8 Clever Ways to Save Money at Restaurants

Eating at home can save you a ton of money. But sometimes (or a lot of the time), you just don’t feel like cooking. Luckily, enjoying a meal out on the town doesn’t need to mean that you’re draining your bank account. Just follow these tips for saving money while going out to eat and you’ll be all set.

1. Order water.

While it’s not as exciting as, say, a margarita on taco Tuesday, it’s definitely the cheaper (and healthier) option. Beer, wine, cocktails and even fountain drinks can add anywhere from $5 - $50 (hey, we’ve all been there) to your tab — and if you stick with water, your bill has the potential to be exponentially lower.

2. Clip those coupons.

Okay, maybe not literally. But if you look online, many restaurants (especially chain restaurants) advertise specials all the time. Whether it’s saving a few dollars on a certain entree or taking a percentage off your entire meal, there are tons of great deals out there. You just need to look for them. Check the restaurant’s Facebook page, search for coupons online by typing the restaurant’s name and “coupon” or “promo code” and, if you’re old-school, look in the newspaper for deals.

3. Have kids?

Take advantage of the nights where kids eat free! Many restaurants, both of the chain and local variety, have certain nights of the week where kids eat free when you purchase a certain amount in adult entrees. So take the whole family out and enjoy those savings!

4. Swap your entree for an appetizer.

Often, an appetizer is as large as an entree, but half the price. Take advantage of this by eating an appetizer as your meal. Since most appetizers aren’t completely balanced meals, either, try adding on a small house or side salad to round things out.

5. Split a meal with someone else.

It’s no secret that most American restaurants have huge portions of food. So if there’s someone else in your party who wants the same thing you do, try splitting a meal. Ask the server to bring out an extra plate and divide everything into two — including the bill.

6. Take home the leftovers!

The best way to make the most of a meal is to make it two meals. If you order a larger item off the menu, use some willpower (aka portion control) to only eat half of it. Then, take the rest home in a to-go box! Heat it up for lunch or dinner the following day for savings that are twice as nice.

7. Order it to go.

This may seem counterintuitive to enjoying a meal out, but it actually works. Instead of getting a table and eating your food there, go to the restaurant and order your meal to go. Depending on the place, you may get more than the usual amount just because they’re trying to fill up the box.

8. Last but certainly not least, hit up the best happy hours in town!

Search online, ask your friends or talk to the servers at your favorite spots about deals that only happen during specific parts of the day. They’re totally worth it!


Hamm, Trent. (2017, December 13.) 15 Strategies for Saving Money at a Restaurant. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/15-strategies-for-saving-money-at-a-restaurant/

Smith, Dana Lee. (2016, March 29.) 20 Ways to Lower Your Restaurant Bill, Straight from Employees. https://www.eatthis.com/save-money-at-restaurants/