Okay, so eating out isn't the thriftiest thing you can do. But ya gotta live, so going out on occasion isn't so bad if you follow some of these tips:
*Go out for lunch instead of dinner! Many restaurants have different menus which are slightly smaller portions of dinner entrees at a cheaper price.
*Try your local diner for dinner out. I am from New Jersey, which is HUGE on diners, so I am practically obligated to bring these up! They have continental menus which means everyone is bound to find something they like. They are fairly cheap, even if you go all out and order everything from soup to nuts!
*Order an appetizer for your meal. Most restaurants have an awesome selection of yummy starters that are so large they'd make a great dinner. Some even have mini version of their signature sandwiches or pasta dishes. Add a little fresh bread and you have a wonderful meal!
*Go the soup and salad route. This is another way to fill up and enjoy the ambiance of a nice restaurant without spending a lot of dough.
*Resist the temptation to order drinks. They are a complete ripoff. $5-7 for one glass of wine or one beer is insane! $2-3 for a soda is equally ridiculous when you pay less than that for a 2 Liter bottle. Order up some water with lemon instead!
*Of course you could also go to a BYOB place...most readily supply an ice bucket and glasses while you dine in.
*Be on the lookout for coupons for local restaurants for extra savings on your bill. Coupon mailers like Valpak are good sources, as well as local newspapers, the phone book, and hotel and business lobbies.
*Buy one of those Entertainment Books. Many of the restaurants featured in ours are for Buy One Get One Free. If you wait a few months into the new year you can get it for at least 50% off. http://www.entertainment.com/discount/home.shtml
*Mystery shop! While I was on maternity leave, I signed up to be a Mystery Shopper and they paid me to visit various places, including restaurants. Not only did I get paid to eat out with my hubby, they also reimbursed us for our meals. Not bad, eh?
*Check out http://www.restaurant.com/for deals, too! You can often find $25 gift certificates for only $10 on their site. I know it sounds strange, but I have tried it and they are legit.
*If you are headed out with the kiddos in tow, check out when the restaurants have Kids Eat Free Nights.
*Sign up for chain restaurants' rewards clubs or email services and reap the benefits of online coupons.
*Have dessert elsewhere. Why pay $7 for a tiny gourmet dessert when you can get ice cream for a third of the price? Or hit up a bakery on the way home!