The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American spends roughly $3,000 annually dining out. That number has only increased between 2012 and 2015. Even if you only spend $50 every week on meals at restaurants, you still end up spending $2,500 you can put to better use. With a few simple tricks, you can end up saving a ton of money by the end of the year. Here are some ways to help you save money and eat out less.
Get a Credit Card That Rewards Eating Out
If you have good credit and eat out a lot, why not get a credit card that rewards you for eating out? Some credit cards give you cash back every time you go out to eat or purchase groceries. You can take the cash back you earn from this credit card and invest it in a savings account. Just remember not to overspend on your credit card—otherwise, that $15 meal will end up costing you more in interest.
Learn More Recipes
One reason that people eat out so often is that they can only make a few things at home. Even if you’re not the best cook, you can start by learning a few simple recipes. It’s worth it to invest in a few cookbooks. There are plenty of books designed for beginners. And there are thousands of free recipes online.
If you don’t know what to make, then think about what restaurants you typically go to. What are some of your favorite meals to order? This can help you figure out what to make. You can save a ton of money by making these meals yourself. Plus, cooking is fun! Most restaurants have a 300% markup on the food, so your finances are better off if you spend less money and get more food for it.
Meal Prep More
One other reason for eating out so often is that when people get home from work, they don’t always feel up to cooking. Anyone who falls into this category should look into meal prep. At the beginning of the week, you cook enough meals to last you all five weekdays. You can use a slow cooker to make soup for the week. You can prep meat, refrigerate it and heat it up later. You can also grate cheese or chop up vegetables, so you are ready to go at dinnertime. This saves you a lot of hassle after work, and it’s much cheaper than dining out.
Have Backup Plans in Place
Although they’re not the healthiest meals, frozen dishes can help out in a pinch. They’re easy to put together, and they’re incredibly affordable. You can stock up at the grocery store so that if you don’t have time to cook, you can just heat something up.
Pack Your Own Lunch for Work
You end up spending a ton of money if you buy lunch at work all the time. The issue here is that a lot of people don’t have enough time in the morning to and pack a lunch. You can always pack your lunch the night before work. One way to do this is putting leftovers in a container and bringing that with you to work the next day. Besides saving money, you also get to enjoy your lunch rather than spending time walking or driving to a restaurant and waiting for food.
Go Out to Happy Hour When You Can
For those times when you absolutely have to go to a restaurant, try to pick places with happy hours and other specials. You can enjoy a dish and a drink for much cheaper than what you would get otherwise. Another great option is to sign up for a restaurant’s email list. Plenty of establishments regularly send out deals, allowing you to save a few bucks. You can also keep an eye on Groupon to see what deals are near you.
Skip the Drinks, Appetizers and Desserts
A lot of people have a tendency to order a beer or soda at restaurants. However, drinks come with some of the biggest markups in the restaurant industry. You’ll save a lot over the course of a year if you only order water. Ask for a lemon to give it some flavor. You should also skip appetizers and desserts. If you still need more food, then you can have a small snack before heading out. You can also keep some ice cream at home if you need something sweet after a meal. All of this leads to savings.
Know Your Limits
Many people have a tendency to clear their plates when they eat out. Most of the time, this leads to you feeling fuller than you should. It’s vital to understand that you are full long before you actually feel it. You should eat slowly so that you can feel yourself getting satiated sooner. You can ask for a box to take the rest home. This helps you save money because instead of going out for lunch the next day, you can bring your leftovers.
Another option is to split an entrée with someone else. This ensures neither one of you eats more than you should. You also only purchase one meal instead of two, saving you a ton over time.
Use These Money Saving Tips and Start Saving Today
There are times you’ll want to treat yourself, and it’s okay to eat out every once in a while. But once you set up a savings account and commit to eating out less, you can see for yourself how much you spend eating out every month. The numbers may shock you.
Instead of wasting a lot of money on overpriced food at a restaurant, you can dine in. You’ll have more money to put in a savings account for a rainy day. You can also keep it there to accrue interest. It all starts with getting the right savings account. By being a smarter consumer, you can save thousands annually.