The folks who know me know that I am somewhat of a foodie, I enjoy dining out and if I were unable to go out at least once a month I would get a little glum so I have found ways to be able to do this without over spending. I have touched on a few of these ideas before but I just read a great little article in the Consumerist that made me think its time to bring this up again. With money still tight for folks we can tend to get a little stir crazy because we are staying home more, its nice to be able to get out and have a nice sit down dinner away from home where someone else cook, serves and cleans. This may sound like something that could potentially break the bank but there are some great ways to save money and indulge at the same time.
First, check all the great general sites for discounts and half off gift cards. If you live in areas served by Groupon, Half Off Deals, Neo Fill and Half Off Depot check out the savings on their sites, also remember to check out your area Entertainment book for additional coupons that can be used together with your half price gift certificates. The other fantastic place to check is Restaurant.com where you can find gift certificates for area dining at more than 50% off plus, if you use coupon code AUTUMN right now you will save 80%. They are also giving a free $10.00 gift card with every order.
Before you head off to dinner be sure to check out Facebook and Twitter as well, many restaurants are trying to get dollars in their door through social media and will offer an instant coupon if you follow them on line. Also check the establishments web site directly, many times you can find promotions and coupons there as well. While you are at the restaurants web site to sign up for their birthday clubs if they have one, then you will get some great deals when your birthday rolls around each year.
Next is to figure out the best time to go to a restaurant, some places have great deals on Monday's to get traffic through the door; or consider making appetizers your meal, you will get to try a couple of items for less than the price of a full meal, and some places offer great appetizers for half off during Happy Hour. If you decide to use Happy Hour to stretch your dollars remember not to order more than one drink, better still just have a soda or a glass of water. Again, checking the restaurants web site to look at the menu in advance will also help you stay within your budget, knowing what you want to order before you are even seated can really help your bottom line, also you will be able to see if where you are going has joined the new wave of dining establishments with a prix fixe menu. These are great and let you have some of the best food at quite a reduced cost. While you are there consider what you may want to take home for later, many restaurants offer large portions which you can easily make into two meals, plus, if you are at a place that serves free salad, bread sticks or chips for a starter then you can have the freebies to fill you up a little, allowing you more to take home and enjoy later. If you qualify for it, be sure to ask the waitstaff about a senior discount as well, you have earned that discount, why not ask for it?
I also found a great web site called Pocket your Dollars while writing this article that I think can help you find even more savings. I would love to hear some of your tips for a great night out at a fancy restaurant.