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Dining Out Without Breaking Your Budget

Taking advantage of “happy hour” is one way to dine out without breaking your budget. Taking advantage of “happy hour” is one way to dine out without breaking your budget.

Even families on a tight budget should be able to enjoy a nice meal out once in a while. Yes, we understand certain luxuries have to be sacrificed when the bills are piled high and income is low. (Even hydroponics growers have a cash flow problem at times, usually just before harvest.) But having a good meal with your family at a nice restaurant is something that should not have to be sacrificed – at least not completely. All it takes is a little planning for dining out without breaking your budget.

Learn to Love Coupons

Coupons and discounts are essential for families on a budget – whether you’re dining out or just getting groceries. Check coupon packets that arrive in your mail or bundled with local newspapers. Olive Garden and Red Lobster are just two of the restaurants who commonly print out coupons for dollars off your entrée.

The Entertainment Book is an excellent resource for savings. It usually sells for around $25 (check their website for sales) and includes coupons like “Buy one meal, get one free.” When you register online, you’ll also have access to additional printable coupons.

Speaking of online – the internet is fantastic place to find dining discounts. Sites such as Restaurant.com offers discounted certificates for local and chain restaurants. Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll be notified when you can buy certificates for up to 75% off. Many restaurants ask for your e-mail address on their survey cards. Take the time to fill these cards out and you’ll receive special rates and deals.

It’s All About Timing


The time of day and day of the week you choose to eat out can have a significant impact on your bill. Many restaurants have “happy hour” specials (generally between 4 and 6 p.m.) where you can get two-for-one drinks and half-priced menu items. Some restaurants have a less expensive lunch menu you can order from until 4 p.m. or “early bird” specials with reduced prices. You should also check around to find a restaurant that offers a “kids eat free” night.

More Money-Saving Tips


If money is tight, you’ll want to do as much as you can to keep your bill as reasonable as possible. Skip the sodas and just order water; it’s better for you and it’s free. Pay attention to the specials the waiter rattles off to you – many of these dishes will be priced considerably less than menu items.

Consider sharing your entrée with someone else. If the portion sizes are good and you have a salad beforehand, this is a great way to cut your bill way down. This principle also applies to dessert. Many dessert dishes can easily feed two or three people, so just order one and a few extra spoons. If you have a large family, you may want to skip the pricey desserts at the restaurant and drive through a Dairy Queen on the way home. Better yet; buy a big gallon of ice cream at your local bargain store and make homemade sundaes. Your family will have a blast putting them together, and your checkbook will thank you later.

Dining out with your family can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little advanced planning and a reasonable attitude, anyone can splurge on the occasional dinner out. Coupons, discounts and shared meals are easy ways you can enjoy dining out without breaking your budget.

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How to make dining out cost less
Last modified on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 10:04

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