Dining Out, Dining Cheap: Ways to Lower Your Dining Out Budget

We love to eat out. According to a 2012 survey, 30% of Americans dined outside the home at least once a week, and a good portion of it was fast food. In a 2013 Gallup poll, a third of those questioned said they ate fast food at least once a month. Throw in the increase of fast casual dining places like Qdoba and casual restaurants like Applebee’s or Cheesecake Factory, and there are thousands of places to choose from when a young family isn’t interested in eating at home.

Unfortunately, that costs a lot of money. A family of four who dines out at least twice a week can spend between $40 and $80 dollars. Multiply that by four, and the amount of money spent can equal a car payment or even a grocery trip. For those who maintain a budget, this can cause serious problems and difficulty in paying down debts.

There are two options to lower these payments. One is to stop eating out altogether. The second is to find ways to lower the bill at the end of each meal. Here are some tips for the latter.

Survey Discounts

Take a look at the next receipt you receive from Burger King or Subway. There’s a very good chance there’s a survey website listed on the front or back. Don’t disregard this and throw out the receipt. These surveys can get you some free or discounted food items. For example, complete a survey at McDonald’s and receive a buy one, get one free offer for a breakfast or lunch sandwich. A finished survey at Qdoba gets the payee a free chips & salsa on their next trip. Completing a survey at Famous Dave’s BBQ can get someone in your party a free dessert. It may not seem like much, but there is a reduction in the final bill should you follow through.

Free Meal Days

This mostly applies to free kid’s meals at various outlets like Culver’s and Longhorn Steakhouse. The catch is an adult needs to purchase a meal in order for the child to eat for free. You may need to purchase one meal should the kids outnumber the adults. Other dining outlets do special promotions for their menu items. An example of this is Chick-fil-a. Several times a year this fast food establishments gives away breakfast entrées once each week.

Request a Coupon

Should you venture into The Olive Garden with your young family one evening please make sure you request some coupons on your way out. Many locations give away kids eat free certificates so you’re guaranteed to return at a future time. Other eating establishments may also offer the same type of programs, so don’t be shy to ask a host or a manager for a few. There’s a good chance you’ll save some money on a future trip.

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