Yesterday I mentioned our $100/week grocery budget (with another $100 allotted for stockpiling), and the other way we’re contributing to our financial goals is by budgeting for eating out. We’ve tried NOT eating out, and it hasn’t worked for us. Inevitably, there are days where all heck has broken loose, and instead of cooking I just want to go out. It’s a nice break–not just from cooking but also from cleaning–and we’ve found that indulging twice a month is the right amount for our family. To do this within means, though, I use these strategies:
- Kids Eat Free: We know the days our favorite restaurants offer FREE kids meals, and I prefer the places that give us up-to-two FREE kids meals per adult entree, since the kids outnumber the adults in our family.
- Avoid paying for drinks: While the kids’ meals usually include a drink, I opt for water. It saves $2-3 per adult, and every little bit helps. Since we don’t drink alcohol, we also save quite a bit of money that way.
- Use coupons: I get coupons for restaurants from the Valpak and other “junk” mail, but I also get $5 off $25 and FREE kids meal coupons for joining the email newsletters for our favorite restaurants. I love when Groupon and other daily-deal-sites offer our favorite restaurants, and I’ve purchased Restaurant.com certificates for $2 that give us $25 off our bill. Here’s a video on How I Use Restaurant.com.* Remember to always calculate your tip on the PRE-coupon cost of your meal.
- Learn about rewards programs: I also love restaurants that offer rewards programs, like Austin Grill. They’ve given me $10 for my birthday, offer points per purchase and other bonuses, which allows us to eat for FREE (yes, all five of us) when I’ve earned enough on my rewards card.
- Eat out for lunch: For adults, lunch portions and prices are less expensive than dinners. My husband and I had a lovely lunch out this past Monday holiday, and it cost much less than all five of us going out to dinner, which brings me to…
- Don’t take the kids: Sounds mean, perhaps, but since most children choose the same foods off the kids menu that they’d eat at home (mac & cheese?), sometimes we feed them at home and then head out for a late dinner alone. Adult conversation, not cutting anyone’s food into tiny pieces, and it costs less. Heavenly!
*In the video, I mention that Restaurant.com certificates expire 1 year after purchase, but I was wrong. Turns out, they never expire!