Skip the Appetizer from 10 Ways to Reduce Your Restaurant Tab (Slideshow)

10 Ways to Reduce Your Restaurant Tab (Slideshow)

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Skip the Appetizer

The pre-meal snacks offered by most restaurants, such as bread and butter or chips and salsa, should be enough for you. Buying a few appetizers can easily add $30 to your tab at the end of the night - not a small sum.

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Order Water

Drinking water with your meal allows you to save money and enjoy the flavor of your entrée more. Just make sure you specify tap water so the server doesn't bring you expensive bottled water.

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Skip the Featured Special

Featured dinner specials usually sound like a great idea, but they're often expensive. If the special comes with a lot of food, consider splitting it with someone else. Otherwise, just buy a cheaper regular menu item.

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Watch the Add-Ons

Servers are often encouraged to up-sell and push "extras" on customers. Therefore, be careful whenever they ask if you want bleu cheese crumbles on your salad, sour cream on your baked potato, or cheese on your burger. If you bite, you may find your bill to be a lot higher than expected.

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Get Dessert on the Way Home

It's tempting to choose a dessert from the restaurant's display case, but when you compare the cost of such a treat to a gallon of ice cream from the grocery store, you'll see that you can save a bundle by buying your dessert away from the restaurant.

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Investigate Deal of the Day Websites

Daily deal websites such as Groupon are your ticket to savings if you like trying out new restaurants. Although you may not find discount coupons offered for national chains, you may discover a hidden gem right in your own backyard - for a fraction of the price.

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Use the Right Credit Card

The Discover It card and the Chase Freedom card offer 5% cash back on a rotating set of categories throughout the year. Put this information in your back pocket for next year and check out the cash back calendar if you already carry one of these cards.

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Order an Appetizer as Your Meal

Even though you want to skip the appetizer at the beginning of the meal, you can still save by ordering one - as your entrée. Most are more than enough to fill your tummy for a fraction of the price of a dinner plate. If you're still hungry, add a side salad.

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Become a Mystery Shopper

Several websites actually pay you to eat at certain restaurants, so long as you provide a review of your experience. Check out the websites Secret Shopper and A Closer Look for more details.

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Utilize Social Media

Think social media is just for catching up with friends and family? Actually, you can use Facebook and Twitter to score restaurant deals. For instance, Domino's Pizza recently offered a coupon on Facebook, and American Express cardholders who link their Twitter account get credits sent to their online accounts from time to time after purchases from restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory and McDonald's.

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Final Thoughts

To put your savings to good use, collect your receipts from restaurant purchases for a few months and record how much you saved on each trip. Then, take these savings and put them into a separate account - you may find yourself with a nice little nest egg to use for holiday shopping, your next vacation, or even to boost your retirement savings.

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10 Ways to Reduce Your Restaurant Tab (Slideshow)