In College and Starting Out

In college and just starting out as young adults, read along as these bloggers face a new stage and increased responsibility.

Do You Dine In or Out?

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Do you prefer dining in or out? This may depend on a number of different factors. You may choose one over the other because of convenience, cost, or your friends' preferences for their meals.

I enjoy eating at home on certain occasions, as well as eating out at other times. Even though there is speculation about an "economic turnaround," I'm always looking for ways to save some extra money. For this reason, I'm going to outline some of the ways to dine in or out on a budget so that you can save some money no matter what you're partial to.

Since I listed dining in first, I'll start off by providing some tips on how to save cash while eating in.

  • Plan ahead. If you're able to plan out weekly menu items, you will have a better idea of what to purchase while grocery shopping. Planning ahead ensures that you don't buy food items which aren't going to be used. Sticking to this list will cut back on impulse shopping, too.
  • Buy store brands. There's a good chance that store brands have identical ingredients to the more expensive name brands. A lot of times these are actually produced by the same national manufacturers. Purchasing store brands will provide you with a similar taste and quality, while stretching your dollar further.
  • Buy in bulk. We've all heard the phrase "bigger is better"-this is the case for grocery shopping, and buying larger quantities lowers the cost for each individual item. Shopping at warehouse clubs like Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's will help you save money, and cut back on trips to restock these items in your pantry.

While you may not always enjoy eating in, by choosing this option, you reap some additional benefits. You are able to prepare your dishes exactly to your liking, determine portion sizes, and avoid travel time to a restaurant.

Below are some tips to save cash while dining out.

  • Order appetizers. Many bars and restaurants offer specials during happy hour. While most people associate happy hour with cheaper drinks, there are usually appetizers and other dishes that are discounted as well. In addition, a couple of appetizers will cost less than a full entrée, and will also add some variety to your meal.
  • Eat less. Reducing your portion size will allow you to eat healthier and cut back on calories, while also saving more money. Many locations offer "lite" portion size-or smaller meal options. If you choose to order a larger portion, don't eat the entire dish; instead, save some so you'll have leftovers for lunch the next day, or for a snack later on.
  • Schedule around specials. Before you step into a restaurant, you can check if there are any specials that day by calling ahead. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be slower days for businesses and there might be certain specials on the menu. Also, checking out websites like Restaurant.com, Valpak.com, and Groupon.com are places where you can find coupons to get the best deal.

Dining out has its perks as well. There's no preparation or cleanup required and it can be a lot more convenient-for these reasons, it creates more time in the day.

­Before you go ahead and decide to dine in or out for your next meal, I would recommend that you evaluate your current eating habits. How often are you eating out? If you can't remember the last time you cooked a meal at home, I would strongly suggest that you begin to curb this practice, as you will save a great deal of money. I used to eat out for a lot of my meals, but then realized how much of my money was being put toward dining out. I realized that it wasn't the most sensible option for my budget, and started to balance my dining options. Please do yourself a favor: assess your dining habits and act accordingly--the savings will add up.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions to "dine on a dime" as I am always looking to get the most out of my money. Bon appétit!

  • When going out to eat I sometimes want just an appitizer but feel akward by not odering a dinner. I feel that the waitress may be offended because of maybe thinking her tip may not be enough. I would always leave the proper amount no matter what I oder. Is this crazy?

  • Thank you "Millyshep" for expressing how you feel about dining out on a dime. I completely understand that you may feel awkward at times by ordering an appetizer instead of a menu item for dinner, but in my opinion there is nothing to worry about. I have ordered appetizers instead of dinner on a number of occasions and can relate. I would recommend that you make a joke about your order to the waiter/waitress which will ease the situation. You could also hint to the waiter/waitress that you have a small appetite and if this is a restaurant that you frequent often, there is a chance that you will run into these individuals in the future. Eventually, they will become familiar with you and know that you prefer to order appetizers in place of entrées. They will notice that you tip appropriately and you shouldn't feel awkward about ordering appetizers. Due to the economy people are scaling back on eating out and it is completely understandable for eating a more economical meal. Make sure you enjoy your appetizers and don't feel bad!

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