When you’re on a budget, it’s important to slash your spending on nonessentials. But how do you balance the need to save with the equally serious need for fun?
You can do it with planning, creativity and some easily adopted habits. Following are 11 ways to save money while having fun.
1. Dine out strategically
Eating lightly can help you both enjoy restaurant meals and save some serious money. It’s easy to overeat at restaurants anyway, and ordering less is widely accepted today as a means of maintaining health.
Here’s how to care for yourself and your budget:
- Take the edge off your appetite by having a healthy snack before leaving home.
- Share an entree, halving the cost of the most-expensive part of the meal.
- Order appetizers and dessert and skip the main course. Or simply enjoy a drink and appetizers.
- Try pricier restaurants at lunchtime, rather than dinner. Often, they offer much the same menu but with smaller portions and lower prices.
2. Embrace the happy hour
Happy hour — when bars and taverns offer discounted drinks and cheap or free food in the late afternoon — is enjoying a resurgence in many cities. Search online for the name of your town and “best happy hour” for reviews of the best local spots. Happy hour prices are offered during limited hours, so order moderately and keep an eye on the clock.
3. Check restaurant websites
A restaurant’s website is a great place to learn about dinner deals, happy hour specials, coupons and promotions. Sign up for restaurants’ emails for special offers and notices of events.
4. Purchase dining certificates
At Restaurant.com, you can purchase certificates that can significantly reduce the cost of dining out. Pay $4 for a certificate worth $10, for example. However, read the fine print carefully. There may be catches — for example, a minimum purchase may be required.
Also, watch local newspaper ads for restaurant coupons.
5. Order to go
Buying a restaurant’s entrees to go can save you half or more on the cost of restaurant food by eliminating the cost of the tip, drinks, appetizers and dessert. Take the food home and build around the entrees to make a meal.