I know in this fast paced world we live in today it’s a challenge to eat every meal at home. Sometimes you simply run out of time so if you have to eat out here are some tips for saving a buck or two on every bill. If every penny counts…every dollar counts a hundred times more!
Tip #1: Pick a place that’s convenient.
Save on gas money (or taxi fare) by going to a restaurant near you. Balance the travel cost with the menu prices, but I find all too often people will drive 15 minutes for a taco shack because it’s cheap, ignoring the two gallons of gas they pay for round trip. The price of how much I’m paying for gasoline is always foremost in my mind since I have to drive such a long distance to work, I am acutely aware of how much each mile costs to drive.
Tip #2: Pick a place that does not have a waiter bring you food.
Save on tip money by picking a place where you physically order and pick up your own food, if you have a choice. I always tip my wait server 20% because I understand they do not make minimum wage and rely on tips to make up for that. But I prefer to save on tipping by just going to places that avoid having a wait staff. An alternative is ordering food-to-go, so that you avoid the wait server fee as well.
Tip #3: Check online for coupons or loyalty programs.
Check in advance online for food places around work and residence that offer coupons from: Groupons, Living Social, loyalty programs, website coupons, or discount times/days. Also, consider signing up for loyalty rewards, for example MyPanera at Panera’s where you get a free cookie or a dollar discount every 2-3 times you visit. You would be surprised by how even upscale places typically have some sort of discount, many times posted on their website. It also pays to sign up for their newsletter if they have one as they will send out periodic specials and coupons.
Tip #4: Order Water
Order water at all food spots always. The mark-up on drinks is crazy. Restaurants frequently charge $1.50-2.50 for a drink that the waiter may only refill once or twice. Water is easy to drink with any meal, plus it’s free and healthy. Just watch out for “water cup” charges…that’s kind of silly and in my opinion a poor business practice.
Tip #5: Order the Less Expensive Meat
Order chicken instead of steak and cut your bill by a third, seriously. Steaks tend cost at least $12 at restaurants for 6-8 ounce, and you can buy a whole pound for $3-9 at a grocery store (yes, that is twice as much for half the price). Chicken and sometimes fish dishes are significantly less extensive at restaurants and are just as convenient to order as the steak.
Tip #6: Pass on dessert.
Don’t waste your hard earned savings by passing on the drink and protein by splurging on dessert. You can have your own at home made in minutes if you keep some packaged fruits or desserts on hand – maybe buy a box of brownie mix or cake mix when on sale.