How to Afford Eating Out on a Budget
If you live on a tight budget, eating out can seem like a luxury. Still, it is nice to reward yourself occasionally for all of your hard work by taking your family to a restaurant. Fortunately, there are several ways you can afford to eat out without breaking your budget.
Review Your Budget
In order to build room in your budget for an occasional sit-down restaurant meal, you need to review your monthly income and expenses. Take an hour each week or month to document your family’s income. Also, write down all of your monthly bills and expenses, including due dates. This includes your mortgage or rent payment, utility bills, credit card or loan payments, car payments, and other recurring expenses. It also includes costs for groceries, gas, parking, and tolls or bus fares.
After you have determined your income and bill amounts, take a look at what is left. This amount is your discretionary spending. You can use this amount for eating out, as well as for savings, entertainment, and other purchases.
Reduce Discretionary Spending
If you don’t have much left over after the bills are paid, you will need to make your discretionary spending choices wisely in order to afford a restaurant meal. For example, if you smoke, quitting can save you hundreds of dollars each month. At the very least, buying one or two fewer packs of cigarettes each week will leave you enough extra at the end of the month for a nice sit-down meal.
Instead of taking your family out to the movies, have a family movie night at home. A rented movie, sodas, and homemade popcorn will cost you far less than a trip to the movie theater. This frees up money in your discretionary spending budget for a restaurant meal.
Choosing a Restaurant that Provides Value
When you decide to take the family to a restaurant, opt for a restaurant that provides excellent value for your money. If you choose a higher-end restaurant, you are likely paying for atmosphere, rather than for good food and service. Although you want to have a pleasant experience, you can find less expensive alternatives. A family-style restaurant can offer a nice atmosphere, delicious food, and attentive service at a fraction of the cost.
Look for Restaurant Vouchers or Coupons
You can find restaurant coupons in your local newspaper or free weekly paper, as well as online. Check the websites of your favorite restaurants to see if coupons are available. You can also find websites that offer coupons for numerous restaurants in your area.
Some websites also offer vouchers you can purchase for less than the face value. For example, you might be able to purchase a $20 voucher for a particular restaurant for $10. You would then take the voucher with you when you dine out, and use it to pay part or all of your bill.
Don’t Forget the Tip and Taxes
When you are budgeting for a restaurant meal, don’t forget to include your server’s tip in your budgeted amount. In most cases, your server’s tip should be 15 to 20 percent or more of your total bill amount. When calculating the tip, be sure to include the face value of any vouchers you use as part of the bill.
Finding room in your budget for dining out doesn’t have to be difficult. By using these simple strategies together, you can build restaurant dining into your budget so you and your family can share a relaxing, enjoyable meal.
About the Author
This article was written by Phill representing FreeStuff.co.uk – with all the latest free stuff including supermarket & restaurant vouchers, competitions, samples and more.