It’s always the worst part of a restaurant meal: the moment when the bill arrives. “I didn’t realize that drinks would be that expensive!” you might exclaim. Or, “Those appetizers really added up!” Wouldn’t it be nice to be pleasantly surprised by the bill the next time you dine out? Here’s how.
Most restaurants offer some sort of special deal; sometimes it’s two-for-one drinks before 7, other times it’s 25-cent wings on Mondays. Check the restaurant’s website in advance and plan to go when they’re offering a deal you can take advantage of, and whenever you sit down at a restaurant’s bar while waiting for your table, ask if there are any drink specials.
Visit Restaurant.com and type in your area code; you can purchase gift cards for more than thuosands of restaurants across the country there, sometimes for pennies on the dollar, with thousands more being added each month. For example, you’ll most likely be able to purchase a $25 gift certificate for as little as $10. Also, don’t forget about daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social; some of their deals sound almost too good to be true.
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Seriously. If you don’t mind eating dinner early (or taking a few bites and saving the rest for later), you can take advantage of some surprisingly good early bird specials and happy hours in your area.
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The price of drinks adds up quickly, and before you know it you’ll be spending more on cocktails than on the food. Stick with water and you’ll save a lot more money than you realize.
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Most main dishes are more than twice as large as they need to be, and most appetizers are a proper portion size. Find the appetizer that looks best to you, and enjoy it as your entrée.
If you want to order an appetizer as well as a main, opt to split the main dish. Many restaurants will even divide mains into two plates for you. But be careful, because some restaurants charge a sharing fee.
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The daily specials that the server explains to you are oftentimes more expensive than the average menu dishes, and the price isn’t often a part of the spiel. If you’re tempted to order a special, ask how much it will cost you first.
You can purchase an Entertainment Book for just about every part of the country, and they’re loaded with valuable coupons. Use it wisely, and you can make the money you spent on it back multiple times over. Many towns and cities sell their own local coupon books as well, often loaded with great dining deals.
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Follow your favorite restaurants on Twitter and like them on Facebook; you never know when they might offer special deals to those in the know!
If you ever see a menu item with "Market Price" or "MP" ("SQ" is used infrequently as well) listed instead of the price, don't even consider ordering that item if you're looking to save money. Usually reserved for big-ticket items like lobsters or oysters, whose prices change daily or weekly based on market availability, these dishes are almost always absurdly expensive.