Enjoy Dinners Out With Friends While Sticking to Your Budget

When you’re trying to save money and live within a budget, you’ll be hard-pressed to find personal finance advice that doesn’t urge you to eat out less. Although you look forward to a night out with friends after a long work week or are dying to try a new restaurant that opened Saturday night, the experts have it right when they say dining expenditures can greatly eat into your income. While cutting back is a smart way to give yourself a raise, you don’t have to cut out your dining habits and give up a good night with loved ones. You simply have to get more creative about going out.

Listed below are several ways you can still enjoy a night out on the town and return home with money in the bank.

1. Make reservations
You use your smartphone to check your bank balance, send emails and play on Facebook when you’re bored, so why not download one of the many free apps that allow you to make reservations? Reserving seats and checking in your smartphone not only reduces your wait time, but may also earn you discounts and points. The points for some apps work like credit card rewards. Once you accrue enough, you may be privy to coupons and vouchers at your favorite hotspot.

2. Start early

Who doesn’t love happy hour? Most restaurants offer deals on drinks and appetizers if you beat the night crowd, so rather than showing up at 8 p.m., try arriving around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Not only may you have an easier time finding seating, but you’ll arrive soon enough to stake claim on your spot as the place begins to fill up. This can be convenient if the restaurant turns into a pub or local hangout spot at night because you won’t have to fight for a place to sit or stand.

3. Seek out discounts
Restaurant week, grand openings and special anniversaries can be a fun and cost-effective time to visit one of your favorite restaurants because many places offer deals. You might also check out discount websites, such as Groupon.com, which provide discounts that can get you up to 60 percent off on your meals. If you’re unable to find discounts, but are still in the mood to go out with friends, consider sharing a plate with your dinner guests. You can’t beat half the calories and half the cost!