How to Budget For Dining Out

Everyone loves the opportunity to score a night off from cooking. Dining out isn’t just a reprieve from cooking, it’s one of the most popular ways to socialize.

On average, Americans spend $3,008 annually on dining out. I’m sure we can all imagine a better way to spend $3000. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out dining out altogether. As with anything else you need to find balance. How can you budget for dining out? Here are seven ways to get you started.

Budget, Plan, and Prep

No one wants to miss out on social events. If you know that a friend’s birthday, an anniversary, or any special event is coming up, choose that day (or days) as your dining out. Set aside money specifically for those events.

If you usually dine out for lunch, bring lunch from home and save your money. If you know what restaurant you’re going to in advance, find the menu online and calculate what you plan to order. Set a realistic amount aside to cover the costs to avoid overspending. These are three simple steps to help you budget for dining out.

What to Eat and When to Eat

What you eat and when you eat can impact the cost of dining out. Choosing to dine out during the week instead of the weekend can save you money at some restaurants. Some restaurants offer specials that correspond with different days of the week.

Bars and pubs may offer happy hours on certain cocktails and even some dishes. Dinner is usually the most expensive meal on the menu. Dining earlier in the day can save you money. Breakfast and brunch are just as enjoyable as dinner.

Choose One Course

Another way to budget for dining out is to try going out for just one course. Invite a friend out for appetizers. If you go out for dinner, stick to only dinner. Consider splitting a meal. Some dinner portions are enough for two people to enjoy.

If you have a sweet tooth, just go out for dessert. Try the soup of the day and salad. Try the “special of the day” which is usually offered at a lower rate. Skip the alcohol and soft drinks and drink water to save money.

Reduce Other Expenses to Budget for Dining Out

If you enjoy regularly dining out, supplement the cost by cutting other expenses. Still paying for cable? Streaming services Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have made it easier than ever to cut the cord. Having all three services combined can cost less than cable.

Save money by reducing food waste. Save money on your grocery bill. From using Ibotta to digital coupons, we’ve got you covered. Stick to your values and get creative. Save money in other ways and you can still enjoy those trips to your favorite restaurants.

Coupons Aren’t Just For Groceries

Restaurants regularly offer coupons and discounts. Have you ever placed an online order? Most restaurants will send promotions and coupons to the email address used to place the order.

You visit restaurant websites and sign up for coupons and promotions. RetailMeNot is also a good resource for restaurant coupons.

In addition to general coupons, Groupon has promotions available for local restaurants. For example, you may find a deal for dinner for two for the price you would pay for one meal. eGift cards and vouchers are available as well.

You can also earn cashback through Groupon for purchasing restaurant offers through the site. Coupons are beneficial when trying to budget for dining out.

Gift Cards are Our Friends

You can purchase gift cards just about anywhere now. Did you know that you can purchase gift cards at a discounted rate online? Websites like Cardpool offer gift cards at up to 35% off the retail price.

Drop hints to family and friends that you’re interested in restaurant gift cards in lieu of other presents. Collect them and use them instead of cash when dining out. You can even leave the tip on the gift card in most cases.

Take Advantage of Free Dining Opportunities

What’s just as great as saving money? Spending no money at all. Remember that some restaurants allow kids to eat free. Some pick days during the week and seasons like summer when kids are out of school. If you’re unsure if your favorite restaurant participates, check their social media or ask the server on your next trip.

Some restaurants allow servicemen (or servicewomen) including Military, Police, Firemen, and even government workers to eat. Restaurants sometimes offer free meals on your birthday in exchange for signing up for the mailing list. Explore your free opportunities.

You can have the best of both worlds if you budget for dining out. Preparing in advance can prevent overspending and overeating. Check your social media and emails for chances to save at your favorite restaurants.

Have you saved money on dining out? What were your tips and tricks to save cash?