Eating out when working with a student budget can seem impossible, but these tips will help you to experience the great food of your city without breaking the bank.
Before you head out for a delicious meal it is important to have an idea of what the restaurant offers. Figure out what menu prices are and budget how much you are willing to spend on a particular item. You don’t want to set your heart on a particular item and then realize it’s out of your price range. Reviews online will also help you decided on if the price is worth it, so again, research all there is to know.
Another element to search for online are any coupons, student discounts, birthday specials or deal days the restaurant may have. A quick bit of research can really help cut back on the cost so read up on what offers are available and check that they are valid with your waiter when you arrive. Many restaurants will have weekday deals, so take advantage of your flexible schedule as a student and go for lunch on a Tuesday. A key element to eating out on a student budget is to do your research and be flexible with timing.
Once you’ve decided where you’re going to be eating out you have to figure out what to order. If you are going to a restaurant because you want to try one specific item, then don’t stray off and order a bunch of other items. Stick to what you came for and to what you’ve budgeted for.
Alternatively, if you are looking to try a bunch of different menu items, try eating out with a larger group of friends. If you order as a group you can split items between you, letting everyone try a bit of everything. Also ordering in a large group you can usually get away with ordering a few fewer items. For example, a group of six could easily split four mains and an appetizer between them, meaning collectively you’re paying for less than one main of food each. This also helps to take advantage of coupons, which are often one per table. If you have a single bill that you apply the coupon too, and then split the cost between the group later you can take advantage of these deals.
The simplest way to cut cost on eating out is to drink the free tap water at the restaurant. It can be tempting to order a soda as a treat when you’re eating out but unless it’s a super specific menu item, you can find that same soda a lot cheaper at your local grocery store. This is the same general rule for alcohol, which is almost always marked up at a restaurant. Stay away from these small items that can really contribute to your bill.
If you are eating out at a cocktail bar, where the drinks are the real star of the show, then have a different approach. Eat a full meal before heading out for drinks and then stick to one, instead of trying every cocktail on the menu. Also, talk to the bartender to get recommendations based off of your preferences. Cocktails can add up quickly so you don’t want to waste money on one you won’t enjoy.
If you are going just to try a dessert or a smaller menu item have a small snack before you head to the restaurant. Taking the edge off of your hunger will help you resist the temptation to add to your order.
Look into joining a mystery diner organization, that way you can enjoy dinners out on someone else’s dime. All you have to do is return feedback on your experience and enjoy your free dinner.
Speaking of tips, you always need to tip your waiter. Some guides will say a simple way to save on eating out is to tip a lower amount or not at all. The people serving your food are working hard and a lot need tips to make ends meet. A lot of them will be fellow students who are trying to make a living wage, so always tip.