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You need to save money, but love to eat out. What to do?! Here’s a list of ways to save at restaurants while still treating yourself –
Subscribe to emails from restaurants
Most restaurants send emails to anyone who subscribes to their email lists. Sharing new menu items, special events, and most importantly, specials and coupons helps keep their customers coming back. If there is a restaurant you like, make sure you sign up for their emails. To stay organized you can create a folder in your email just for “Restaurant Coupons and Deals” or create a separate email account for these.
This isn’t just the big chain restaurants either, a lot of local and even fine dining restaurants routinely email deals to their subscribers.
Follow your favorite restaurants on social media
Like subscribing to their emails, follow your favorite restaurants on social media. You never know when they may share a last-minute deal or a super-secret discount with their social media followers.
Daily specials, Happy Hours, Early Birds, Late Night…
Whether it’s happy hour, early bird or 25 cent wing night, it’s good to know about the daily specials and their times at local restaurants.
Personally, a lot of times we’ll decide where to eat based on what the daily specials are. My husband and I have a favorite BBQ with great breakfast food. During the week, they have very deeply discounted breakfast deals that end at 9am. We rarely get to go, but every so often we’re both free on a random weekday morning and it’s such a treat to have breakfast out!
Daily Deal Sites
Daily deal sites let you prepay for a meal at different restaurants for a fraction of the price. These are great options if you know you will use them – otherwise you could end up wasting money on deals you can’t use.
Local coupon books
Local coupon books are one of my favorite ways to save on restaurants. My favorite is the Entertainment Book. They’re super affordable (I paid only $10 for my last book!) and come with a TON of restaurant coupons – everything from fast food to fine dining. They also have digital coupons with an online subscription. I use both – I like to keep a book in my car for when we’re out and about. You could realistically buy a book full of restaurant coupons for less than you’d pay for a single restaurant deal at the daily deal sites.
Before buying a book, make sure to preview it online and make sure it includes restaurants you’d like.
Discount Gift Cards
Did you know that there are a ton of websites that resell unloved gift cards at a discount? You’ll need to do a little bit of planning for this, given delivery times, but you can save a ton of money by buying discount gift cards online! My favorite site is Cardpool, but there are others. Just make sure whatever site you buy from is legitimate and will guarantee your purchase.
Savings can range, but you can typically buy these gift cards at a 10% to 20% discount. And because gift cards are treated like cash, you can still use them even if you have a coupon. It’s a great way to stack the savings!
Swagbucks for gift cards
Swagbucks is a pretty neat site. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a site full of different activities that pay you Swagbucks for completing each activity. You can get Swagbucks for doing surveys, shopping online, printing grocery coupons, playing games and a bunch of other stuff. Then you can then redeem them for gift cards. There are 2 ways you can use them to get restaurant gift cards – by redeeming your Swagbucks for gift cards or by buying gift cards through their MyGiftCardsPlus program. And if you buy through their program, you’ll earn more Swagbucks that you can later redeem for more gift cards. It’s a win-win!
Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
If you’re flexible about when you eat out, a lot of times it’s much cheaper to eat out for lunch than it is for dinner. Especially if there’s an expensive restaurant you’re eager to try – there’s no rule that says it has to be for dinner! They’ll have the same amazing cooking skills for lunch, but a much lower price.
Follow local bloggers on social media
If your town has local bloggers that love to share fun things to do – follow them! My town has a few local bloggers who share info on new restaurants to try and deals they recommend. Plus, a lot of times these guys will keep you in the know about other local happenings too!
Buy the bottle of wine instead of the glass
If you like to drink wine with your meal, consider ordering the bottle. The per glass price is typically way more expensive than what you’d pay if you bought the bottle. For reference, you can usually get 4-6 glasses of wine from each bottle. Multiply the cost per glass by 4, to be conservative, and compare it to the bottle price to figure out how much you could save.
And whatever you don’t drink, ask the restaurant to recork for you so you can drink it later at home! If you don’t think you’ll drink it for a while, make sure to bring along a wine saver or champagne saver, if you have sparkling wine – recorking with one of these will help preserve your wine for a longer period of time.
Bring your own fancy bottle of wine (but call first!)
If you have a special bottle of wine you want to drink with your meal, some restaurants will let you bring it in for a corkage fee. This will likely make more sense if the special bottle you want to drink is also an expensive bottle, otherwise, you might as well just buy a bottle at the restaurant.
You’ll want to call the restaurant before bringing your own bottle to make sure this is ok and find out what their corkage fee will cost you.
Sign up for rewards program
If a restaurant you like has a reward program, sign up. Most reward programs are free and don’t have expiration dates. If there is a cost to the reward program, make sure to ask what the perks are and do the math to know if it’ll make sense for you.
Strategically plan your meals out
Eating out is such a treat! And, if you’re a foodie, there’s nothing better than trying out food from great local chefs. The problem is that if you do it too much, it can eat into your budget quick. You’ll need to be strategic and plan out when you’ll visit that swanky restaurant. For example, if you go somewhere on Saturday night, perhaps you commit to making home cooked meals the rest of the weekend. This way you still treat yourself to a great experience but give your wallet a break.