7 Tips for Eating Out on a Budget

For the first time ever, Americans have been spending more at bars and restaurants than on groceries, according to Quartz. Although eating out is highly enjoyable, if you’re not careful, it can hurt your budget big time. Luckily, you don’t have to skimp on the enjoyment to save money on your bill.

Here are seven tips for eating out on a budget.

1. Take Advantage of Daily Deal Sites

Ditch paying full price for a meal by taking advantage of daily deal apps like Groupon and LivingSocial. These sites can offer, say, $40 worth of food and drink for only $20. Be on the lookout for special promotions, where you get an additional 20 percent off your total purchase. Just be sure to mind the reminders so you use the vouchers before the expiration date.

Score free appetizers or get a slight discount during your first visit with check-in deals on sites Yelp and FourSquare. Plus, by scouring reviews on Yelp, you can check to see what the price range is beforehand.

2. Use Referral Codes

If you have a hankering for some takeout at your favorite restaurant, try reaping the rewards of referral codes. As there’s usually a promotional discount when you first use the service, most food delivery services also offer you credit when your friends and family use your referral code, too. You’ll just want to check and see what the terms and conditions are beforehand. For instance, GrubHub offers a $7 credit when your friends make their first order using your referral code. They’ll just have to spend $15 before taxes and tip, and you can refer up to 20 friends.

3. Skip the Alcohol

By refraining from ordering adult drinks when you dine out, you can satiate the gourmand in you while sticking to a budget. Even a few speciality drinks at your local bar or tavern can add up quickly.

4. Lunch It Instead

A lot of restaurants offer smaller versions of their dinner courses at lunchtime and thus at a lower cost. You can also take advantage of any lunch specials, which often include a beverage, soup, side dish or salad.

5. Use Cash

Instead of swiping the plastic, bring the amount you want to spend in cash when you eat out. That will help you stave off the temptation to spend more than you intended. Or, if you set alerts on your credit card if you spend more than a certain amount, they’ll serve as a gentle reminder not to go over a certain limit on single purchase.

6. Order Side Dishes

Try ordering a bunch of side dishes at your favorite restaurant, or have your date order a main course and supplement it with several side dishes. Not only will you save money, but you’ll have a richer experience by enjoying more dishes from a restaurant’s menu.

Eating out on a budget doesn’t have to boring or leave you wanting more. By trying out these strategies for getting more bang for your buck, you’ll steer clear of overspending while indulging the foodie in you.

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