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.

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

Read Next
These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over
These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over

Buy reusable versions of these household items, and you won’t have to spend another dime on them for years.

This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say
This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say

One major wireless provider stands out for the least reliable call, messaging and data services.

Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?
Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?

A reader says the government is penalizing him for having a pension. Is he right?

15 Ways Retirees Can Make Their Savings Last Longer
15 Ways Retirees Can Make Their Savings Last Longer

Study these strategies to make your golden years gleam.

The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station
The 3 Worst Money Mistakes You Are Making at the Gas Station

Beware these cash-guzzling missteps when you stop at any gas station.

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021
7 Changes Coming to Social Security and Medicare in 2021

Recently, both Social Security and Medicare made some major announcements about benefits for 2021.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk
Longer Trips to This Type of Store May Raise Coronavirus Risk

An airborne-disease expert recommends exiting these stores within 30 minutes.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

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.

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

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021
4 Tax Credits That Will Be More Generous in 2021

If you are eligible for these tax breaks, they will slash your federal income tax bill — dollar for dollar.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

15 Things You Can Get for Free in December
15 Things You Can Get for Free in December

December is here, which means it’s your last chance to take advantage of fabulous freebies in 2020.

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.