We can all use a night off from cooking and doing dishes every now and then, but it can be expensive! Don’t let an expensive check at the end of your meal ruin your night off.

We’ve paid almost half of our grocery costs for the week on a meal out a few times. And then I feel guilty for having spent so much on something we could’ve made cheaper at home.

While eating out will most likely never be as cheap as making things yourself, there are tons of ways to save on your restaurant bill. I’m going to share with you just a few ways to save money when you eat out.

Because, a little bit of planning ahead will allow you to enjoy the food you didn’t have to cook, AND the savings!

10 Ways To Save Money When Eating Out:

    1. Use Coupons – Restaurant coupons are really easy to find. Check for available coupons before you decide which restaurant you’ll go to. This is often how our family decides the restaurant we will visit.
    2. Loyalty Cards, Apps & Emails – If you frequently go to ANY restaurant you should be signed up for their email list, loyalty card and smartphone app, if they have one. I am signed up for the loyalty card program with Chili’s and I constantly get offers for extra points. Sometimes those points can get you a free appetizer, dessert, or kid’s meal. If I wasn’t signed up for Outback’s email list, I wouldn’t get all of their free bloomin’ onion alerts or 15% off coupons. Some loyalty cards won’t pay off until after you’ve visited a few times, but when I used the Steak and Shake loyalty card app I got a free milkshake the same day. {Score!}
    3. Snack Before Your Meal – I know your Mom probably advised against this, but a high protein snack (like a boiled egg or a handful of nuts) before heading out the door can curb your appetite and keep you from over-ordering.
    4. Order Water – Restaurants usually have a huge price markup on drinks (not just the alcoholic ones, either)! A glass of soda can cost $2 or more. A family of 5 can save $10 off their dining bill by just choosing water. Add a little flavor to your free beverage by asking for fresh lemon or lime wedges. You can even add a little sweetener if you’d like (which is usually available for free right on the table).
    5. Share Your Meal – Many restaurants offer large portions. Does everyone need their own take-home a box of leftovers? Try ordering an appetizer and one meal to share. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you some calories, too!
    6. Know When To Go – Restaurants tend to offer promotions at times they are not very busy. Going out for Lunch instead of Dinner, taking note of Early Bird Specials (usually offered before 6pm), and dining on Kids Eat Free Nights can all save you as much as 50% off your meal!
    7. Pay With Discounted Gift Cards – You’ll feel really “stealth” when you use a Gift Card to pay that you bought for less than face value! For example, buy a $50 Outback Gift Card for $43 by purchasing a Discounted Gift Card. I usually buy the eGiftCard option so that I can get it emailed to me asap. Then, simply show the bar code to the server and they’ll use it to pay, just like cash. The best part is that since Gift Cards are simply an alternative form of payment, you can use them along with any coupons or discounts. Also, often near a Holiday (such as Mother’s Day or Christmas) restaurants will offer bonus gift cards. Deals such as buy a $50 gift card, get a bonus $10 gift card (to be used the next week or so) is an easy way to get FREE money to spend at your favorite restaurant!
    8. Save With Social Media – See if your favorite restaurant is on Facebook and/or Twitter. Just by “liking” your favorite restaurant on Facebook or following them on Twitter, you can gain access to exclusive coupons and specials that may not be available any other place.
    9. Purchase Discounts From A Daily Deal Site – Check out places like Groupon, Living Social, Restaurant.com and more for dining discounts. You’ll find offers for nationally-known favorites and undiscovered new restaurants, too. Be sure to read the offer carefully before purchasing your discount voucher checking for any restrictions and the expiration date. (NOTE: Many of these discount vouchers are still good past their expiration date for the price you purchased them for, so don’t throw them out if they have expired!)
    10. Sign Up for Birthday FREEbies – When you register to receive offers from a restaurant, you’ll usually get a FREEbie on your birthday and/or anniversary. Check out our huge list of Birthday FREEbies and sign up before your month starts so you’ll be ready!

One last tip for you is to make sure you check your receipt before you leave the restaurant. Not only are you checking for any errors on your receipt (which happens to my family almost every time we eat out), but to look for surveys or discounts off your next purchase. Taking a 5 minute survey online could save you up to 20% Off the next time you eat out!

So there you have it. If you use smart spending strategies then you’ll have no guilt when you eat out!

YOUR TURN: What ways do you save your family when you eat out? Comment below and share with us!

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