How much money do you spend eating out every month?
If you are anything like the average American, you probably spend a lot of money at restaurants.
Some of us, spend more on eating out than on groceries. According to the statistics, we spend a crazy 42% of our food budget on eating out.
According to a Consumer Expenditure Survey from the United States Department of Labor, the average American family spent around $6,887 on food between June 2014 and July 2015.
But that’s not the surprising fact…
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The surprising fact is that we spend a little less than half of that money on eating out – $2,904 to be exact.
That’s just crazy!
Now, I’m not gonna get into the debate of whether you should or shouldn’t eat out. We all live different lives and for some of us, it’s impossible (or at least very hard) to cook food at home all the time.
Thankfully, no matter how often you eat out and how much money you spend at restaurants, there are some very easy ways you can save money when dining out.
What will I learn?
1. Earn 5 to 15% cash back on every meal.
That’s right, you can earn up to 15% cashback every time you eat out.
You can do this through a site called iDine.com.
Here is how it works:
Simply sign up for free and register your credit and/or debit cards.
They have over 11,000 participating restaurants that you can choose from.
Every time you eat at one of those places, you have 30 days to take a quick survey about your experience.
For every survey you complete, you earn cash back.
Once you have $25 in your account, iDine will send you a $20 American Express gift card.
Earning cash back on your meals is that easy.
2. Before going out, check for deals and discounts for local eateries.
There is a very quick and easy way to find exclusive deals and discounts for local eateries.
All it takes is 30 seconds of your time before you head out.
Her’s how it works:
Go to valpak.com/coupons/savings/restaurants and enter your zip code.
The site will then display a list of coupons codes for local restaurants that you can print right away.
Another place to find coupons and exclusive restaurant deals for local eateries is Groupon.
Just visit groupon.com/local/restaurants, enter your zip code to see a list of promo codes for restaurants near you.
3. Eat for free on your birthday.
Most of us know there are restaurants that offer birthday freebies like food and drinks on your birthday, but not many of us take advantage of it because we either don’t know which specific restaurants offer it or we simply forget that such a thing exists.
Only if there was a way to keep track of ’em all.
Well, there is!
There are a few sites that have done the hard work for us.
You can see a complete list of a few dozen restaurants that offer free birthday food by going to people.com/food/birthday-free-food-restaurants and heyitsfree.net/birthday-freebies.
Don’t be shy in the restaurant!
Let your server know if you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
Many establishments offer free desserts or complimentary appetizers or cocktails on your special day!
4. Save on Kids’ meals.
This is another deal that most of us know about but we don’t often know the specific places that offer it.
Again, there is an easy and quick way to find places that offer free food for kids.
Simply visit KidsMealDeals.com to find a list of local restaurants that offer free food for kids.
5. Pick the right day.
Usually, Monday and Tuesday are the slowest days for restaurants. So in order to entice customers, they often have special deals just on those days.
A quick look on their website can help you find those special offers.
Here are a few examples:
- Carrabba’s has a special offer known as Amore Mondays where you get a three-course meal for only $12.99 on Mondays.
- Bonefish Grill’s special offer for Monday’s is Martini Monday where you can get $5 Martinis every Monday.
- Smokey Bones offers what’s known as All-You-Can-Eat Wings for $11.99 from 9 PM to close on Mondays.
6. Check your local Money Mailer or AdSaver coupons.
These usually come in the mail every other week.
There are always several restaurant coupons in them.
7. Sign up for coupons and deals in the restaurant and on their website.
OCharley’s, Longhorn, Texas Roadhouse and many others send weekly coupons directly to my email.
Here is a list of some the restaurants that you can get exclusive offers and coupons just by joining their free email club:
- OCharley’s: https://www.ocharleys.com/oclub
- Longhorn: https://www.longhornsteakhouse.com/customer-service/joineclub-step1
- Texas Roadhouse: http://texasr.fbmta.com/members/UpdateProfile.aspx?Action=Subscribe&InputSource=W
- Red Lobster: https://www.redlobster.com/fresh-catch-club#/sign-up
- Outback Steakhouse: https://www.outback.com/offers
- Buffalo Wild Wings: http://www.buffalowildwings.com/en/buffalo-circle/
- Red Robin: https://royalty.redrobin.com/
- Bonefish Grill: https://www.bonefishgrill.com/insider
- Olive Garden: https://www.olivegarden.com/customer-service/joineclub-step1
- The Cheesecake Factory: https://www.thecheesecakefactory.com/connect/email-sign-up
- Cracker Barrel: https://www.crackerbarrel.com/connect/newsletter-signup
8. Join loyalty rewards programs.
Chains like Qdoba, Domino’s and many others as well as tons of family owned restaurants have rewards programs like 10th lunch free, etc.
Here are a few examples:
- Qdoba: Qdoba Rewards
- Domino’s: Piece of the Pie Rewards™
- Dunkin’ Donuts: DD Perks Program
- Panera Bread: MyPanera
Be sure to ask in the restaurant if they offer a punch card deal (these are the classic punch cards where you get one punch for every meal and once you have the card filled, you’re entitled to a freebie).
9. Buy restaurant gift cards for up to 90% off.
Restaurants.com has deals where you can buy gift cards at a fraction of the retail price.
I’ve purchased a $5 gift card at my favorite local Indian restaurant for $0.40!
You have to read the fine print on these, but savings can be really substantial.
10. Go during happy hour.
You can easily make a meal out of 1/2 price appetizers during happy hour while saving $ on drinks as well.
11. Earn rewards every time you eat out.
Pay with a credit card that offers higher rewards points on restaurants, then pay the credit card bill right away to avoid paying interest on the price of the meal.
For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can earn 2X on dining worldwide.
12. Use gift cards to save.
You can buy restaurant gift cards from discount gift card sites such as Cardpool or GiftCardGranny.
Typically you can find gift cards here at 20% retail value, (you will pay about $18-$20 for a $25 gift card).
13. Eat out at lunchtime instead of dinner.
Most restaurants have special lunch menus, and prices can be 30-40% cheaper than dinner for the same meals!
14. Buy an Entertainment book.
Entertainment books have literally hundreds of dollars in savings, the key is to remember that you bought the book and keep the coupons handy!
15. Drink water!
Restaurants make their highest profit margin on beverages.
Soda or iced tea is typically $2-$4, and cocktails can set you back up to $18 each!
Most restaurants offer tap water for free, this is a great way to save even more on your bill.
16. Order the larger portion.
If you pay attention to menus, restaurants will typically offer steaks in varying sizes. A 20 oz steak is usually only a few dollars more than a 12 oz.
One popular steakhouse currently offers an 8 oz sirloin for $13.99, the 16 oz sirloin is $18.99.
That’s double the meat without doubling the price!
The same applies to pasta or sandwiches. The 1/2 size order is never 1/2 price, it is typically only a couple bucks cheaper.
Order the larger size and have leftovers to take home for a 2nd meal!
17. Place a carry out order.
To go orders often come in larger boxes, giving you a larger meal at the same price.
You will also save money this way by avoiding the temptation of drinks or dessert, as well as saving on the tip.
Servers don’t expect the same tip percentage on to go orders as they do on actually serving you in the restaurant.
18. Senior discounts.
Many restaurants offer discounts and freebies to senior citizens.
You can always ask in the restaurant, or check out The Senior List for places to find savings!
19. Follow your favorite restaurants on social media.
Restaurants often post daily deals on their Facebook or Twitter feeds.
Be sure to check for “secret” deals and let your server know that you found out about it on social media.
Here are social media pages of some of the biggest restaurants:
- O’Charley’s: Facebook – Twitter
- Red Lobster: Facebook – Twitter
- Outback Steakhouse: Facebook – Twitter
- Buffalo Wild Wings: Facebook – Twitter
- Olive Garden: Facebook – Twitter
- Seasons 52: Facebook – Twitter
Almost everyone enjoys dining out, follow the simple tips above to drastically reduce your restaurant budget each month!
Enjoy your meal!!
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