Do you love eating out but also want to keep your food expenses down?
I feel like I spend a lot of money on food, and I know I could reduce my expenses if I stopped dining out. But that is not something I’m willing to do.
There is something about sitting back and relaxing at a restaurant while you pay for the convenience of someone cooking for you that I don’t want to give up. I love trying new food and supporting creative chefs and small businesses within our city.
Dining out is a splurge and one that I always want to engage in.
But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to spend boatloads of cash on eating out.
I have other priorities for my money other than just having someone else cook for me.
For that reason, I’ve worked to come up with a few tricks to help me enjoy eating out a few times a week while still meeting my other money goals.
How To Eat Out On the Cheap
Set aside a certain amount from each paycheck for dining out
If eating out is something you love to do and want as part of your life, then plan for it.
Create a budget.
Set aside a certain amount from each paycheck specifically for eating out. You can do this in a separate checking account or create a cash envelope specifically for this purpose.
And then commit to spending no more than you have put away for it.
I love the budgeting trick of spending no more than you set aside each paycheck. It’s a great way to keep you from going over your budget while still allowing you to indulge.
Indulge During the Week and Stay Cheap on the Weekends
Restaurants will often offer specials on weeknights in order to get people in the door.
These weeknight specials are a great opportunity to hit up some of your favorite pricier restaurants at a discount.
You can often find drink specials and discount food offerings that you would not find during the busy weekends.
This is all fine and dandy. But if you are like me, most of your eating out occurs on the weekends.
To satisfy both our desire to eat out on the weekend and keep to our budget, Mr. Taco and I will often choose cheaper restaurants such as our local taco or pizza joint.
Limit the Amount of Alcohol Consumed When Eating Out
This one has really been a game-changer for our dining out budget.
Buying alcohol at restaurants is not cheap.
In the past, we would often find that over half of our dining out bill was for alcohol charges. Yikes!
But we didn’t want to say “no” to drinking alcohol when at restaurants.
Mr. Taco is an avid beer logger on Untappd and loves trying new beers. And, for me, enjoying a good glass of wine brings a smile to my face.
For these reasons, we figured out a few things we could do to enjoy a drink with our meal while keeping our budget in check.
1. Only Have an Alcoholic Drink if You Really Want One
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I used to associate going out to eat with having an alcoholic drink. It was just something I did. I had a cocktail or glass of wine with my meal even if it wasn’t something I was super excited about.
Today I only have an alcoholic drink if I really want one.
And this definitely helps keep our eating out budget in check.
2. Only Have One Alcoholic Drink Per Meal
We don’t follow this rule for every eating out experience, but we try to make it our basic rule of thumb when at a restaurant.
By limiting our alcoholic beverages to one per person, we often reduce our bill by $20!
Allow Yourself to Indulge When Eating Out, but Do It with Intention
Mr. Taco and I like to eat at all kinds of restaurants.
Depending on our mood, we’ll head to a variety of places from the taco truck down the street to the restaurant with a wine list the size of a large novel.
But we’ve come to realize that we can reduce our monthly eating out spending if we limit the times we venture to one of the pricer restaurants in our city.
Therefore, we’ve agreed to limit our “fancy” dining out experiences to once per month.
We know we still want to enjoy the unique creations of more expensive restaurants, but we also know we have other goals for our money.
By intentionally allowing ourselves to indulge once a month, we are able to do something we love without feeling like we’re sacrificing our other financial goals.
And it’s helped me feel more at ease about spending money on a nice meal when I know we are only going to do it once a month.
Find Your Go-To Place for Cheap Eats
Some days you just want to eat out.
Maybe it was a long day at work and you feel like treating yourself. But you also don’t want to blow your eating out budget.
In these times, it’s essential to have a go-to place you absolutely love for some cheap eats.
We have a favorite restaurant in Milwaukee called Oscar’s Pub and Grill, which is our go-to for delicious cheap eats. We often get out of there with a bill of less than $20, and that includes one beer for Mr. Taco. It’s such a steal!
And we love supporting this restaurant. The clientele, servers, and food are all amazing.
Go ahead and Google “cheap eats” in your city. Then set out on a mission to find your go-to place for when the going gets tough and you just need a meal cooked for you.
You Got This
It’s possible to enjoy eating out while trying to stick to a budget, especially if eating out is something that brings you joy.
Figure out how much money eating out is worth to you and use these creative ways to help you stick to that budget.
Do you have other tips or tricks you use to enjoy eating out while on a budget?