So here's the thing.  


A few weeks ago, I learned that many of you really only want to learn one thing from me: you were basically just interested in learning how the heck you can save money but not become a hermit who never goes anywhere or does anything. (I may be putting words in your mouth, but that was the jist)


So I announced that I was going to do a series of posts about "how to have a life while still saving money"


My first post in the series was about going out at night (bars, drinking, etc). And this post will focus on restaurants!


So to set up this post, let's imagine that one of your best friends calls you up and says "hey, wanna grab dinner sometime next week?". You do want to hang out with her, so you want to agree, but you are also a very smart SMIYT-er so you don't want to spend a fortune on one dinner.



My top 6 tips for {CHEAP} restaurant eating!


Numero uno: Location, location, location.

This is literally the most important decision of all: where will you be eating? If possible, YOU should set the location. My best suggestion here is to find a restaurant WITH NO WAITERS. No waiters = no tip. That'll save you a huge chunk-o money.


For example, I would not choose this restaurant. There are most definitely waiters, and everything on the menu is in the $15-$20 range. (Fun fact: this is where Mike and I met! But at the bar downstairs. We're classy like that)


If the location isn't up to you, that's cool too. I have more ways to save money, so never fear!



Numero dos: Know before you go.

1) Can you find any coupons for that particular restaurant? Go to their website and see if there are any special deals listed. You never know- you might score a 2-for-1 deal or a free appetizer or something! (and don't be embarrassed to use a coupon... your dining partner should be impressed by your couponing skillz! If they aren't, well, maybe you should get rid of that dining partner. haha, just kidding... but really)


2) Scope that menu out before you even go to the restaurant. (hellooooo what else do we have google for if not for pre-viewing menus?)


I don't know about you, but when I go to restaurants I often find myself chatting with my friend and totally get distracted and have to make a super quick decision on what I'm going to order... and then I usually order something more expensive than I prefer! So check it out first and try to pick out your item in a no-pressure environment :)


In this situation, I had picked out my meal (the back plate-- Mike's is in front) before we even went to the restaurant. They had a portabello sandwich on the menu and I really wanted to try it!



Numero tres: Will you drink?

Decide in advance if you will be getting drankzzz (of the alcoholic variety). If you don't want to spend money on a drink, decide that ahead of time and make yourself stick to it. It's too easy to get to the restaurant and be tempted by the delicious looking IPA selection (oh, just me?)


Wait but this is really funny- I ordered a beer by Dark Horse brewing and when it arrived, doesn't that look like a horse in the foam?!?! HOW FITTING.


If you do want to drink, decide (in advance) how many drinks you'll get. Again, it's easy to get carried away once you get started. Also-- be sure to ask about any happy hour/drink specials. You might be able to save a few dollars just by ordering one particular drink! (of course, don't do it if you don't like that drink-- it's not worth saving $2 if you're gonna hate it, haha)



Numero cuatro: Cut the unnecessary ad-ons.

(PS this is embarassing to admit but I took spanish in high school AND college and couldn't remember how to spell "cuatro" as I typed this heading... definitely spelled it as "quatro" and then had to google it. oops)


Let's remember the reason for this restaurant outing: it's because you wanted to hang out with your friend.


Do you have to order a $2-$3 soda in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Order water and save the money (and be healthier).


Do you have to order the $18 salmon in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Order the $10 sandwich and save the money. You'll still be full and it will still be amazingly delicious.


Do you have to order an appetizer in order to hang out with your friend? NO. Your meal will fill you up, I promise. (Unless you're going to one of those super fancy restaurants that give you like, 3 bites of food and charge you $50 for the "experience"...)



Numero cinco: Take what you paid for.

Restaurants give you a LOT of food. If you can't finish your meal, take it to go! No use in stuffing yourself just to finish the meal- just box it up and take it with you... and then you have a delicious snack or meal for another time! :)



Numero seis: You do you.

You know what? These are the tips that work for me based on my preferences & financial priorities. But if you really truly want that $18 salmon, or you really truly want to try an appetizer, then do it!! Don't deprive yourself of something if you really want it (and can afford it).



How do YOU save money while eating at restaurants?