5 Ways To Eat Out For Less
by Manisha Thakor
These tough economic times present an interesting financial conundrum for our tum-tums.
During rocky periods it’s natural and healthy to want to seek out friends and companionship. Breaking bread and having a good chat is a wonderful way to release work/life stress. But given our busy lives many of us end up spending time with others while eating out… which can really add up. So here are 5 simple things you can do to eat out for less.
1. Share an entree or make a meal out of appetizers: In modern America food portions have become so super-sized that the average meal can feed at least 2… and sometimes even 3 people. To avoid any surprises when the check comes, be sure to see if the restaurant charges a split entree fee. On a related note, some appetizers are so large they could easily fill you up as an entree and they generally cost half as much as a main dish.
2. Be sure to ask how much the specials cost before ordering: This a major hot button of mine. How many times have you found yourself in a restaurant when the wait staff describes a succulent sounding dish? You go for it, only to find yourself fighting the urge to hurl when you see the bill and find out the price. Personally, I think it’s a sign of financial self-confidence to politely ask “and what do those specials run?” so you can make an informed decision. It can be awkward to do it at first – but trust me, the whole table will appreciate it, and you’ll be a trendsetter.
3. Soup, it does a body good: A nice bowl of hearty soup (think gumbo, beef stew, tortilla soup, or chili) often costs a lot less, contains healthier ingredients, and fills you up as much as a regular entree.
4. Think before you drink: Beverages – alcoholic and even non – are very high margin products for restaurants. At a minimum, think twice before doubling down. If you can, savor one drink throughout the meal. And if you’re really trying to cut back, go to nature’s best… a glass of tap water. Doing this can easily shave 20% or 30% off your bill (not to mention pounds off your waist line!).
5. Do lunch: If you have a really strong urge to meet friends at a fancy new restaurant, try doing it at lunchtime instead. Prices are much lower, portions are more realistic, and you’re less likely to run up a costly alcohol bill.
What about you – any other suggestions you’d add to this list?
Want more financial love? You can follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor and sign up for her email updates here. Starting in Fall 2010, Manisha will teach an innovative online course on “Financial Literacy 101” for women through www.Sympoz.com. Manisha Thakor, personal finance expert for women, can be reached via her website, www.ManishaThakor.com.