17 Creative Ways to Save on Dining Out

Updated on: by Amy Kennedy
People dining out in a restaurant

Dining out is a delightful experience that brings people together, whether it’s for a special occasion, a quick meal on a busy day, or simply to savor different cuisines.

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However, the cost of dining out can add up quickly and put a strain on your budget.

But fear not, as there are creative ways to indulge in the pleasure of dining out without breaking the bank.

This blog post explores innovative strategies and tips that will help you enjoy the restaurant scene while keeping your wallet happy.

From insider hacks and loyalty programs to DIY dining experiences, it will show you how to savor the flavors of your favorite eateries without overspending.

Creative Ways to Save on Dining Out

Below are the creative ways to save on dining out. 

The tips will allow you to enjoy restaurant experiences without overspending, making dining out a more budget-friendly and enjoyable endeavor.

1. Join Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs offered by restaurants are a fantastic way to enjoy savings while dining out frequently. 

Many establishments provide these programs to reward loyal customers. 

By signing up, you can earn points or stamps with each visit, eventually leading to discounts, free meals, or exclusive offers. 

For example, Restaurant A may offer a free appetizer after your fifth visit, while Restaurant B might provide a 10% discount on your birthday. 

These programs not only save you money but also allow you to explore new menu items and dining experiences without emptying your wallet.

2. Utilize Coupons and Deals

Coupons and deals are powerful money-saving tools when dining out. 

You can find restaurant coupons in various places, from local newspapers to online coupon websites like Groupon and RetailMeNot

Additionally, many restaurants have their own websites or apps where they share exclusive discounts and promotions. 

When making a reservation or placing an order, remember to input the coupon code or mention the deal to your server. 

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This simple action can lead to significant savings on your meal, making dining out more affordable and enjoyable.

3. Dine During Happy Hours

Happy hours are a budget-conscious diner’s best friend. 

These designated time frames, typically in the late afternoon or early evening, offer special discounts on drinks and appetizers. It’s a great way to unwind with friends or family without overspending. 

Check out your favorite restaurants’ happy hour schedules on their websites or social media pages, and plan your dining outings accordingly. 

By enjoying discounted drinks and snacks during these hours, you can keep your dining expenses in check while still relishing the dining experience.

4. Share Meals

Portions at many restaurants are generous, and sharing meals can be a savvy way to save both money and calories. 

When dining out with a friend or family member, consider splitting a main course or ordering a selection of appetizers to share. 

Sharing not only reduces your bill but also allows you to try a variety of dishes. 

Some restaurants even offer sharing platters specifically designed for this purpose, making it easy to enjoy a communal dining experience while keeping your costs low.

5. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle)

For those who enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with their meal, consider dining at restaurants that allow you to bring your own alcoholic beverages. 

Often referred to as “BYOB” or “BYO,” these establishments don’t charge a corkage fee for bringing your wine or beer. 

This can result in significant savings compared to ordering drinks from the restaurant’s menu. 

However, be sure to check the restaurant’s policy on BYOB, as some may have restrictions or corkage fees on certain days.

6. Try Lunch Menus

Lunch menus are often hidden gems for budget-conscious diners. 

Many restaurants offer a separate lunch menu with lower prices compared to their dinner counterparts. 

The dishes on these menus are typically smaller portions but still delicious and satisfying. 

Dining during lunch hours not only saves you money but also allows you to experience the restaurant’s cuisine at a more affordable rate. 

It’s a win-win situation for your taste buds and your wallet.

7. Take Advantage of Special Days

Some restaurants have designated special days of the week when they offer discounts or unique promotions. 

For instance, “Taco Tuesday” might feature discounted tacos, or “Wine Wednesday” could offer reduced prices on bottles of wine. 

Keep an eye on your local dining scene and the restaurants you love to frequent, as these special days can be a fantastic opportunity to dine out while enjoying savings on specific menu items.

8. Use Cashback and Rewards Credit Cards

Maximize your savings when dining out by using cashback or rewards credit cards. 

These cards offer a percentage of your spending back as cash or reward points that can be redeemed for various perks, including discounts on future meals. 

Look for credit cards that specifically offer rewards for dining expenses. 

By paying for your meals with these cards, you can accumulate savings over time and enjoy discounted or even free dining experiences.

9. Skip Appetizers and Desserts

While appetizers and desserts can enhance your dining experience, they can also significantly increase your bill. 

To save money, consider skipping these extras or sharing them with your dining companions. 

This not only reduces your expenses but also leaves more room in your budget for the main course or other items you truly enjoy. 

By practicing a little restraint when it comes to appetizers and desserts, you can strike a balance between enjoying your meal and keeping costs down.

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10. Opt for Water

Beverages can add a considerable amount to your restaurant bill, especially when ordering soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, or specialty drinks. 

To save money, choose water as your beverage when dining out. Not only is water free, but it’s also a healthy and refreshing option. 

If you prefer something with flavor, some restaurants offer complimentary infused water or lemon slices for added taste. 

Opting for water is a simple yet effective way to reduce your overall dining expenses while staying hydrated during your meal.

11. Order Takeout or Delivery

Sometimes, dining out isn’t the only way to enjoy your favorite restaurant’s cuisine. 

Ordering takeout or opting for food delivery can be a wallet-friendly alternative. 

Many restaurants offer the same menu items for takeout or delivery, often at lower prices than dining in. 

Plus, you can save on additional costs like tips and beverages. 

Utilize popular food delivery platforms such as Uber Eats or DoorDash to explore a wide range of restaurant options from the comfort of your home while still savoring your preferred dishes.

12. Follow Restaurants on Social Media

Staying connected with your favorite restaurants on social media can pay off in the form of exclusive discounts and promotions. 

Restaurants often use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share special deals with their followers. 

By following and engaging with these accounts, you can stay in the loop about upcoming events, limited-time offers, and contests that may grant you free meals or discounts. 

It’s a simple yet effective way to access savings while staying informed about your preferred dining spots.

13. Attend Restaurant Week

Many cities host exciting restaurant weeks, during which participating restaurants offer fixed-price menus at a fraction of their regular cost. 

This annual event allows you to explore new dining experiences or revisit your favorite eateries at reduced prices. 

The fixed-price menus often include multiple courses, providing excellent value for your money. 

Keep an eye on your city’s event calendar or visit the official website of your local restaurant week to plan your culinary adventures and take advantage of these budget-friendly opportunities.

14. Use Cashback Apps

Cashback apps provide an effortless way to earn money back on your dining expenses. 

Apps like Ibotta and Rakuten offer cashback deals when you upload photos of your restaurant receipts or make purchases through their affiliated links. 

Simply scan your receipts to receive cashback rewards, which can accumulate over time and be redeemed as cash or gift cards. 

By consistently using these apps, you can effortlessly save money on dining out while enjoying your favorite meals.

15. Join Dining Clubs

Dining clubs or subscription services offer unique opportunities for dining savings. 

These clubs typically require a monthly or yearly fee but provide members with exclusive discounts, special offers, or even free meals at participating restaurants. 

Membership perks can vary widely, so it’s worth exploring options in your area. 

Whether you’re a frequent diner or an occasional one, joining a dining club can help you unlock significant savings and elevate your dining experiences without straining your budget.

16. Bring Your Own Container

When dining out, consider bringing your own food container for leftovers. 

This practice not only reduces food waste but also allows you to enjoy a second meal at no extra cost. 

Many restaurants are accommodating when it comes to providing takeout containers for customers. 

By bringing your own container, you can enjoy your meal to the fullest and stretch your dining dollars further by savoring the leftovers later.

17. Explore Ethnic Restaurants

Ethnic restaurants often offer delicious and budget-friendly options compared to upscale or trendy establishments. 

These hidden gems showcase diverse cuisines from around the world, providing an opportunity to explore new flavors without overspending. 

From family-owned Thai restaurants to authentic Mexican taquerias, ethnic dining experiences can be both affordable and culturally enriching. 

Be open to trying different cuisines, and you’ll discover affordable dining options that satisfy your taste buds and your wallet.

Best Cashback Apps To Earn Money Back on Your Dining Expenses 

Here are the best cashback apps that can help you earn money back on your dining expenses:

1. Ibotta

Ibotta is a leading cashback app that makes saving money on dining out easy and convenient. 

With Ibotta, you can earn cashback rewards by simply uploading photos of your restaurant receipts. 

The app features a wide range of participating restaurants, from fast-food chains to upscale dining establishments.

Ibotta also offers additional ways to save, including cashback on grocery purchases and online shopping. 

The earned cashback can be transferred to your PayPal or Venmo account or redeemed for gift cards to your favorite retailers. 

It’s a versatile app that helps you put money back in your pocket while enjoying meals at your preferred restaurants.

2. Rakuten (formerly Ebates)

Rakuten is a cashback platform that offers rewards for various online activities, including dining out. 

By linking your credit card to Rakuten, you can earn cashback at participating restaurants when you pay with the linked card. 

Additionally, Rakuten provides cashback opportunities for online orders from restaurants and food delivery services.

Rakuten offers cashback in the form of a check or PayPal payment, making it a flexible option for earning money back on your dining expenses. 

With a wide network of affiliated restaurants, Rakuten is a great choice for savvy diners looking to maximize their savings.

3. Dosh

Dosh is a user-friendly cashback app that automatically detects your credit or debit card purchases at participating restaurants. 

There’s no need to upload receipts or scan barcodes; Dosh does the work for you. 

It’s a hassle-free way to earn cashback on dining out without any extra effort.

The cashback you earn through Dosh can be transferred to your bank account or redeemed via PayPal. 

With its seamless integration with your existing cards, 

Dosh is an excellent choice for those who want a straightforward cashback experience while dining at their favorite restaurants.

4. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a versatile rewards platform that offers cashback and points for various online activities, including dining at participating restaurants. 

You can earn Swagbucks, which can be redeemed for gift cards to a wide range of retailers or cashback through PayPal.

Swagbucks often features special promotions that provide higher cashback rates for dining out. 

By combining dining rewards with other earning opportunities on the platform, you can accumulate significant savings. 

It’s an ideal choice for those who want a multifaceted approach to earning rewards while dining.

5. Receipt Hog

Receipt Hog offers a unique way to earn rewards for your dining expenses. 

This app allows you to earn coins by taking photos of your receipts from various purchases, including dining out. 

These coins can be redeemed for cash via PayPal or Amazon gift cards.

While Receipt Hog primarily focuses on grocery receipts, it’s still a valuable addition to your cashback app arsenal. 

By snapping photos of your restaurant receipts, you can gradually build up your rewards and enjoy savings on your next dining adventure.

6. Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is primarily known for offering points for grocery shopping, but it also provides points for restaurant receipts. 

These points can be redeemed for gift cards to popular retailers, making it a convenient way to earn rewards for dining out.

The app allows you to quickly scan your receipts, and the points accumulate over time. 

If you dine out frequently, Fetch Rewards can be a valuable tool for earning gift cards that can be used for future dining experiences.

7. Shopkick

Shopkick is a rewards app that offers points, known as “kicks,” for various in-store and online activities, including visiting restaurants. 

By simply walking into participating restaurants, scanning barcodes, or making purchases, you can accumulate kicks.

Shopkick’s rewards catalog includes gift cards to popular retailers, allowing you to convert your kicks into savings for future dining or shopping trips. 

It’s a fun and interactive way to earn rewards while exploring local restaurants.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, exploring creative ways to save on dining out allows you to relish culinary experiences while keeping your budget intact. 

Whether it’s leveraging cashback apps like Ibotta and Rakuten, participating in restaurant weeks, or simply skipping the appetizers and desserts, these strategies empower you to dine out smartly. 

By following these tips, you can savor the flavors of your favorite restaurants without the financial strain, making each dining experience a delightful and cost-effective treat for your taste buds and your wallet.

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