For college aged people and twentysomethings, eating out is the bane of our financial existence. I know for a fact that eating out is a weakness to my generation’s pockets. We love to go out and socialize. We’re also just too lazy to cook. My wife and I are very guilty of going out to grab something to eat even when we have plenty of food at home to cook. Eating out can be extremely expensive if you do all of the things that restaurants want you to do. However, I propose that eating out does not have to be as costly as it may seem. Here are five tips to help you save money while eating out:
- There are times when it’s OK to avoid tipping. Before I get a bunch of hate mail, hear me out. I am a strong believer in following the tipping etiquette guidelines, and tipping well. However, a popular trend in the past five years has been sit-down restaurant quality food without the sit-down service. Places like Panera Bread Company, Quizno’s, Moe’s, Chipotle Grille, McAllister’s, and many other restaurants allow customers to order their food at a counter, and pick it up farther down the line. The food is usually as quality as chain restaurants, and you save on the tip! That’s a 15%-20% savings!
- Share your food. I know, you don’t want to look like a cheapskate. But, hear me out. This probably won’t work as well if you are single, but if you are married or have a significant other, you can get away with sharing at a restaurant. Sometimes, my wife and I get an appetizer and one entree, and split that. It’s not a huge savings, but it’s usually cheaper than buying two entrees that we will most likely not finish. When we are at Subway, we will buy one foot long sandwich with the combo. That means each person gets a 6″ sandwich, a cookie, and you can share the drink! Also, I eat less doing things this way, which helps prolong the inevitable development of man-boobies (excuse my French).
- Don’t buy drinks! This counts for soda and for alcohol. Look, if you are out to have a good time and drink, then go to a bar! Typically, drinking at a bar is much cheaper than drinking at a nice restaurant. Also, stick to water instead of soda or tea. First of all, it’s healthier for you, and now they sell sodas for about $2.00 a pop! That adds up if you have a family of five going out to dinner.
- When it comes to eating fast food, Wendy’s is your friend. It’s still not the best food for you, but they have many options other than a burger and fries, and they have the wonderful 99 cent menu. You can get a cup of chili, a side salad, and yogurt with granola for $3.00!!! Now that is a deal. Most fast food joints nowadays won’t let you walk out of there without spending 5 or 6 bucks on a meal that makes you feel sick.
- Do not stuff yourself. First of all, overfeeding yourself is how you gain weight. Practice self control and stop eating when you are full. Then, get the food in a doggy bag and you will have lunch for tomorrow! Extending your $15 dollar restaurant into two separate meals is a great way to save money.
I hope these tips help you, and remember to eat out in moderation. There are times to go out and have fun with your friends, and there are other times when you have plenty of food at home to eat! Also, keep in mind that cooking at home is usually always more healthy for you than eating out. Here are some more general tips for eating healthy on a budget, including some additional tips for staying healthy while eating out. Follow all this advice and you will not only save money, but you will save a few pounds on your body.
Do you have any other great tips to add to the discussion that I might have left out?