Restaurants are expensive – no doubt about it. Although going to any restaurant will be more expensive than eating at home, there are ways to lessen the restaurant burden. Let’s get started:
Skip appetizers and deserts
Most appetizers are carb laden and fried. Most deserts are carb laden and covered with cheap sugar. Neither of these offer good value. There’s also no negative social stigma to not ordering either of these options. Simply eat a little of the free bread and explore the entrée menu.
I used to just order a drink by default. Now I order water and don’t even miss the drink. It was always expensive, overly sweet in most cases, and it was always awkward wondering if free refills were a thing. And if you could get refills, it was always awkward asking for them… “I wonder if I’ve had too many…”
Whenever I order water I say, “Water, no ice, no straw.” I do this primarily because I don’t like drinking freezing cold water. But saying this also takes away the momentary awkward silence that may follow a person saying, “Just water, thanks.”
I’ve heard of some people using table sugar and lemon slices to make their own lemonade. To me, that’s just overly cheap. But, no, there is nothing wrong with being resourceful.
Meat is often the best bang for your buck at a restaurant. Sometimes a steak at a restaurant rivals grocery store steak prices. It’s the least marked up item at a restaurant.
Consider it like this… say you go to a Mexican restaurant and order a meal. It will likely cost $15. For fifteen dollars, you’ll likely get rice – refried beans – corn – some kind of shredded beef that’s usually filled with a filler like more beans or MSG.
Alternatively, you could get a steak dinner. It will usually cost approximately the same price. But instead you’re getting a lot of filling food! An 8oz steak will likely provide more lasting energy than 24oz of rice.
Get the most expensive thing on the menu
That’s right – sometimes it’s smart to spend a little extra and go big. Reason being – restaurants know most people won’t order the most expensive menu item. Either you’re paying and don’t want to spend that much money or someone else is paying and you’d consider it rude to order the most expensive item. Thus, restaurants put their food with higher profit margins just below the most expensive item. Getting the most expensive item on the menu means you get the most bang for your buck.
Decide who’s paying beforehand
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably a pretty frugal person. If you’re not a frugal person – you probably still don’t want to spend money if it brings you no joy.
You’ve probably been in this situation as well. You eat a meal while employing at least one of these money saving tips listed above. Then, all of a sudden, the loudest guy in the group – who ordered an appetizer, drink, and desert says, “How about we just make it simple and split the bill even all the way around?!” He’s so loud and annoying, everyone agrees. You don’t want to be a wet blanket and say it’s not fair. So you go along. You end up spending $21 for a meal instead of just $11. Thanks, ‘friends.’
Enjoy your Money
There are tons of ways to enjoy your money in this life. Find what you enjoy. It’s probably not overspending at restaurants. Let me know in the comments if you have any more tips to save at restaurants. We all could benefit.
I’m a personal finance freelance writer and webmaster. I welcome you to visit me at www.thefrugalpreneur.com