Dining out with family and friends is a wonderful experience, but it can take a huge bite out of your budget. No worries—we’re not going to try convincing you to give up your favorite fast food restaurant. Instead, use our hacks to trim your bill when dining out.
#1 Look left. When looking at a menu, most people’s eyes drift to the right. Restaurants know this and purposely put their most expensive items on the right side of the menu. Check out the left side of the menu for cheaper options, or appetizers that can make a full meal, before looking right.
#2 Eat out on Mondays and Tuesdays. The beginning of the week is slow for the restaurant industry. Take advantage of specials and discounts that eateries offer only on Mondays and Tuesdays.
#3 Skip the Chef Special. The Chef “Special” you’re looking at on the menu is actually not that special at all. It’s more like a code for “We just inflated the price on this dish for no reason.”
#4 Don’t eat out on major holidays. To make major holidays super-profitable, many eateries only offer fixed-price menus on these days. These menus might sound cheap until you consider that the four-course meal going for $55 is a lot more expensive than the $18 entrée you’d have otherwise ordered. Or consider eating out the day before or the day after the holiday.
#5 Take it to go. Pick up food from your favorite eatery and enjoy it at home. You’ll save on server tips, beverage costs and extras, too. To make it super cheap, only purchase the entrée. Then, roast some veggies and potatoes at home for a quick side and crack open a tub of rocky road ice cream for dessert.
#6 Drink water. Restaurants are notorious for marking up beverage prices. Soft drinks can be marked up by 400% and alcoholic beverages by 600%. Ask for water and you’ll save a pretty penny on your final check.
#7 Don’t pay full price. Never walk into a restaurant without first checking for online deals and coupons. Visit the eatery’s website and also check out restaurant deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Restaurant.com and OpenTable.
#8 Split it. Instead of ordering individual portions that look like they were created for giants, split an entrée with your dining partner.
#9 Eat like a kid. If the restaurant allows, order from the kids’ menu. The items there are always priced better and you might find that one or two kids’ menu choices is enough to keep you satisfied.
#10 Skip dessert. It takes our stomachs a while to get the memo that we’ve had enough. Don’t order dessert right after scraping your plate clean. Wait and you might find that you’re so full, you can’t eat another morsel.