Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cutting the cost of Eating Out

One of the biggest areas of spending for us is in going out to eat.  Now, I don't mean to say we spend more than our car payment or anything- it's just that in the budget, I have a line item that reads "Fun Money".  Under fun money, 90% of what we spend is going out to eat.

When we go to McDonald's or somewhere similar, we try to order less. For instance- 2 McDoubles and a large fry, to be split between us. This can seriously cut your bill in HALF, depending on what you typically order. We simply drink whatever we have at home (I dislike eating in restaurants).

If we absolutely have to eat out, Tim & I get convoluted. Let's say we each want a combo meal that would run around $6 each. $12 + tax for lunch, right? Instead, I might get the $6 combo and upsize it (around $1 more)... and then Tim orders off the dollar menu. $7+ tax- we eat less because we don't keep stuffing fries "so we don't waste them" and we knock $5 off our bill.  I also ask for a cup of water, since I prefer that to a soft drink anyway.

You often get coupon booklets in the mail, or there are pages in the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper.   SCORE! IF we eat out, I try to make sure it is using one of the coupons. Remember: You don't save money using coupons if you spend when you normally would not have. So using a coupon for dinner every night doesn't save us money- it causes us to increase our spending!

We also started using our one Fast Food meal to go to Subway...sing it with me now... "$5 Foot Looong". One of these things makes two meals for us. Not bad! Again, we eat our own chips and make our own drinks at home! $2.50 a meal a person, and it's a healthier alternative to Burgers and Fries!

Rather than going to Pizza Hut or Dominos we make our own- or splurge a little and get a $5 Hot N Ready from Little Caesar's. It's the best $5 pizza I didn't have to make.  If you don't have a Little Caesar's near you, be sure to ask about specials at the other pizza places.  Even a $10 any way you want it pizza from Pizza Hut will last two meals at my house, knocking down what we spend per meal.

Join "Food Clubs" with your favorite restaurant. We belong to T.G.I.Friday's and Texas Roadhouse, to name just two. Both send coupons through my email and both have rewards cards. Texas Roadhouse relies on how many meals you buy for you to win prizes- I think Level 1 is a T-shirt, while TGIF tracks the amount and awards you "points". $100 worth of points= $8 coupon for free food. I know, not terribly exciting, but if you plan to eat there ANYWAY, you might as well get something free out of it!

Plus, the coupons are out of this world! Buy an entree, get an entree free. Buy an entree, get an entree for $1. They are well worth signing up, neither restaurant is spammy. Check your other favorites to see what kind of programs they offer! If they don't offer a rewards program, fire off an email explaining that you'd love to see it...otherwise, you may have to go spend your money in a place that does.  Also, a little planning goes a long way.  If I know we want to eat at Smokey Bones, I can simply google "Smokey Bones printable coupon".  More times than not, I find something, even if it's just a free appetizer coupon.

Check to see if there is an "early bird" option. Again, Texas Roadhouse offers 10 entrees priced at $7.99 if you eat from 4pm-6pm. Sweet! That saves $2 off my favorite meal, and I only have to eat a little earlier than normal. If Tim and I both take advantage of this offer- that's $4 we save and if we do it twice a month, every month... $96 savings over the year. If someone walked up to you and offered you a free $96, would you honestly turn it down because it was too much trouble to hold out your hand? I didn't think so!

If you want to treat yourself or you have to eat out because of travel, you can at least try to save a few bucks in the process.


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