North Carolinians are getting ready to eat out more as health restrictions begin to relax. This will no doubt have an impact on budgets. It is no surprise that eating out costs more than eating at home. In fact, eating at home saves an average of $9 per person, per meal. That’s nearly $40 for a family of four. There are, however, some ways you can save some money when you go to your favorite restaurants.
1. Do Lunch
This midday menu option is a savings resource available at most restaurants. The lunch menu gives you a similar amount of food to an entrée, at a discounted price. Sometimes, it can actually be more food when you include soup or salad. It’s one of the simplest ways to save money when eating out.
2. Use Coupons
Available online, in-app, or in your mailbox, coupons can shave money off your restaurant bill. Every little bit helps and it’s simple. A BOGO deal or an offer to take 10 percent off your bill can add up to good savings. Sign up for deal alerts from your favorite restaurants, keep an eye on in-app promotions from Waze or other apps already on your phone, and search Groupon for local deals before you make plans to go out. Coupons can help you keep a little more of your money, which can add up.
3. Box Half of Your Meal
Once your food gets delivered to your table, ask for a to-go box, and immediately pack up half your meal for later. The idea is to have food for lunch or possibly dinner the following day. This technique stretches your budget to save you money and gives you a bonus meal at the same time.
4. Share a Meal
This is a consistent money-saving tip for eating out. Many entrée portions take up an entire plate, leaving a sizable amount for a take-home box. Those meals are perfect to split, cutting the cost of a meal in half while providing each of you with a good portion to eat. And this option is perfect for a (not first) date night to add a nice intimate vibe while keeping your wallet in check.
5. Use Happy Hour
This tip requires an earlier start to going out but is another money-saving strategy. Happy hour specials offer a big savings opportunity to get significant deals on appetizers and drinks. This helps you to stretch your money when you go out with friends. Do a little homework on your favorite restaurants to know the happy hour days and times. In general, you should avoid ordering appetizers or starters in addition to your meal. Instead, use them as an entrée to save money. Order a few as a group and have some fun.
Disclaimer: You + Money blog posts are provided for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of a financial, legal or accounting advisor.