If you’re like me, you live life on a budget! This is how me and my husband manage to stay on track financially and keep all of our ducks in a row. Well, some months are tighter than others. Sometimes life happens and we get stuck spending more on car maintenance than we anticipated. Don’t you love when those service lights come on?!
Anyways, life happens to even the best of us. But the good news is, you don’t have to completely ax your social life or stay cooped up in the house all weekend (unless that’s your thing, which is totally cool too). Here are a few of my favorite tips for eating out on a budget:
1. Pick the Place
Whenever you’re tight on money and you’re invited out, try making suggestions first! I usually try to pick somewhere that offers a free starter like chips + salsa or bread. This way, you can start to fill up some room in that empty stomach of yours. Picking the location also allows you to stay on budget by choosing a restaurant with a menu within your price range. At times, I’ll even create an entree by pairing together a few sides. This doesn’t work at all restaurants (sometimes it makes more sense to just order an entree), but sometimes it works!
When you get together with friends, you don’t always have to meet for lunch or dinner. As an alternative, you could meet for a coffee at a café or have a dessert date at a restaurant or dessert shop. A cup of coffee or a slice of cake is much cheaper than paying for an entire meal. If you need to keep yourself from ordering additional items, try eating a little something before leaving home so you’re not starving when you get there.
2. Set a Budget
Set a budget that keeps you on track with your goals. One of the best ways to do this is to set an amount that you anticipate on spending while dining out. Maybe this means ordering an appetizer? Maybe it means just ordering drinks? It could even mean ordering a little somethin’ off the kids menu, but remember to do what’s best for you.
3. Water, Water, and More WATER.
It amazes me how many broke people go out to eat and order real drinks (non-alcoholic and alcoholic). Not only are beverages terribly overpriced in restaurants, but it’s undoubtedly possible to enjoy a good meal with a nice cold glass of water. Want to get fancy? Ask your waitress to bring you a side of lemon to go with your water! It’ll add just the right amount of flavor. I’ve even heard of people using the sugar packets on the table to make their own “lemonade.” Now I’m not advocating for this, just presenting it as an option! I’ve personally never taken my water and lemon mix that far, but if it sounds enticing try it out!
4. Think Ahead
In a way, this relates back to the first tip, but I felt that it deserved it’s own number. When I’m choosing where to eat, I always try and think ahead to the next meal. For me, this means choosing places where I can order one entree and get two meals out of it. Think about when you order a burrito bowl at Chipotle. Do you ever eat the whole bowl in one sitting? I don’t! If you do it right (order both rices- brown and white, both beans- pinto and black, extra veggies, and sofritos with a tortilla on the side), you should be able to manage eating half of the bowl and saving the rest for dinner or lunch the next day! See how that works?
Even if you’re not a fan of Chipotle, I’m sure there’s someplace you frequent that consistently gives out portions large enough for leftovers. Just think about your fav restaurants in the area and I’m sure one will come to mind. If all else fails, there’s always pizza! I can typically get about 3-4 meals out of a large pizza from Papa John’s (depending on how hungry I am).
5. Dine with People that Understand Your Brokeness. No Peer Pressure Allowed!
It’s okay to be on a budget folks. I know society and the gram is telling you otherwise, but I promise it’s OKAY. To be honest, I’m ALWAYS on a budget! It’s how my husband and I keep ourselves on track financially. We’ve all got that bougie friend who’s never even heard of a budget. You say the word and they look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language. The reality is, they may not be the best person to eat out with if they’re going to turn their nose up at your frugal ways or push you to order items you can’t afford.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hang out with them, but perhaps you should consider taking control of the situation. Instead of going out, invite them over for wine and snacks. Meet them at a bar where you just meet for drinks and offer to share an appetizer you both enjoy.
6. Take Advantage of Deals!
For the past four years, my dad, husband, and I have made it a point to do dinner and a movie every Tuesday. It’s definitely become a “thing.” The only time we don’t go is when there’s nothing to see, or if we have scheduling conflicts. Because the movie theater is in a shopping center, there are a variety of options for us to choose from. One place that we always find ourselves at is Bar Louie. Every Tuesday they offer 1/2 off appetizers and $5 burgers. There’s another restaurant that we used to go to (that has now closed) called Positalia that used to offer a discount on entrees when you show your movie ticket. This was always perfect for us because we were going to the movies anyway! But the deals don’t stop there! On Tuesdays our theater offers discounts on concessions, so we indulge on those for the low too!
So before planning your next outing, try scoping out some deals first and let them guide your decision making.
7. Learn to Say NO.
Sometimes you can’t pick what restaurant you’re invited to. Maybe your friends have already decided on a location and invite you after the fact. It happens. You’ve looked over the menu and there isn’t a single vegan option in sight outside of the usual fries and side salad. You’re hungry, but you’re not willing to sit through a night of mediocre food. What do you do?
Well folks, sometimes it’s okay to say no. If you don’t want to go, don’t force yourself to. If you’re okay with the fries and side salad, by all means enjoy a meal with your friends! But if the thought of settling for boring food makes your stomach turn, you can tell the homies you’ll catch them next time. Another option might be to invite them to your fav place for dessert (that has vegan options) after they’re done with dinner. This way you can still hang with your friends and enjoy some good food.
What are some of your tips for dining out broke? I’d love to hear them! Share your tips in the comments below!