Dining Out Frugally
Eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner out can be one of the largest discretionary spending items in your budget. This luxury is normally one of the first things to get the axe when you’re pinching pennies. Here are a few ways you can still enjoy dining out, without forking over big bucks:.
Restaurant email lists
Want a guaranteed free meal each year? Sign up for your favorite restaurant’s email list, and chances are they’ve got it set up to send you a coupon for a free meal on your birthday! Do this at a couple of restaurants, and you could be eating out free your entire birthday month. These lists also get you in on special deals, two-for-one offers, and other frequent buyer specials.
Long a mainstay of non-profit fundraisers, the “entertainment books” are now available at drugstores and bookstores, usually at a deep discount (we picked ours up for 40% off this year!). The book is full of coupons for two-for-one offers at local restaurants and special deals for fine dining. Each book claims to include thousands of dollars’ worth of discounts, but even if you just use two or three, you’ll have earned back your investment. Check out sites like Entertainment.com to see what books are available near you.
Want to see collective buying power in action? Check out Groupon.com. Available in over 60 major metropolitan locations nation-wide, Groupon negotiates massive bargains for members by guaranteeing businesses a minimum number of takers. Free to join, Groupon offers a new deal each day. Recent offerings: $80 worth of take-out grub at a famous seafood restaurant for $40, and $30 worth of food at a Mexican bar and grill for $15. While not every offer is dining-related, a good number are.
Early bird dinners aren’t just the provenance of the senior set; anyone can take advantage of these early-hour dinner specials. Think about it – you don’t want to wait until 8:00 pm to feed your kids, so why not feed them at 4:00 pm at an early bird special. When you’re dining with a large group or with young children, eating earlier can be not just less expensive, but less stressful, too. Early bird dinners can be significantly cheaper than dining at busy later hours (30-40 percent less), plus your wait-staff will be more attentive because they’re not worn out yet!
Kids eat free
Tired of paying $7 for a grilled cheese sandwich that your tyke will only licks the crust off? Then check out one of the thousands of “kids eat free” offers across the country. Ask your favorite restaurants if they offer a kids’ night special and sign up for their email list so you get a heads-up about all their specials for kids. Also, check out sites like MyKidsEatFree.com for a searchable guide.
Once you find out your favorite restaurant has a “kids eat free” night, you’ll be happy to enjoy a night out with your family more often. It is always nice when you get the bill after a dinner out and can relax and smile!