In today's fast paced world, the life of a working parent can be hectic. Between work, school, after-school activities for the kids and more, there is very little time to prepare a home cooked meal and dine with the family at home. That is why it is no surprise to see families dining out at restaurants more frequently. While dining out at restaurants can save time, it isn't so easy on the household budget. Dining out doesn't have to be expensive. Saving money on restaurant dining is easy if you know where to cut corners.
Set a Clear Limit for Each Family Member
Prior to going to the restaurant, set a limit as to how much each person can spend on his or her meal, and make sure your family sticks to the budget. By setting a strict limit, indicating how much each person can spend at the restaurant, you are sending a clear message that the family needs to watch how much they spend when ordering.
Skip the Appetizers
Another way to keep your total down is to skip the appetizers. Many restaurants now give super-sized entrée portions, so there is no need to fill up before the main course. Appetizers are just going to fill you up before dinner, and then you won't be that hungry when the main course arrives. Opt against ordering appetizers and your final bill will be significantly lower.
Mailing List and Coupons Can Save Money
If there is a particular restaurant your family enjoys, ask to be put on its mailing list. Often, restaurants will mail out updated menus and coupons, and let you know when they are having specials. Additionally, if you visit the restaurant's website, you can obtain much of this same information as well. Print out coupons to use towards your next visit and keep an eye out for special deals being offered.
Take Portion Sizes into Consideration
When dining out, take portion sizes into consideration. Some entrées are big enough to share. If several members of your family want the same dish, it may be feasible to share dishes. Rather than have everyone take home a big container of leftovers, share an entrée. Everyone will be well fed, you won't have to lug home leftover food and your bill will be 50% less.
Skip the Alcoholic Beverages
One item in particular that can drive up a restaurant bill is alcoholic beverages. Mixed drinks, wine and beer can be very pricey at restaurants. Instead of indulging at the restaurant, drive home safely and enjoy a drink at home.
Have Dessert at Home
As you are reaching the end of your meal, your well-meaning waitress approaches you and asks, "Can I get you anything else? Cake? Pie?" Rather than taking her up on her offer, nix the dessert at the diner and enjoy a treat at home. Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
The Bottom Line
Dining out doesn't have to sabotage your budget. Saving money while dining out is easy, once you know where to cut corners. Sometimes, it just takes a little creativity (and a little cooperation from the family) to save money on your final bill at the restaurant. Rather than splurging every time you go to the restaurant, take measures to cut spending and stay within your budget.