There are certain luxuries in life that are hard to give up, even when money gets tight. One of those is dining at restaurants. There’s just something to be said for trying different cuisines and not having to deal with the hassle of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.
Of course, the downside of dining out is that restaurants are known to charge huge markups on the food they serve. And with inflation wreaking havoc on consumers’ budgets these days, it’s getting harder to justify a $40 restaurant tab for a meal that can be made for $10 at home.
If you’re hesitant to cut out restaurant meals, that’s understandable. But it pays to do what you can to lower the cost of dining out. Here’s how.
1. Go after weekday specials
Restaurants tend to be busier on weekends and can have lulls during the week. As such, some restaurants run weekday specials to entice diners. You’ll want to take advantage of those, as that could mean snagging a great meal at a lower price.
2. Choose restaurants where kids can dine for free
Some restaurants offer a free child’s entree with the purchase of an adult meal. If you have kids, scope out specials like this for added savings.
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3. Skip the appetizers
Restaurant portions are generally known to be large. But that’s not always the case with appetizers. Often, you’ll get just a few bites of food at a price that’s nearly as high as the cost of your entree. As such, try skipping appetizers when dining out and order yourself a nice main meal instead.
Just as restaurants impose huge markups for food, they also charge a lot for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. If you decide that you’ll limit yourself to water when dining out, you can shrink your tab in a noticeable way.
5. Use the right credit card
Some credit cards offer extra cash back on restaurant purchases. It pays to see which of your cards offers the best rewards for dining out. And if you eat at restaurants often and don’t have a credit card that offers extra points for those meals, it may be time to apply for a new one.
6. Pay in cash if there’s a discount to be had
Some restaurants offer a discount to customers who pay for their meals in cash. Or, to put it another way, some establishments impose a surcharge for credit card purchases, since those result in processing fees that restaurants are increasingly passing on to diners. Read the fine print on the menu before choosing your payment method, as that could result in you spending less.
You’ll often hear that cutting out restaurant meals is a great way to conserve cash. And while that’s true, it’s also not an easy thing to do. So if you don’t want to give up restaurant meals, take steps to make them less expensive, whether by going after specials or snagging enough bonus cash from your credit cards to offset your costs.
June CPI inflation report: Largest price increases include gas, butter and flour
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