18 Best Ways to Eat Out on a Budget

Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean you can’t eat out every once in a while. Here are the 18 Best Ways to Eat Out on a Budget.

hamburger and fries

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You have probably read that one of the best ways that you can save money is to avoid going out to eat. This is definitely true. Ideally, you should cut back on the amount of time you eat out each month if you are on a tight budget.

However, there are always going to be times when it may not be possible to eat at home despite your best efforts. Maybe a sporting event or an after-school activity ran long and the idea of rushing home to try to get dinner ready when you know there are million other things waiting for you is too stressful.

Or just the idea of having a night off from cooking, cleaning up, and washing dishes can be a welcoming thought after a busy day. No matter what the reason, life happens and the occasional eating out won’t harm your budget if you are prepared ahead of time.

If you’re trying to live more frugally but still want to enjoy the occasional night out whether it be to celebrate a birthday or just as a treat, then these tips and tricks to eat out on a budget are for you.


18 Best Ways to Eat Out on a Budget


Check menus

Before you leave the house make sure to check restaurant menus online so that you are aware of the prices. It may be helpful to set a budget. When looking at the menu, only choose items that you know you can afford.

You can save time when ordering but also money by being prepared to avoid overspending.

Sign up for emails

Make sure you are on your favorite restaurant’s mailing list. Many times they will send coupons and offers for those who are exclusively on their list.

breakfast foods

Eat breakfast or lunch out instead

You can usually get a much better deal on food during breakfast or lunch. If you are able to plan your meals earlier in the day then this can be a great money-saver.

Follow on social media

Follow restaurants on Twitter or Facebook to learn about special promotions or daily specials that they are offering throughout the day.

Download the restaurant’s app

Many times when you download a restaurant’s app, you will be presented with special coupons that can only be used after downloading. This can be a helpful way to save a little bit of cash.

Plus, you have the convenience of ordering ahead to save you time when you get there if you are doing takeout.

Visit money-saving websites

Make sure you are visiting sites such as Restaurant.com and Groupon for special deals on restaurants you love and ones you’ve been wanting to try.

Don’t forget to visit Rakuten first before visiting these sites to put money back in your pocket. (you can also download the browser extension making it even simpler).

Get take out

Instead of dining in, a great way to save money when eating out is to order takeout. You can skip the beverage and you won’t have to worry about the extra cost of tipping.

The best part is that you get to relax at home in your comfy clothes while dining.

Join their loyalty program

If your favorite restaurant offers a loyalty program, make sure and sign up. If you are a preferred customer, you will get access to some great deals such as free appetizers or half-price entrees.

Use coupons

This is definitely one of the best ways that you can save money when you eat out. Coupons can save you so much money on the cost of your meal. Look in your local paper or watch for flyers that come in the mail.

You can also check for discount codes to use when ordering online at places like retailmenot.com

woman drinking water from a glass

Order water

Skip the soda and alcohol. You would be surprised how quickly beverages add up. Order water instead, it’s better for you. Just make sure it’s not bottled water because you will pay a premium for that.

Daily specials

Go out to eat during the week instead of on the weekend. You will find restaurants will offer daily specials to encourage patrons to come in.

Go early

Be an early bird. Many places offer special prices during the early part of dinner when it isn’t as busy. This is actually a win-win because you don’t have long waits and you can save a few bucks. Half-price appetizers and drinks…yes, please!

Visit on kids eat free nights

There’s no need to pay full price for a kid’s meal. A lot of restaurants offer kids eat free night. Some examples are Applebee’s, Denny’s, and Texas Roadhouse.

Order appetizer for your entrée

Appetizers are usually huge and can easily be eaten as an entrée. If you want to enjoy a night out without having to pay a premium for an expensive entrée, then ask about ordering an appetizer instead. Most restaurants are happy to let you do so.

Share a meal

Are you visiting a restaurant that you know has big portions? How about sharing with someone in your party. If you would prefer not to share. You can divide your entrée in half and save the other half for lunch the next day.

Skip dessert and/or appetizers

Appetizers and desserts can add up quickly. Skip the appetizers and wait until you get home to have dessert.

Purchase gift cards

A good way to make sure you don’t overspend is to purchase a fast-food or casual dining gift card.

Decide how much you can afford to spend and purchase a gift card for that specific amount. By deciding beforehand it will force you to stay within your budget.

Eat a snack 

This may sound like a crazy tip. Why eat something before you leave to go to eat? Well, grabbing a snack beforehand will help you resist the temptations of appetizers that can significantly increase your bill.

Although, you can save a ton of money by meal planning and eating your meals at home. Once in a while, if you plan for it you can still afford to eat out on a budget.

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