If you're like most people, saving money can get hard when your heart's desire for a little fun bumps up against your brain's strict budgetary rules. Life is all about finding a balance between the two -- all while making sure your account balance stays in the black.
The good news is that there are ways to save even while enjoying yourself. You don't have to skip that big-deal anniversary dinner or avoid a hip new restaurant that's creating so much buzz. Try these tips to save money while eating out.
Try Going Vegetarian for the Night
In most restaurants, vegetarian entrees are cheaper than ones featuring a chicken breast or a steak. Choose a pasta dish, a trendy polenta bowl or a flavorful stir-fry to get a delicious bite of something new -- all while spending less. Vegetarian dishes are often more flavorful because chefs use lots of herbs and spices to make up for the lack of savory meat, so give it a try!
Share Small Plates
Small plates are a big thing these days, and you get a few bites of an entree, salad or appetizer without paying for the full boatload of the order. These are perfect for the indecisive: Share a few small plates as a meal instead of going all in for an appetizer, salad and dinner plate. They're less expensive and usually designed to be sampled by a group. If you're still hungry, split a dessert instead of ordering more food.
Pro Tip: This strategy works with traditional appetizers and tapas, too!
Dine Out for Lunch
Your favorite restaurant is probably much more affordable during lunch service than it is at dinnertime. The menu may be limited, but you can probably get many of the same great dishes you love for a lower price. If you make a habit of hitting the eateries at lunch instead of dinner, you'll enjoy smaller crowds -- and a smaller bill.
Water, Water Everywhere
Restaurants make a ton of money off of sodas, coffee and tea. These items only take pennies to prepare, and they don't taste any better at the restaurant than they do when you make them at home. Stick with water to bring your overall bill down, keeping your focus on the food instead of the drink.
It's definitely possible to have a great meal without the wallet-busting guilt later. Try these tips the next time you eat out, and you'll be able to save some cash while still feeding your foodie soul.
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