The passion for savings usually extends beyond the grocery aisle for most couponers. Once hooked, you realize there’s a whole world of coupons just waiting to be clipped. I don’t purchase much in life without some sort of coupon, promo code or discount, including dining out. It’s now just second nature to always look for a discount before opening my wallet. We could all benefit from a meal plan and a savings plan, when it comes to the one of our biggest monthly expenditures — eating.
Dining out may be convenient and delicious, but it can definitely weigh heavily on your wallet. Thanks to technology, it only takes a few minutes to search for dining specials or coupons. I recommend checking the numerous daily deal sites, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, before eating out. (Most cities offer such sites, so it’s a great tip for travelers, too.) You can usually download your voucher instantly, with no printing necessary — just show it on your smart phone. I’ve also found many great coupons in local and community newspapers. (Yes, they still exist.) The key is to be flexible. As with all savings, you can’t be loyal to one business or restaurant, if you expect to save big bucks.
However, signing up for a restaurant’s loyalty or insider club is your best bet. You’ll be privy to upcoming discounts, coupons and 2-for-1 specials. (Living On The Cheap’s daily e-newsletter is also a good start.) These days, most restaurants have some sort of e-mail club, even if it’s not advertised.
When dining out, look for signs, read the menu or ask a staff member about such programs. Check a restaurant’s Facebook page or Twitter account (especially for local, independent spots), as many share deals and discounts via social media with “friends and family.”
Being “loyal” to so many has one drawback – a clogged inbox. That’s why I recommend setting up a separate e-mail account exclusively for these types of programs. Even if it’s a restaurant you don’t frequent often, it can pay off to take a few seconds to sign-up for its e-mail club.
You’d be surprised at how quickly you’ll start receiving goodies in your inbox. Many businesses offer freebies or discounts just for registering. Read offers carefully. Many have short expiration dates. Pace yourself. Don’t sign-up for too many at one time. Otherwise, the deals might go to waste.
If I find a tasty offer, I forward it to my regular e-mail account, so I don’t forget about it. If not, I just hit delete. Check your special e-mail account once or twice a week, so you don’t miss out or get overwhelmed. I’ve enjoyed too-many-to-count 2-for-1 meals, birthday freebies, lunch specials and giveaways at many of my favorite restaurants.
In the end, if you’re truly committed to living on a budget, it’s best to not dine out too often — even with a coupon. Your greatest savings will always come from being a smart shopper in the grocery aisle. You have to eat every day and coupons are the best way to stretch your dollar. We always have a great source of manufacturer’s coupons right here on Living on the Cheap. Remember, manufacturers load new coupons at the beginning of the month, so now’s a good time to start planning your family’s meals at home or dining out.