Dining Out without a Financial Stomach-Ache

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Dining Out - $5,000 Money Saving Mama Challenge

 dining out on a dime
Need to save on eating out but not quite sure where to start? You are in the right place. This page is chock full of tips that will help you save money when you go out to eat - whether you go out to eat as a family or leave the kids at home while you and your partner enjoy a date night.

According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent over $2,500 dining out. If you are the average American family and you cut your dining costs by even 30%, you will have saved over $750 a year. But how, exactly, does one cut their dining costs without completely giving up the option. Below I share 16 tips that will help your family to save on eating out.

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Save on Eating Out Tip #1: Gift Certificates

You can get some great restaurant discounts by visiting Restaurant.com and browsing their awesome money saving gift certificates. On this website you can buy $25 gift certificates for $10, $50 gift certificates for $20, $100 gift certificates for $40 and a lot of other great deal.. Sometimes restaurants will require you to spend a minimum amount of $35 so you may have to come out of pocket, but you will still have saved quite a chunk of money.

Save on Eating Out Tip #2: Use Online Coupons

Groupon and Living Social are two awesome websites that feature daily coupons on a variety of products and services, many of which are restaurants. Their offers enable you to save anywhere between 50 and 90% at various restaurants. The only catch is that they have limited quantities and are only available for a certain period of time, so you have to get them while the getting is good.

Save on Eating Out Tip #3 Check In On Your Smart Phone

If you have a smart phone, there are apps available that will help you to get restaurant discounts. Just a few examples are Yelp (check in and mention Yelp to your server to receive your discount), FourSquare (snag a BOGO deal when you check in to some places), and SCVNGR (accumulate points that you can later redeem for restaurant discounts and freebies).

Save on Eating Out Tip #4: Look for Special Occasion Deals

Many restaurants have a birthday or anniversary club that you can join for free - usually by subscribing to a mailing list. Every year around your birthday or anniversary, you will receive a coupon (via mail or email) entitling you to restaurant discounts or freebies. Check out www.eatfreeon yourbirthday.com to find a list of restaurants that have these kinds of deals.

Save on Eating Out Tip #5: Follow Restaurants on Twitter

In this age of social media, many restaurants have a presence on websites such as Twitter and will often post special deals for the followers. Go to your favorite restaurants' websites and see if they have a Twitter account. If so, follow them and you just might find yourself getting savings via Tweets.

Save on Eating Out Tip #6: Follow restaurants on Facebook

The same thing holds true for Facebook. If you "like" a restaurant's Facebook page you might gain access to restaurant discounts not offered anywhere else.

Save on Eating Out Tip #7: Use Deal-Finding Apps

Certain apps, such as Dining Deals, Local Eats, and The ValPak App can help you to locate local deals. Often, all you have to do is sow the server the deal o get credit for it.

Save on Eating Out Tip #8: Skip the Drinks and Dessert

Rather than paying for soda, tea, or the ever-expensive alcohol, order a nice, cold glass of water. It's free and just as refreshing. Desserts, though tasty are also not a necessity. You would be better off buying a cheap carton of ice cream and having dessert at home.

Save on Eating Out Tip #9: Get a To-Go Box Before You Eat

Most restaurants give you more than you would usually eat in one sitting. Save yourself the calories and the money by asking for a to-go box as soon as you sit down, and packing away half of your meal. That way you split that one meal into two. Dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.

Save on Eating Out Tip #10: Do Your Research

Before going out to eat, especially if you are traveling, take the time to do a little research. Check out reviews on sites Yelp or Urban Spoon to see what locals have to say about the quality of food. No need to waste money on something you won't enjoy. Once you have your selection narrowed down, head to the websites and check out their menus to see which one will best fit your budget.

Save on Eating Out Tip #11: Be a Loyal Customer

It's true. When you are a regular somewhere (and have a decent personality oand good tipping habits) you are likely to get a little special treatment: extra food here, a discount there, a freebie here. Especially if it a small, mom-and-pop restaurant. Businesses often love to take care of their loyal customers.

Save on Eating Out Tip #12: Use iDine

With iDine, you can complete surveys to earn cash back. Simply log on to your account after you eat out, complete a survey and you will earn cash back. Once your account reaches $20 you will receive a gift card in the mail to use. Pretty cool

Save on Eating Out Tip #13: Share

As mentioned earlier, a lot of restaurants serve you more than what you would typically eat in one sitting. Instead of paying for two oversized meals, why not order one and split it? The same goes for desserts as well. You both get a full meal for the price of one. Some restaurants will charge you a fee to split a meal, so to avoid this you can simply ask for an extra plate. The same thing goes for your kids. Rather than buying two kids meals, buy one adult meal and let your kids split it.

Save on Eating Out Tip #14: Be an Early Bird

Many restaurants have extended their lunch hours and actually serve the same or similar meals as they would for dinner. By eating dinner a bit earlier than usual you avoid paying more for the same meal.

Save on Eating Out Tip #15: Go to Happy Hour

Typically Happy Hour boasts half priced drinks and appetizers. Score!

Save on Eating Out Tip #16: Kids Eat Free

Go to restaurants where kids eat for free. This is especially helpful if you have small children or picky eaters who don't eat very much.

What are your favorite restaurant deals? Are there any neat money saving tricks that I didn't cover here? Please feel free to share!




Sneak Peak at Next Week

Like this section on dining out? Next week we'll talk about Back to School Savings.

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How Much Will These Frugal Dining Out Ideas Save You?

I'd love to hear how you are coming with your frugal and free challenge.

What does your family do to save money on dining out?

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