RESTAURANT EXPRESS: Don't avoid fine dining but rather tackle it the right way

Posted By: Matt in Frugality on 06/08/2014 at 07:58:50

Spending money eating out at restaurants often is the first place the financially challenged look when it comes to getting their budget back in line or putting emphasis on saving money versus spending it.

That's hard to argue against since most people can easily pocket hundreds or thousands of dollars each year by simply spending money at grocery stores versus the price points they'll find at just about every restaurant or fine dining establishment they'll visit.

And completely eliminating your entire restaurant bill is a choice that undoubtedly will provide you with more positives than negatives as far as saving money. But the idea that you'll have to never set foot in a restaurant without feeling guilty financially is ludicrous, especially if you consider that just a few tweaks here and there could allow you to enjoy an evening out at dinner without feeling bad afterward.

The irony about eating at a restaurant is most of the time the actual action of dining is more about conversing with your spouse, friends or family and less to do with eating. That fact still doesn't deter most of us from going hog wild at the restaurant.

The trick to eating out prudently is finding a happy medium between enjoying the company you keep from a communication standpoint and ordering modestly.

Saving money at the restaurant means finding a meal that isn't priced around $20 per plate but instead ordering a sandwich that is more than half that cost. Appetizers are restaurant bill killers as some of those dishes cost as much as an entrée. Dessert is right up there, too. Ten dollars for a piece of chocolate cake hardly seems worth it, particularly when the bill arrives at the table.

Between an appetizer, dessert and the main course, you alone are already into this meal for about $40, and that doesn't include drinks or any extras. Where a lot of us get into trouble is spending a dollar here and there for such items as extra salad dressing, split plate charges or the dreaded drinks, which can be about $3 for a soda to $10 or more for alcohol. And don't think that chicken, steak or shrimp you're adding to your side salad is free, either· Some restaurants will hit you with a $5 surcharge for one piece of chicken or a few tiny shrimp. Restaurants make most of their money on those extras, especially considering a piece of chicken costs less than a dollar and a fountain drink from soda machine is maybe 10 cents.

Knowing this still might not deter you from tempering your spending habits at a restaurant. But comparing receipts certainly will get your attention once you eliminate the expenses that you honestly don't really need.

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