12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half

pashyksvsv / Shutterstock.com

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

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

1. Buy a discounted gift card

Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com

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

Apelavi / Shutterstock.com

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

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

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

Ruslan Guzov / Shutterstock.com

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

Joining AARP is just one of the “6 Easy Ways to Save Money After You Turn 50.

5. Join email lists

Pikul Noorod / Shutterstock.com

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 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.

For more tips, check out:

6. Take advantage of your birthday

Kamil Macniak / Shutterstock.com

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

Goran Bogicevic / Shutterstock.com

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

8. Don’t walk in starving

Elena Sikorskaya / Shutterstock.com

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

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

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 cake, single servings generally can be found in a grocery store’s bakery department or frozen-dessert aisle for less than the cost of a slice at a restaurant.

10. Beware of menu mind tricks

AntGor / Shutterstock.com

Studies show that certain menu characteristics make customers inclined to spend more money, according to Mental Floss magazine.

Examples include putting photos next to menu items, using fancy language and omitting dollar signs from prices.

11. Rethink your drink

Kristina Zhuravleva / Shutterstock.com

Think bringing your own alcohol to a restaurant will save you money? Even if a restaurant allows you to bring your own booze, you still might end up paying more than you expect.

Jay Zagorsky, a research scientist at Ohio State University, explains on his economics blog that one reason some restaurants adopt BYOB policies is that many customers who bring alcohol then buy coffee to sober up before leaving the restaurant:

“Letting people bring their own bottle boosts coffee sales. Coffee has a very high markup and this increases profits. Plus, coffee drinkers sometimes order dessert, which has a higher markup than main courses.”

Zagorsky says coffee markups can be as much 300 percent and soda markups can be up to 90 percent, so consider asking for water first.

12. Use social media to get discounts

bbernard / Shutterstock.com

Some eateries share discounts via social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Other places offer discounts or freebies to customers who “check in” via location-based social media networks such as Foursquare, which calls them “specials.”

What’s your favorite way to save money when eating out? Let us know in the “Comments” section 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
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.

15 Purchases That Make Life Easier As You Age

There are many products that can make getting older — or any time of life — a little easier.

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

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

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

8 Award-Winning Products That Impressed 40,000 Shoppers

The Product of the Year awards help shoppers find the best pet products, personal care items and everything in between.

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

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

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

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

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.