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12 tips to saving money while dining out

Who doesn’t like to eat out? But the downside is the cost.

When you’re trying to save money it’s easy to feel discouraged or deprived.

So, here’s how to go out to eat without blowing your budget, because sometimes you need time at a restaurant not only to feed your body but to feed your soul.

When my husband Bob and I were going through financial woes we didn’t go to restaurants at all. No drive thrus, no pizza, no meeting friends for coffee. Nada.

I sure missed it, especially after all the years we spent living on cruise ships eating that glorious food every day, which leads me to the first tip.

1. Satisfy your restaurant cravings by learning to make your favorite restaurant foods at home. We’d often make a date of cooking something outrageous together at home (Baked Alaska, anyone?) which became part of the journey that led me to writing Divas On A Dime.

2. Save going out for special occasions (neglecting to plan dinner isn’t a special occasion).

3. Save up the money for your splurge in advance and stay within your allotted budget because when you overspend on one single meal it’s no fun to regret it till next paycheck.

4. Choose a restaurant that realistically fits your budget. Most restaurants have their menu available online so you can see the pricing and even decide what to order before you go. Find out if the restaurant offers early bird specials, coupons, or discounts.

5. Restaurant portions can be large so consider splitting an entrée and sharing dessert. Or order a couple of appetizers to share. Ask if you can order off the senior’s or kid’s menu for smaller portions and lower prices.

6. When your server offers extras with your meal, like sour cream, avocado or a drink refills, always ask if there’s an additional cost.

7. Drink water with your meal, beverages are the most marked up items at restaurants.

8. Lunch is usually less expensive than dinner so make your plans for the afternoon rather than evening.

9. Happy hour is a great time to meet with friends for an inexpensive cocktail without obligating yourself to the cost of dinner.

10. Go out for dessert. Many of my most memorable evenings out with Bob consist of two cups of coffee and a shared dessert. Good times.

11. Have a snack at home to take the edge off your hunger so you’re not ravenous when you get there. Never go to a restaurant so hungry you want every item on the menu or you’re so famished that waiting for your food feels like an eternity.

12. While you’re enjoying your special outing be sure to focus on pleasures of eating out beyond the food, like getting out of the house and not having to do the dishes as well as time with family and friends.

So, can you afford to eat out? That’s between you, your wallet and your waistline, but that’s another column, *wink.*

Frugal Fun contributed by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom.

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