Really want the Restaurant? How to cut the cost of your meal

dining1One of the first expenses to get slashed if you are trying to keep to a budget is eating out. Eating is all about feeding yourself, when you consider it.

But what if eating out is truly one of your major pleasures? Here are some tips on how you can treat yourself on occasion and still stay on budget.

Baby steps

If eating out for date night or girls night is truly one of your guilty pleasures, it might be really hard to let go of this activity completely.. What about if you shifted from once a week, to once every other week- or once a month?

Even small changes like this can help boost your bottom line.

Include all the costs

Eating out is expensive- but it’s not just the cost of the meal. People often forget to include the extras when they are budgeting. Remember (and account for) things like parking, babysitting and tip money as well.

Water it down

Want to shave down your meal tab? Skip the booze and have water only. While a rich merlot might make good food sense with your meal, it will boost your bill by quite a bit- including extras by way of liquor tax.

If you order coffee or a soft drink, double check the free refill policy before you fill ‘er back up again.

Rethink the Menu

Who says you have to head right to the entrée page? Why not have an appetizer for your meal instead?

If you are ordering an entrée,  make sure to ask for a to-go box, so that you can pack up leftovers for your lunch tomorrow. The cost isn’t as substantial if you can stretch it out to cover a few meals.

The meal deal

Become proficient at looking for meal deals, coupons and 2-for-1 promotions. Subscribe to your favourite restaurant’s mailing list, so that you’re ensured of a steady stream of discount opportunities coming right to your inbox.

One place to look for discounts? The bottom of your bill- make sure you don’t throw them out. Restaurants want you to come back, so they often will sneak in a freebie on the bill. Read the fine print though- these are usually time limited offers with restrictions.