Cool Ideas

Keep Tabs on Your Tab

Who doesn't love taking the night off cooking and enjoying a relaxing meal with friends, family, or loved ones? Most would agree that dining out at your favorite restaurant is a necessary luxury, but when bills get tight it's often one of the first things to get crossed off the list. However, with a little planning and mindful ordering, you can eat out and stay on budget. Follow these 6 tips and you won't dread saying, "Check, please!"

Dinging on a budget
  1. Drink water: Skipping the soda, cocktail, or coffee is an easy way to keep your check down. Any beverage will likely add at least $3 to your bill, and it can be as much as $10 per drink when you imbibe alcohol. Stick to water and put the focus on the food, and you'll save yourself a bundle—and possibly a headache the next morning.
  2. Price the menu: Many of us order with our stomachs and not with our wallets. While you might be inclined to order the steak and lobster combo, consider trying something less expensive on the menu. You'll still enjoy eating a restaurant-prepared dish, and you just might discover a new favorite item on the menu.
  3. Share a plate: It's no secret that restaurants these days serve enormous portions—in fact most plates are the equivalent of at least two serving sizes. Take advantage and split an entrée. Not only will you save some cash, but you'll save a few calories in the process.
  4. Skip dessert: No, we're not saying you have to give up your well-deserved piece of chocolate cake. However, you should avoid ordering it the restaurant to keep your bill at a minimum. Instead, stop by your local grocery store on the way home and pick up a sweet treat from the bakery. No doubt it will be cheaper, and you'll also get more servings out of your purchase.
  5. Eat early: You don't have to be 65-plus to enjoy the benefit of an early bird special. Most restaurants will run the special as late as 7 p.m., so you can still eat at a reasonable hour and enjoy dollars off your check.
  6. Bring a coupon: There are hundreds of coupons available for chain restaurants, offering such deals as buy one entrée, get a second for 50 percent off. Search your local paper, online advertisements, sign up for emails, or check out our coupons here in our Dining & Entertainment section on CoolSavings.