I went out to Hal’s Steakhouse in Buckhead (Atlanta) the other weekend and thought to myself that clearly we are in no sign of a recession. In fact, walk into any of the mid priced to higher priced restaurants on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll quickly come to the same realization I did when I dined at Hal’s. Eating out is something we all like to do especially with the breakneck pace most of us are running every single week at work. A dinner experience can be something that you go all out on with your monthly budget, or you can figure out ways to enjoy your meal without breaking the bank. Here are five money saving tips I have that will keep a few shekels in your pocket and still have a good time.
- Skip the Fizz, Flat, and Stick with the Tap – Whether or not you decide to partake in some type of alcoholic beverage, the servers will typically kick off the meal with the question about what type of water you would like to drink. If you are at a fancier establishment, there can feel like some inherent pressure not to look cheap and get bubbles in your water so not to disappoint your server. The flat or bubbly water can run you $10 a bottle and $12 with a tip. Make the smart choice and still with good old local Chattahoochee tap water. It won’t cost you anything and will taste just as good.
- Get Your Own Appetizer, Split The Entrée – Typically, most fine dining restaurants will bring you some sort of bread or basket of goodies before the meal begins. Remember, that the six to eight main entrees are going to be the priciest item on the menu. If you order yourself a salad and an appetizer, you might not even have enough room left in your stomach to enjoy the main course. I have found from personal experience that by you and your partner ordering an individual appetizer and splitting a main meal that you can save money and sometimes even enjoy the experience even more. Most of the better restaurants will split the entrée and truthfully speaking the split dish will almost feel like an entire main dish.
- Become A Frequent Patron – One of the obvious money saving tips is to search the internet, local papers, and coupon sites to look for special deals for 20% off or a 2 for 1 coupon. However, if you research your AMEX card or VISA card year end statement you can see which restaurants you dined at the most last year. I would highly recommend going to that establishment and talking to the owner or general manager to let them know how many times you ate at their restaurant last year and ask what kind of special deals they have for frequent diners. Remember, that they own a business and having their best customers come back often is not only good for the bottom line, but it can add to more referrals and social media posts.
- Have A Glass, Not A Bottle – Restaurants will be quick to get you to believe that the math is going to work out better for you if you have a bottle of wine instead of a glass of wine. If the local restaurant will allow you to BYOB or just charge you for a corking fee than that will be your best option. What I recommend is that you have water with your appetizer and then order a glass of wine but tell them to bring it with your meal. You need to be conscious that wine is one of the largest marked up items on the menu.
- Weekday, Not Weekend – Early in the week a restaurant may be testing different new menu items when they are not quite as packed to see what people order and what they like. If you can manage it within your schedule to skip dinner on a Friday or Saturday night, you may be able to get more bang for your buck. It’s also likely that the whole dinner experience will be shorter which can save you additional money on babysitters which add an extra fun little cost to the already expensive night.
Even if you are working on a budget, it is my opinion that treating yourself to a nice meal every now and then is part of enjoying life. You can’t be 100% focused on saving everything for the future, so try to strike a balance. If you use these five smart money moves tips, you can get away with a really high quality fine dining experience without breaking the bank.
Request a FREE No-Obligation Consultation: www.oxygenfinancial.net
Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.