Eating Out at Restaurants – Budgeting Tips


Most people like to eat out at least once in a while; however, if you’re not careful, doing so can significantly eat into your food budget. There are ways that you can still eat out without blowing the budget if you are careful. Regardless of how much you spend, though, this amount should be figured into your budget as part of your monthly expenses. Some people will budget enough money to eat out once a week; others may only be able to eat out once a month. By taking advantage of specials and planning ahead, you may be able to afford to eat out more than you think.

If you have kids, you can blow the budget in a hurry by eating out. Kids’ meals, while cheaper than the regular meals, can significantly add to the tab. Even worse, if your child doesn’t eat very much, you may be paying for nothing. If you have very young children that do not eat much when you eat out, consider foregoing the kids’ meals altogether and sharing what you are eating.

Many restaurants have particular nights of the week when kids eat free. If you haven’t already, start making a list of these and use this to your advantage the next time you go out to eat. Be sure and pay attention to any restrictions so that there will be no surprises when it is time to pay the bill.

While many restaurants limit the kids’ meals to those of a certain age, not all of them do. In fact, some of the so-called kids’ meals are big enough for some adults. If you are not very hungry or if you are going to a restaurant that serves full portions for the kids’ meals, you may want to ask about any age restrictions. While some kids’ meals are limited to grilled cheese sandwiches or chicken strips, other such meals are just smaller portions of a full-size adult meal and they can be a great bargain, even for adults. You don’t have to get full every time you go out to eat, especially when you are on a tight budget.

One of the biggest ticket busting items on a restaurant tab is the drinks. Sure, alcoholic drinks are expensive, but even tea, coffee, and soft drinks are often $2 a pop. If you are on a tight budget, skip the drinks altogether and drink water. For a family of 4, this amounts to an $8 or $10 savings, which can be significant.

Look for coupons to your favorite restaurants. You’ll find these in the Sunday coupon insert in the newspaper, and you may find them online as well. In addition, join the email mailing lists of your favorite restaurants. Sometimes, they will send coupons and notices of special deals right to your inbox. Also, many restaurants will send a coupon for a free appetizer or something similar just for joining. It is also a good idea to join birthday clubs, although many of these are just for kids. However, an increasing number of restaurants are giving out free meals, appetizers, and desserts for adults who are having a birthday as well.

Another big ticket buster in many restaurants is the dessert menu. Although many of these desserts look incredibly tantalizing, try to bypass them altogether if you are on a strict budget. If you feel you must indulge, try splitting a dessert. However, if you can hold off and have dessert at home, you can usually save a lot of money.

Appetizers will significantly add to your bill as well. However, many of the appetizers on restaurant menus make a great meal. If there is something on the appetizer menu that is calling your name, consider having it as an entrée instead of merely an appetizer. You might also consider sharing a meal with your spouse or whoever you are dining with, especially in restaurants that offer larger portions.

By employing just some of the above strategies, you can still enjoy going out to eat without busting the budget. In fact, if you are careful with the occasional meal out, you will feel a lot better about splurging every now and then for a really nice restaurant meal.

This post was written by

jason – who has written posts on Budget Clowns.
Father of three and married to a lovely women. Always looking for ways to save money, and invest it properly for my children's future.

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