The next time you visit a restaurant, chances are you won’t hear the server urge you to “Get the water, it’s excellent.”
But these days, more and more diners are choosing to pinch pennies by cutting out costly beverages in favor of a free glass of water.
Market researchers NPD Group recently reported that orders for drinks you pay for have fallen by 6 percent over the past five years. At the same time, they said, requests for water have been on the upswing.
The weak economy isn’t the only reason people seem to be ordering fewer sodas, coffees and beers, but cost was a big factor, the folks at NPD say.
Do you love dining out but hate the credit card bill hangover? Here are 8 some tips for enjoying a restaurant meal without worrying so much about money.
Pick food you love: If you’re going to go out for a meal, make it worthwhile. Pick a restaurant you really like or are absolutely curious to try, and order food you love. Take advantage of all the ratings and reviews websites to make sure you are getting a good meal for your money. You’ll feel better footing the bill if you like the food.
Skip the beverages: Nix the soda and stick with water. Or, if you must enjoy your meal with a bottle of wine, bring your own. Many restaurants will allow that for a corking fee. It can still save you money.
Skip the other extras: When you get to the restaurant, you’re hungry so you order an appetizer. Then you’re tempted by the dessert list so you splurge on coffee and a sweet treat. Those little extras can add up to a hefty bill.
You don’t have to deprive your sweet tooth completely, however. This great post from Wise Bread is a few years old but has some good tips, including grabbing a tub of ice cream from the store — for a fraction of the cost — on the way home instead.
Split an entrée: Let’s face it, even the best restaurants will often give you a big enough portion to share with a friend, child or loved one. It’s a good way to cut calories, too.
Save some for later: If you absolutely must have all that pasta or steak for yourself, try to the meal into two, and ask for a doggie bag.
Take advantage of freebies: Lots of restaurants offer free bread or provide a salad with an entrée, and kid’s meals often also come complete with additions such as milk. Make sure your server brings all those extras.
Look for coupons and deals: Check out local websites and publications for buy-one-get-one free entrée deals and other promotions. Daily deals such as Groupon also can be great if you know you’ll use the coupon and enjoy the experience. Check out The Bad Deal for some great tips on using daily deals wisely.
Our final tip is to tip: Even if you cut down your bill, don’t skimp on the tip. Your server has to pay rent and buy groceries, too.
Readers, what did we miss? Share your tips for eating out on the cheap below.