9 Easy Ways to Save up to 50% on Your Next Restaurant Meal

Photo by Air Images / Shutterstock.com

Americans love to eat out — but the resulting damage to their budgets can cause a lot of indigestion.

There are plenty of ways to slash your restaurant spending, though — so many ways that there’s no reason to pay full price for a meal out.

The following tips can help you cut the cost of eating out by as much as half.

1. Use a discounted gift card or gift certificate

This is one of the easiest ways to take a big bite out of your bill.

Say you pay for a restaurant meal with a gift card or gift certificate that you got for 20% off its face value — like a $100 gift card that you bought for $80. You will effectively save 20% on that meal.

You can buy discounted gift cards and certificates from:

  • Warehouse clubs: Costco and Sam’s Club are among those that sell restaurant gift cards at a discount.
  • Gift card marketplaces: Websites such as Raise.com are basically exchanges through which folks with unwanted gift cards can sell them for less than their face value to savvy shoppers.
  • Discount websites: Restaurant.com sells discounted gift certificates for local restaurants and small chains, boasting savings of up to 50%. The likes of Groupon.com are another option.
  • Restaurants themselves: Many major chains offer free gift cards or vouchers with the purchase of a gift card during certain times of year — including right now, as we report in “13 Restaurant Chains Offering Gift Card Freebies This Spring.” These promotions are tied to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or graduation season, but there’s no reason you can’t use the gift card and freebie for yourself.

Here is an extra tip: Make any purchases from Raise.com, Restaurant.com or sites like Groupon via a cash-back portal such as Ebates. These websites effectively pay you to shop online by giving you a percentage of your purchase cost back as a cash rebate.

2. Pay with a rewards credit card

Don’t want to bother looking for a discounted gift card or gift certificate? At least pay for your meals out with a rewards credit card — assuming you’re using credit responsibly by paying off the bill in full each month to avoid interest charges.

If you eat out often, you might look into rewards credit cards that give a greater percentage of cash back for such purchases.

An easy way to find the right card for you is to use a free online resource like Money Talks News’ credit card comparison tool. Select “Cash Back” or “Rewards Cards” from the menu on the left to limit search results to that type of card.

3. Ask for a senior discount

If you are 50 or older, you should ask whether a senior discount is available at pretty much any business you patronize — certainly including restaurants.

To get a taste of your options, check out “9 Restaurant Chains With Discounts for Diners Age 50 or Older.” For more options, consider joining an organization like AARP, which will give you access to discounts at more than a dozen chains.

4. Beware of menu mind tricks

Certain menu design tactics make customers inclined to spend more money. So be sure to read “8 Ways Restaurant Menus Trick You Into Spending More” before your next meal out.

5. Join email lists or social media

Many eateries — from sit-down restaurants to fast-food joints and ice-cream chains — have an email list they use to notify subscribers about deals. Look for a sign-up option on the websites of your favorite restaurants and others you would like to try.

Some chains will even send you a coupon or freebie just for signing up for their email list, as we detail in “23 Restaurants Where You Can Get Free Food Right Now.”

If you don’t want your inbox inundated, create a second email account and use that address just to sign up for email lists. Then check it for the latest discounts before each time you eat out.

Another option is to “like” the Facebook page of your favorite restaurants. Many chains announce deals and specials through their social media accounts.

6. Take advantage of your birthday

Some restaurants with email lists ask for your birthday upon sign-up and send you a freebie each year to celebrate.

For examples, check out “23 Restaurant Chains That Offer Free Food for Your Birthday.”

7. Dine during off-hours

Pick a restaurant with lunch or early bird specials. Some restaurants also offer specials on certain weekdays.

8. Eat a small snack beforehand

Yes, hunger is what brings us to restaurants. But just as you’re liable to spend more on groceries when you go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, you’re likely to order too much if you walk into a restaurant famished.

9. Eat dessert at home

This is especially smart if you prefer to eat a simple dessert such as ice cream. The carton you bought at the grocery store can be just as tasty for a fraction of the price of a restaurant scoop in a fancy dish.

Even if you’re in the mood for a slice of decadent cake, single servings generally can be found in a grocery store’s bakery department or frozen-dessert aisle for half the price of a slice at a restaurant.

What’s your favorite way to save money when eating out? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees
20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees

Maybe you’re not ready to leave the workplace entirely.

7 Common Online Shopping Mistakes That Will Cost You
7 Common Online Shopping Mistakes That Will Cost You

How many of these costly online shopping missteps are you making without realizing it?

5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance
5 States Where Drivers Pay the Most for Car Insurance

Auto insurance will cost you more than three times as much in one state compared with another. Here’s how to lower your rates no matter where you live.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

Never Buy These 12 Things at a Thrift Store
Never Buy These 12 Things at a Thrift Store

Sometimes a great deal is not worth it — or, even worse, is dangerous.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security
This Is the Most Popular Age for Claiming Social Security

Both men and women are most likely to start receiving Social Security benefits at this age.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s
6 Things You Should Never Buy at Trader Joe’s

We love Trader Joe’s for plenty of reasons. But think twice about this handful of products.

7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home
7 Unusual Ways to Declutter Your Home

Tired of possessions weighing you down? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet
11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

It’s scandalously easy to overspend in these areas of your life.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on both everyday and occasional purchases.

9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value
9 Dumb Ways You Are Ruining Your Home Value

Homeowners, beware these mistakes that can drive away potential buyers.

18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
18 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them
15 Outrageously Overpriced Products — and How to Save on Them

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security
Why Half of Retirees Now Owe Taxes on Social Security

Growing numbers of seniors are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits, but you might be able to avoid this fate.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.