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How to Avoid Breaking the Bank at a Restaurant

September 21, 2018 | By Daniel Dewitt

We all like to treat ourselves to eating out every once in a while: it’s fun to go to a fancy restaurant and order food that’s a cut above the Big Mac or Nacho Supreme you’d get at a fast food restaurant. And there’s nothing wrong with spoiling your palette.

A real restaurant means real quality… but real quality also means real money. Eating at an even moderately priced restaurant can easily be three to four times as expensive as your average fast food meal and, the truth is, not all of us have the income to afford that kind of indulgence weekly.

Luckily, just like at home there are ways of reducing the overall cost of eating at a restaurant without having to take out installment loans.

Tip Appropriately

While no one begrudges waiters their tips (after all, that’s where the majority of their income comes from), if you eat out regularly you know how quickly tipping can add up. Worse, a lot of people are unsure how much to tip, and because of that tend to err on the side of overtipping.

To avoid spending more than you have to, from now on remember that a standard tip amount ranges from 15-20%. For better service go up to 20%, and if the service leaves something lacking go down to 15%. Staying in that range will keep everyone, including your wallet, happy.

Dine For Flavor

Even among restaurants, not all are created equal. Some will inevitably have better food than others, and it’s not uncommon for the quality of the food and price to be independent of each other. Often smaller restaurants will have a more authentic taste than larger restaurants or franchises.

To cut down on costs, try exploring your local downtown area and trying out a restaurant on the road less traveled. You’ll be surprised by the gems you’ll find and how little they cost. Impress your friends with your knowledge of the area and culinary taste next time you dine out by taking them to one as an added bonus.

Cashback Rewards

Most, though not all, credit cards have an associated cash rewards program that either offers cashback on all your purchases, or at specific vendors. A lot of the time those vendors will include restaurants of various flavors, with rewards usually in the 1-3% range. There are even specific dining rewards cards geared towards those who regularly eat out.

While earning 1-3% on each dollar you spend isn’t huge, small amounts over a long enough period can add up. And besides, if you’re going to eat out you might as well recoup a little of that cost. Just don’t let the siren song of a credit card tempt you into spending more than you should. The interest on installment loans or unpaid credit cards is much higher than the cashback you earn.