For the first time in history, Americans are spending more at bars and restaurants than they are on groceries, and the Millennial generation is a big part of that shift. Young adults spend 44% of their food dollars — or $2,921 annually — on eating out, a 10% increase from just six years ago. That’s an average of $56 a week, which can be a decent chunk of your paycheck.
So how can you save money while still eating out? We’ve got some tips.
1. Eat during happy hour. You can save on drinks and find half-priced appetizers at many places during after-work hours. Check whether you need to eat in the bar area to get the deals.
2. Go tapas-style with appetizers and sides. Get a few apps and side dishes to share. They’re cheaper than a full entrée, and are often some of the most delicious food items on the menu.
3. Or skip appetizers entirely. Though not incredibly pricey, salads and soups can pad a bill. If you’re ordering an entrée, skip these small plates.
4. Find daily deals. Dollar tacos on Tuesday? Free dessert on Sunday? Pay attention to daily deals for restaurants you frequent, or ask about them next time you’re there.
5. Go for lunch. Restaurants often offer the same food with smaller portions (and price tags) during lunch hours. If you’ve wanted to try a new spot that’s not exactly in your price range, go for lunch.
6. Find coupons. Sites like Groupon always have coupons for local places. Check out the current restaurant coupons for your area, which can save you up to 50%! Also see if your favorite fast casual spots have loyalty cards (e.g., eat nine burritos and get the tenth one free) or see if they offer a coupon or voucher for something free on your birthday.
7. Get social. Sometimes restaurants will offer coupons if you can show you’ve liked or engaged with them on social media, or they’ll have competitions for free meals on social media. Follow and like your frequent dining haunts and watch their feeds.
8. Snack before you arrive. This sounds weird, but just like you shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach, you may want to have a piece of fruit or small snack to stifle your hunger before going out to eat. You’ll order less — and pay less.
9. Check to see if tip is included. If you have a large party (more than six people) check your bill to see if gratuity is included, so you don’t pay double.