Dining Out Doesn't Have to be a Budget Buster

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Dining Out Doesn't Have to be a Budget Buster

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Dining out is one of the great pleasures of my life, but with today's economy every one is tightening their belts - especially retirees.  

My husband and I enjoy a date night once a month. 

One of our favorite things to do is get dressed up and have dinner at a nice restaurant. We are able to do this just as we have done everything since retirement - by looking at things differently and thinking out of the box. 

For Instance, do you know the best days and meals for making the most of your dollar? 

Here are some of the ways we save money while enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant. 

  1. Use an online booking agent like OpenTable. You'll get a rebate or thank you check for doing something you do anyway, making reservations. You'll also find special promotions that will earn you rewards faster by dining at certain slower times.
  2. Watch what you drink! Restaurants make a larger margin on beverages than they do on food. To keep your check as lean as possible, order water (almost always free), or opt for a beverage that comes with free refills - soda, coffee, ice tea, etc.
  3. Eat less. Smaller appetite? Try choosing a salad, side dish or appetizer. Let your waiter know you are looking for something on the light side; you just don't want to end up with something so small that you end up ordering a huge dessert. 
  4. Share dessert but be sure to ask for two spoons.
  5. Share a large entree or take half of it home for tomorrow's lunch.
  6. Eat out on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, the slowest days of the week for restaurants. You'll be much more likely to find special deals and offers, not to mention a quieter more relaxing dining experience. 
  7. Look for early bird or price fix specials. Now more than ever restaurants are looking for your business and offering special promotions. Often a three course meals is just a few dollars more than the cost of one expensive entree.
  8. BYOB. If you have a nice bottle of wine at home, look for restaurants that offer reasonable corkage fees. Just be sure you are not bringing a bottle that is on the restaurant wine list. Some restaurants offer free corkage if you buy one bottle. With a group, this is a great way to save.
  9. Cut a coupon. Don't forget those coupons that come in the mail!  I discovered our local telephone directory has coupons for restaurants and some are buy one get one free offers.
  10. Eat at the bar. Dying to try that expensive new restaurant that just opened to rave reviews? See if they have a bar menu. You may be able to get a taste of what's being served in the dining room for much less. T.G.I. Friday's has bar appetizers for a penny if you join its Give Me More Stripes frequent-diner program. It's free.
  11. Join a restaurant website - Many restaurants offer coupons online only to their customers. I often get buy 1 get one free offers from many of our favorite places.

We have found that by eating during off hours you often get very good seating. 

Early and late dining also allows you to enjoy your meal leisurely as well as time for more intimate conversations. Eating early gives you time to do something else afterward. 

One of our favorite restaurants is located along a river front where there is often free entertainment - concerts, bands, art shows, etc. We enjoy walking along the river after dinner and taking in the free entertainment. 

So, there you have it. 

Fine dining is available and affordable even for retirees. We just have to be a bit more discerning about our choices. Bon Appetite!

Kimberly Johns, Debt Management Plan Customer with Leading Provider of Debt Relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Kimberly Johns

Kimberly is enrolled on the CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Kimberly is very active in the Community Forums, some of you may recognize her Community user name; Tiquie. Recently retired, Kim shares how she and her husband manage the financial challenges of living on a fixed income in their home state of Illinois. The John's have found some really creative and fun ways to offset the limitations of a retirement income. Kimberly generously shares smart and tested tips in her A Straight Talk on Debt blog! Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • If you own a business or work as a 1099 contractor then you can often write off taking business associates to a nice restaurant and this can be an inexpensive way to dine.

  • Hi Ruth = Thanks for reading my blog.  A business write off is a great way to have a nice meal - thanks for sharing with us.

  • Quite a bit of this spending comes about essentially in light of the fact that it's helpful. Instead of contributing an opportunity to get my espresso machine set up, I'll simply stop at Starbucks and get me some sweet blend looking like espresso. I don't have the opportunity to make lunch, so I'll simply stop at Mickey D's and get a sandwich to go. It's been a difficult day, nectar – how about we go out to eat.

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