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.

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Top Resorts for Multigenerational Family Vacations

    After a week at one of these resorts that cater to families of all ages, you might swear off those exhausting road trips to Grandma’s for good.
  2. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  3. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  4. Budgeting

    7 Kids Items You Should Never Buy Used

    Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Top 3 Stocks for the Coming Holiday Season

    If you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
  6. Investing News

    This is the Fastest-Growing Consumer Complaint

    There’s no way to guarantee that your Social Security number won’t fall into the wrong hands. Here are some ways to make yourself less of a target.
  7. Investing

    10 New Apps That Help Budget For Expensive Cities

    From platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
  8. Budgeting

    How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

    Cooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
  9. Personal Finance

    Money Matters on Campus: Attitudes & Aptitudes

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial instruction.
  10. Home & Auto

    Why Housing Costs Shouldn't Exceed 30% of Your Budget

    Financial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
  1. Is Japan an emerging market economy?

    Japan is not an emerging market economy. Emerging market economies are characterized by low per capita incomes, poor infrastructure ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Are Social Security payments included in the US GDP calculation?

    Social Security payments are not included in the U.S. definition of the gross domestic product (GDP). Transfer Payments For ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do changes in interest rates affect the spending habits in the economy?

    Changes in interest rates can have different effects on consumer spending habits depending on a number of factors, including ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!