How gift cards, apps and eating early pay off
Don’t whine about the cost to dine.
The average American household spent $3,008 dining out in 2016, an increase from the $2,787 spent the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Millennials are especially likely to eat out, with 54% saying that go to restaurants at least three times a week, according to Bankrate data from this year. What’s more, with companies like Grubhub, Postmates and Doordash offering food delivery from restaurants, the convenience of outsourcing meals is easier than ever.
That may be one reason that Americans say dining out is the No. 1 thing that busts their budgets every year. If eating out is eating away at your savings, here are five hacks to help stretch your dollars when you dine.
Pay with discounted gift cards
Keep your credit card in your wallet next time you’re at a restaurant. Brent Shelton from Dealcrunch tells Moneyish, “Buy gift cards at a discount during the holiday sales. You can find chain restaurant gift cards for as much as 20% off retail value at sites like Raise, GiftCards and SlickDeals.” Additionally, wholesale stores like Sam’s Club and Costco carry gift cards that can be found at a discount.
Use reservation apps
“Always use OpenTable to make dinner reservations, even if you don’t think you need it. You’ll rack up points for every reservation and eventually you can cash out for a restaurant voucher,” Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews tells Moneyish.
Eat during happy hour
Dining early can knock a few dollars off drinks and even more off food items. “Dining at restaurants with a happy hour special can reduce your bill by as much as 15%,” says Sakraida.
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“Every restaurant has a slow night and often that falls earlier in the week. Some restaurants offer incentives for customers to come in on those nights. These restaurants might not advertise their deals heavily, but checking their Facebook page or signing up for email newsletters can help you learn about promos,” says Sakraida.
Since appetizers are often more affordable, order a couple to fill you up and then share an entrée to soften the cost of the meal. Drink filtered water instead of bottled and if there are enough people at the table, Sakraida suggests sharing a bottle of wine instead of ordering individual glasses. “You can also avoid alcohol markups entirely if you seek out restaurants with BYOB policies. Often you’ll be charged a corkage fee, but you’ll save significantly on costs even if you opt for a nicer wine,” she says.
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