Dining Out on a Budget

How to enjoy dining at restaurants without breaking the bank.

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Restaurant dining is often one of the biggest unnecessary spending items in your budget. This indulgence is usually one of the first things people cut when they need to tighten their budget. Here are a few ways you can still enjoy dining out without breaking the bank.

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Social buying sites. With the advent of Groupon and other social buying sites you can enjoy significant bargains on restaurant meals. These deals are available in most major metropolitan areas and are even becoming available in smaller cities. It doesn't cost anything to join a social buying site and there are several deals a week, although they are not all dining-related. Over the course of a month, you should have a chance to get deals at a variety of restaurants. Getting a meal at a 50 percent discount is not uncommon.

Restaurant e-clubs. Many restaurants offer deals if you sign up for their email lists. It is common for them to offer free food on your birthday. In addition to birthday deals, you also can get other frequent buyer specials, such as two-for-one offers.

Early-bird or lunch specials. Many restaurants offer lunch specials or early-bird specials to help draw in customers before the typical dinner rush. The discounts can be about 30 to 40 percent off the dinner price for the same food. Another benefit is that you will be able to enjoy a less-crowded dining room and perhaps receive quicker service from the wait staff.

[See 5 Ways to Stretch Your Grocery Budget.]

Kids eat free. If you have children, you should definitely check out some of the many kids-eat-free offers that are available. There is no need for you to pay for an expensive entree that your picky eater will just barely nibble. Ask your favorite restaurant if they have a kids-eat-free day or have certain times that kids can eat free. Or you can search a site like KidsMealDeals.com to find a variety of kid meal deals available in your area.

Following these tips should allow you to make a significant reduction in your dining-out budget. Dining out is still a luxury, but by using these tips, it can be an affordable indulgence.

Andy Hough writes about frugality and living well on a small income at TightFistedMiser.com.