Americans love eating out. According to the USDA, millennials spend more than 44% of their food budget on this meal option. In addition, other data proves Americans spend a lot more on restaurants and bars ($54.86 billion) than they do on groceries ($52.5 billion).
Dining out with family and friends is a wonderful experience, but it can take a huge bite out of your budget. No worries—we’re not going to try convincing you to give up your favorite restaurant. Instead, use our hacks to trim your bill when dining out.
When looking at a menu, most people’s eyes drift to the right. Restaurants know this and purposely put the most expensive items on the right side of the menu. Check out the left side of the menu for cheaper options, or appetizers that can make a full meal.
Eat out on Mondays and Tuesdays
The beginning of the week is slow for the restaurant industry. Take advantage of specials and discounts eateries offer only on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Skip the Chef “Special”
The Chef Special you’re looking at on the menu is actually not that special at all. It’s more like a code for “We just inflated the price on this dish for no reason.”
Don’t eat out on major holidays
Restaurants know the entire world will be taking their moms out to eat on Mother’s Day and their significant others on a date on Valentine’s Day. To make major holidays super-profitable, many eateries only offer fixed-price menus on these days. These menus might sound cheap until you consider the four-course meal going for $55 is a lot more expensive than the $18 entrée you’d have otherwise ordered. If you’d really like to celebrate these special days with a restaurant meal, consider eating out the day before or the day after the holiday.
Take it to go
Pick up food from your favorite eatery and enjoy it at home. You’ll save on server tips, beverage costs and extras, too. To make it super-cheap, only purchase the entrée. Then, roast some veggies and potatoes at home for a quick side and crack open a tub of rocky road ice cream for dessert.
Restaurants are notorious for marking up beverage prices. Soft drinks can be marked up by 400% and alcoholic beverages by 600%. Ask for water and you’ll save a pretty penny on your final check.
Don’t pay full price
Never walk into a restaurant without first checking for online deals and coupons. Visit the eatery’s website and also check out restaurant deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Restaurant.com and OpenTable.
Instead of ordering individual portions that look like they were created for giants, split an entrée with your dining partner. You can always order cheaper appetizers or side dishes afterward if you find it’s not enough. It beats paying for food that’s going to end up in a doggie bag.
Eat like a kid
If the restaurant allows, order from the kids’ menu. The items there are always priced better and you might find one or two kids’ menu choice is enough to keep you satisfied.
It takes our stomachs a while to get the memo that we’ve had enough. Don’t order dessert right after scraping your plate clean. Wait and you might find you’re so full, you can’t eat another bite.
These restaurant hacks will help you save on your food budget while still giving you the fun experience of dining out. For more money-saving tips, check out all Savings Blogs. We’re here to help you move ahead financially.