11 Ways You Can Dine on a Dime

Spendsters waste their money on everything from clothes and textbooks to Internet shopping and giant bean bag chairs. But the overwhelming majority of you (nearly 50 percent) spend most of your money on eating and going out.

If your bank statement is filled with charges from restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, try reducing your spending on food and libations with some of the ideas below.

Enjoy everything in moderation.

  • Limit lunches out. Bring your midday meal from home Monday through Thursday, so you can give yourself a treat out on Friday. Or, challenge yourself to last even longer without buying any food at work—this blogger made it 161 days!
  • Resist refills. Remember when your favorite Mexican restaurant gave free refills on chips and salsa? Make sure they still do. Before you ask for another of anything, consult the menu.
  • Drink water. It’s almost always free at most restaurants, some of which might charge you for refills on sodas and most assuredly on adult beverages. If you still want a drink, order water, too, so you can alternate and make what you pay for last longer.
  • Split meals. Eat something light before going out to dinner and then share a meal (and the bill) with your dining companions. Restaurant portions are huge these days, so you’ll be saving yourself calories, too.

Scavenge your city for deals.

  • Jump on the group-buying bandwagon. Websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer great deals for local eateries in your area—as long as enough people sign up. But don’t let the one-day-only offers trick you into buying something you won’t (or can’t) use and experiencing what Reuters has coined “Groupon regret.”
  • Get On the List. Many restaurants offer their own email, text, or Facebook exclusives that provide discounts to their followers.
  • Search the Web. Print off coupons from restaurants.com, and research prices before you try a new venue on sites such as Yelp. Check out these and more on GetCurrency’s list of resources for cheap eats online.

Indulge strategically.

  • Frequent happy hours. They remain a tried-and-true way to save money on eating and going out. You might be surprised at how much food you get for how little.
  • Be mindful of the menu. If the restaurant doesn’t list its prices, remember that most menus feature the more expensive items on the right.
  • Seek out discounts. If you’re a student, flash your school ID to see whether the venue offers special deals. Got kids? Dine out on “kids-eat-free” days.
  • Discuss the bill beforehand. Splitting the bill can get messy, especially if you ordered much less than everyone at your table. Ask the waiter to provide separate bills. If you feel awkward about bringing up the bill with your good friends, read these tips for resolving the situation from LearnVest.

How do you save money on eating and going out? Tell us below or on Facebook!

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