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On a Budget: How to Dine Out Even When You’re on a Tight Budget

by Stephanie Koathes Apr 22, 2019

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Restaurant bill and credit card in empty white plate on a wooden table.

When your wallet is feeling a little thin, enjoying a meal out, other than fast food, might seem impossible. Dining out is expensive, but you can still indulge without completely blowing your budget if you follow these tips.

Swap dinner for breakfast or lunch: Going out for dinner is always enjoyable, but there’s no reason a breakfast or lunch date can’t be just as fun. These early and midday meals are usually cheaper than dinner, and restaurants often offer generous lunch specials.

Share: Choose eateries that serve large portions that you can split or spots that serve meals made to share. Go to a gourmet pizzeria and split a pizza for instance, rather than a fancy French restaurant where portion sizes mean you won’t be able to share.

People sharing pizza slices.

Coupon hunt:  Sign up for coupon or discount sharing websites in your area. You can often score great discounts or find amazing specials on meals at various restaurants this way.

Stick to water: Ordering a beverage with your meal is an easy way to rack up extra dollars on your bill. By sticking to water, in a glass, not a bottle, you’ll be saving a little cash.

Take advantage of special nights: Two-for-one taco Tuesdays, happy hour, all-you-can-eat pasta Thursdays…Look out for when your favourite eateries offer deals and choose those nights to eat out.

Order appetisers: If you’re not in the mood for a lot of food, or the appetisers at the restaurant come in large portions, order a starter rather than an entrée. They are usually cheaper.  

 Try a buffet place: While this may not be the most sophisticated option, buffet-style restaurants certainly offer value for money.

Watch social media: Restaurants are keen to have you follow them on social media and will publish deals and specials on their pages to pique your interest.  

Don’t dine out on a completely empty stomach: Ordering on an empty stomach is a sure-fire way to spend too much money. Have a light snack before you head out.

Sources: US News, The Balance, Save the Student