12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half

Americans are spending more money eating out, but you can buck the trend easily. These tips will help you cut restaurant costs by up to 50 percent, if not more.

12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half Photo by Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

If you love to eat out, you’re not alone.

The average U.S. household spent $3,000 on food away from home in 2015, the latest year for which federal data is available. That’s up from about $2,600 just two years earlier.

There are plenty of ways to slash your restaurant spending, though. These tips can help you cut the cost of eating out by more than half.

1. Buy a discounted gift card

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You can buy gift cards for less than their face value on websites that enable people to sell unwanted cards. Examples of these online marketplaces include Cardpool.com and Raise.com.

To learn more about them, check out “How Unwanted Gift Cards Saved Me $300 Last Year.”

2. Buy a discounted gift certificate

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Websites like Restaurant.com sell discounted restaurant gift certificates that can drastically cut the cost of dining out. Buy the gift certificates online and print them out at home, or simply display them at the restaurant on your mobile device.

Discount websites like Groupon and LivingSocial also sell similar dining deals.

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

3. Use a rewards credit card

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

For help finding the perfect credit card, visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center. You can sort credit card offers by “Cash Back” and “Reward,” for example.

4. Join AARP

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AARP membership benefits include discounts of 10 to 15 percent at certain restaurant chains.

Note that, as we report in “6 Fabulous Ways to Save After You Turn 50,” you can join AARP upon turning 50.

5. Join email lists

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

One of my current favorite examples is P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. The restaurant sends me a coupon for an entire free entree with the purchase of one entree about once a month. That’s a savings of up to 50 percent — and all I have to do is show the server my emailed coupon on my phone.

6. Take advantage of your birthday

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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 “Happy Birthday — Get Free Food at These 27 Restaurants.”

7. Dine during off-hours

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

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