How to Save Money: Eating Out

How to Save Money is a  monthly think fruitful series with helpful hints and tips for taking control of your finances. Get your free monthly budget template and 4 tips for eating out on a budget!

I’m glad to be back with this month’s How to Save Money post, and it’s going to be a really relevant one, I think.

Eating out!

I remember as a kid, we did not eat out much. My parents were good budgeters, and they were smart not to try to entertain us three girls in a public restaurant. We stuck with the occasional, local Mexican joint after church on Sunday, or Taco Bell or Burger King when my mom was traveling and Dad was in charge. Man, I loved those treats.

1. It should be a treat

These memories bring me to my first tip for saving money while eating out: make it an occasional treat. If you want to save money, then eating out can’t be the norm. Although you can find some good deals eating out (I’ll show you in a minute), eating in is always cheaper. But, it’s also not always as fun.

That’s why you should include eating out expenses in your monthly budget and stick to them.

Budget per week, so you can make sure you have a meal or two out each week. If your budget is tighter, then go out to eat once or twice a month.

2. Dine local

When you choose local restaurants that utilize locally-sourced ingredients, you can save yourself money (fewer ingredients have to be shipped in). And everything will likely taste better that way, too! Instead of getting a so-so salad at Chili’s for $15, you can have a tasty soup and salad for $12.

We’ve been enjoying eating out at a local dive near us, Simple Twist in Garner, where the prices are affordable since they have a farm-to-fork mentality.

If you’re looking for cheap lunch ideas in Raleigh, check out this post!

3. Pick Your Apps, Zerts & Drinks Wisely

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going out and celebrating a bit, and your budget will let you do that within reason. During the meal, I like to pick and choose whether I’ll get a drink with my meal and an appetizer. Or maybe I’ll sacrifice a drink for dessert. Being flexible when you’re eating out will help you pick what you really want to eat and save money in the long run. You can also just go out for drinks and desserts if you feel like you can afford the whole shebang.

Wait for super special occasions like your birthday or anniversary to go for the app, entree, dessert and drinks.

Keep your eye out for local specials like restaurant week, or embrace the small plates craze to try a lot of things for a lower price. Remember like I’ve said before that vegetables are cheaper than meat, so the more veggies than meat you eat, the cheaper it will be.

4. Consider To-Go

While you might have your certain places to go on your special date night out, you should also have a few budget-friendly meal options for when you don’t want to cook. You’ll save money by not having to pay (with your tip) to sit in the restaurant, and you can have a glass of wine or beer at home for much cheaper. That said, always give at least a 20% tip when dining in!

In Raleigh, we love Mami Nora’s ($16 for a whole chicken with beans and rice), Whole Foods takeout pizzas ($10 for a large one night a week), Cook Out for a tasty burger and fries, Beansprout Chinese for takeout, and Oak City Meatball Shoppe for spaghetti and meatballs.

How do you save money eating out?

Enjoy treating yo’self!