant lunches five times a week, consider adopting a budget-friendly dinner approach. Prepare economical dinners that leave you with leftovers to bring to work the following day. By doing so, you can save the money you would have spent on lunch and allocate it towards a quality meal at a restaurant later on.

14. Opt for Home Instead of Sports Bars

To save money, consider watching your favorite sports matches at home rather than in a bar. When you watch games at home, you can pre-purchase snacks and avoid the temptation of mindlessly spending on food while caught up in the excitement at a bar.

15. Seek Restaurants with Free Kids' Meals

Many restaurants offer free or heavily discounted meals for children under 12 years old. Keep an eye out for establishments that provide these kid-friendly options, typically available on specific nights of the week.

16. Embrace "Happy Hour" for a Happier Wallet

If you still crave appetizers but want to save money, here's a clever tip: plan your dinner for the early evening to take advantage of half-priced appetizers during "happy hour." You can even use these discounted appetizers as your main course. However, remember to check the specific rules and pricing of each restaurant's "happy hour," as they may vary.

17. Stick to Your Outing Plans

Creating a plan for your dinner outings can be instrumental in saving money. Take a look at your weekly schedule and prioritize outings based on pre-established plans. Stick to these plans and make a conscious effort to enjoy meals at home for the remainder of the week.

18. Resist Impulse Purchases

Impulse buys are notorious for derailing budgets. Avoid succumbing to last-minute pizza deliveries or hasty drive-through orders that can throw off your spending plans.

19. Prepare for Tipping

Staying within your dining budget doesn't mean you should skimp on tipping. Be prepared to leave a gratuity when visiting a restaurant. If you prefer not to tip, consider dining at establishments like Chipotle that don't rely on traditional waitstaff service.

20. Indulge in Desserts or Coffee Only

To minimize expenses while dining out, consider enjoying your main meal at home and reserve restaurant visits for dessert or a cup of coffee instead.

21. Stay Committed to Your Budget

One of the effective ways to save money at a restaurant is by diligently creating and adhering to a budget. Take the time to establish your monthly budget at the beginning of the month, and you can utilize various apps available to assist you with this task. By staying committed to your budget, you can maintain control over your dining expenses.