The holidays are over. We've shopped and wrapped and visited and entertained. And now, we're tired! The last thing we want to do is cook dinner, right? Wouldn't it be nice to go out to dinner instead of creating yet another masterpiece in the kitchen? But we've probably drained our pocketbooks on gifts and groceries these past weeks. So how can we afford to eat out?
Here are some ways to save money, but still enjoy a meal that you didn't have to slave over.
• Go out to lunch instead of dinner. Menu items are often less expensive at lunch time.
• Ask if you can split an entrée. Sometimes you may be required to pay a nominal sharing fee, but it would still be less than the cost of another dinner.
• Order appetizers as your meal. Depending on the restaurant and your appetite, some appetizers are a meal in themselves. If you aren't that hungry, and don't need a salad or soup with dinner, then choose an appetizer instead.
• Have dessert at home. Eating out is a treat itself, but you can save money by not ordering that piece of cake.
• Don't order alcoholic beverages. The mark-up on drinks is much higher than on sodas or tea/coffee.
• Ask if the restaurant offers half portions.
• Find out if local culinary schools offer student-cooked meals. You can get a gourmet dinner for much less. It may not be the same high quality, but it's cheaper than visiting a gourmet restaurant.
• Take advantage of happy hour even if you don't drink because the appetizers are often less expensive.
• If you order a full meal, take the leftovers home. It will be another meal for you that you don't have to cook.