In this recession, more and more people (including me) are cooking at home and not eating out. But every once in a while, I like to treat myself and my family to a meal. Here's how I afford it.
Momlogic's Julie: I love eating out.
You don't have to shop for groceries, cook, or do the dishes afterwards. Someone serves YOU for a change. It's one of my favorite things to do.
But these days, I can't afford to splurge on $50 or $60 meals. So I've discovered a way to go out but still save money.
For instance, last night, my family and I went out to Numero Uno pizza parlor. We had an appetizer, salad, large pizza, two kids' meals, three sodas, and dessert. I even had leftovers to bring to work today for lunch.
The grand total? $13 plus tip.
Beforehand, I bought a $25 gift certificate for $2 at the website Restaurant.com using promo code DINE. (The 80% code expires February 28.) Go to the website, punch in your zip code, and you'll be amazed how many restaurants participate in the program.
Once you pay for the certificates (using a credit card or PayPal), you just print them out from your computer.
Is it embarrassing to use one? Well, the first time I did it, I was a little nervous. But you tip on the pre-discount price, so the waiters aren't being penalized and never seem to be annoyed you are using a "coupon." I have used these certificates at least 15 times, even at fancy restaurants, and it's never been a problem.
Each restaurant has its own set of restrictions. Most have a minimum purchase -- either $35 or $50. Look for the ones that have a $35 minimum or less to get the best bang for your buck.
One night when I went out with girlfriends, they all cracked up when I broke out my $25 coupon. But it bought us a bottle of wine ... and that shut them up quick!
Other ways I save money on eating out:
- Look for happy hours with cheap eats or free buffets. Great for date night.
- Go to places that have a "kids eat free" policy. These savings can add up.
- Buy the Entertainment book, which features hundreds of "2 for 1" coupons. Before going on vacation last year, I even bought the book for the city we were visiting. That saved us tons!
I am not a cheap person, but I definitely look for ways to cut costs in this economy so I can maintain the lifestyle I enjoy.
How do YOU save money on eating out? Share your money-saving tips below!