Best Ways to Save When Eating Out

Saving money should not be viewed as limiting or controlling of how you live your life. In fact, saving money allows for quite the opposite. If you take the time to budget out your expenses, you are the one deciding where your money goes, and there is no greater feeling of control than when you call the shots for your personal finances. It is inevitable that we will end up in situations where family and friend obligations require meeting up together for food and fun, and that is completely okay. Life is too short to always decline spending quality time with those closest to you, and if it means having to splurge a little, it can even be healthy to do so if done wisely. But remember, the money in your account is yours, so you always have a say in how you can spend your money wisely, no matter the responsibilities that arise for family and friends. 

A typical event that takes place when meeting with family and friends is to eat out at restaurants, usually ones a bit on the pricey side. Although this is completely okay, if youŕe not careful, your bill at the end of the meal can add up quick and you´ll end up paying way more than you intended. Because we believe it is good to eat out with friends and family from time to time, we do not think it good to neglect eating out altogether. Remember, you´re in control of your finances, not the other way around. So when situations arise where you´re going to enjoy a nice meal with loved ones, do not pretend that you don´t have a say in what leaves your bank account. Take control of what is yours. 

We will share with you 5 tips on ways to save, even on the days when you splurge. Note: Because we understand that saving money requires practice and discipline, we want to point out that there are easier ways to save more so than others, but typically, the strategies that yield the most results do require a bit more effort. It´s okay to start out easier as you build the habit of saving money, so don´t feel the pressure to start doing all of the tips that we share. Start where you feel ready, and work your way from there. We listed the 5 tips on how to save money at restaurants in order from easiest to hardest, but remember, the things worth pursuing always require a bit more effort. Don´t settle. 

Tip 1: No Waiter/Waitress, No Tip

You will not always have a say in this, but in the occasions that you do, choose a restaurant that does not require a waiter or waitress to serve you. There are plenty of restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a nice meal without the need of having to spend an extra $5 to $6 for a tip afterward. Places like Nolan´s, Rudy´s, and Jason´s Deli come to mind for me. The idea is not only trying to save an extra $5 or so, but also for us to be good stewards of our money by giving generously to those who serve us. If we end up spending more than what we bargained for at a restaurant where a waiter served us, the temptation is to not tip as high as we should, which is not only cheating you, but also the hard-working waiter trying to pay his bills as well. Itś always best to go into a nice restaurant with the intent of tipping well, so consider that when choosing what to purchase form the menu. This practice should not be done all of the time, of course, but if there´s an option for a restaurant that doesn´t require a tip afterward that everyone can agree on, it´s still a way to save even when eating out.

Tip 2: The Cheaper of the Two 

This is a very simple tip that I learned from The Elements of Investing by Burton Malkiel and Charles Ellis (seriously, go read that book). It goes like this: find two options on the menu that you like, then choose the cheaper out of the two, and then pocket the difference! For example, if you´re at an Italian restaurant, and you´re trying to choose between a $15 plate of lasagna or a $12 plate of chicken alfredo, choose to buy the chicken alfredo and add the $3 difference to your savings. It may take a little while, but over time, that´s a few dollars added to your savings every time you eat out! I like this tip because it´s easy and you´re not only buying a less expensive option off the menu, but you´re also adding to your savings. 

Tip 3: The Cheapest Five

This one is similar to step 2, but instead of locating your favorite plates, locate the five cheapest meals on the menu, then choose one of the five. This one requires a little more time looking over the menu, but once you find the five cheapest meals, it gives you a variety of options that helps you save and still allows you to enjoy your plate. 

Tip 4: Stick with Water

It´s no secret that drinks add up. Don´t buy a drink other than water for your meal, unless it´s a special occasion. Sodas, and especially alcoholic drinks, easily add up to over half of what you would pay for a dessert. Enjoy a water and save however much money it cost to have liquor or beer. 

Tip 5: Two for One Meal Deal

You just got invited to join your friends at a fancy restaurant where the table cloth costs more than your shoes. Instead of having to spend a lot more money than you would like, or having to decline the offer and missing out on a good time with friends, try this tip: eat an apple or banana or something before meeting with your friends. This way you won´t walk into the restaurant starving, but you could still sit down and eat a good bit. Chances are that you will eat about half of your plate, meaning you can save the other half for later! This cuts the price in half, making it two meals (a better deal) and you didn´t have to sacrifice your social life. 

Again, you do not need to practice all of these tips. Look at what you think sounds reasonable or doable and starting making the habit of saving now. Over time, you will begin to understand how taking control over your finances, even in situations where it seems you don´t have much, can be a liberating feeling.

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