Dining Out On a Budget
It’s a lot of fun to go out to dinner with your significant other and/or with good friends. If you are working hard on a frugal living plan, you may think that you need to stop dining out completely. But actually, this is not the case. You can still enjoy restaurant dining even if you are trying to stick to a household budget. Read this article to learn a step by step plan for eating out without breaking the bank.
Your first step is to enjoy everything that comes for free with your meal. In some restaurants you need to ask for plain drinking water. (Ask them to add a little lemon or lime if you enjoy your water with a little citrus flavoring.) Even if you have to ask for water, you will never be charged for it. (Do not order carbonated or brand name water because you will be charged for that.) Many, though not all restaurants also bring rolls or bread sticks or bread and butter, all free of charge. Do not fill up on bread (or bread sticks) because you want to leave room for your actual meal, but do enjoy a piece or two if you want to take the edge off of your hunger.
Chances are your server will ask if you want to order cocktails or wine. Your second step is to refrain from ordering the wine (or any other alcoholic beverage, for that matter). Ordering wine (or beer or spirits or any alcoholic beverages at all) can substantially increase your restaurant bill. (You could order non-alcoholic beverages like soda, but if you really want to save the most money, stick with water.)
Your third step is to order either the appetizer or entrée that most appeals to you. (There is no need to order both an appetizer and an entrée if you are trying to stick to a budget.) You don’t have to order the cheapest items on the menu, but you don’t have to order the most expensive ones either. Ask the server about the portion size. In most American restaurants, the portions are huge and plenty filling, whether you order a large appetizer or an entrée. (Whether you order a generously sized appetizer or an entrée, there is also a pretty good chance that you will have some leftovers that you can take home in a doggie bag.)
When you have finished your meal and the server offers to show you the dessert meal and/or to bring you coffee or tea, your fourth step is to refrain from ordering anything at all from the dessert menu. This means you should refrain from ordering any post-dinner beverages like coffee or tea, and do not order any dessert. (You can always have dessert, coffee and/or tea at home.)
By the end of the meal, your restaurant bill will be reasonable because each of you will only need to pay for one item apiece (the single large appetizer or entrée that each of you ordered). The bread was free, as was the water. To save more money, you refrained from ordering alcohol, soda, dessert, coffee and/or tea. (Of course, tipping is always important. Servers work very hard and rely on tips to make a living.)