One of the best ways to trim your budget is to eat at home instead of dining out. That said, there are ways to dine out occasionally without spending nearly as much as you might expect for fine dining. Below are six major ways to enjoy a restaurant meal without going over your budget.
A key way to save money when dining out is to hit the restaurant at lunchtime. A lot of well-regarded restaurants serve nearly the same menu at lunchtime, except that the portions are smaller and the prices are too. Some restaurants have an ‘early bird’ seating around 5 p.m. in the afternoon before the evening rush. Many seniors take advantage of the reduced prices and portions of this early meal.
Skip the Extras
Stay away from extras like appetizers, beverages and dessert. If you really like a particular appetizer, order it as your entrée and share some of your partner’s main dish. Beverages like iced tea or soda can be up to $5 each, especially at fine dining restaurants, and a dessert can sometimes cost as much as an entrée.
Do Your Research
Check online reviews to see if the restaurant you plan to visit has a reputation for good food and great service. Do some research to find a restaurant that serves salad and bread with the meal in case you decide to go the appetizer as an entrée route. If you like pasta, then you’re in luck because it’s usually the least expensive dish on the menu and it’s filling too.
It’s okay to share! You and your dining companion can split an entrée and order an extra salad. Some restaurants will plate the meal separately for each of you with extra vegetables for a nominal charge. Another fun way to dine out on a budget is to order three appetizers for two people and share them like a Tapas meal.
Have an Aperitif at Home
If having a glass of wine or two with dinner is important to you, have the first one at home. Then stick to just one glass of wine with your meal. Or better yet, find a restaurant that has an attached bar that serves happy hour drinks at reduced prices. Order a glass there while you’re waiting for your table or before your reservation time.
Coupons are a great boon when it comes to fine dining on a budget. One way to get them is to check the restaurant’s Facebook page or website frequently. Sometimes restaurants reward ‘fans’ with limited time coupons. You can also find good deals online through Groupon, Living Social and Restaurant.com. Local entertainment books are a good source for 50 percent off coupons throughout your area and they usually benefit a cause.
Everyone deserves an enjoyable evening out now and then. These six tips should help you find a way to fit fine dining into your plans without breaking your budget. Remember to tip your server at least twenty percent, especially since you are getting such a great deal on your meal!