How to eat out at restaurants for cheap when you’re on a tight budget

I would love to eat out at restaurants everyday, but they can be really expensive if you’re not careful.

I’ll admit that one of my financial weaknesses is food. I’m short on time, dislike cooking, and we can never figure out what to eat.

Eating out at restaurants is a convenient solution. However, eating out for convenience comes at a price, spending money which is harmful for your budget!

So how can you eat out on a tight budget? Today’s article is all about saving money so that you can eat out to your hearts (or stomachs) content! Remember, being frugal can help you become wealthy!

I wish I could eat out at restaurants for cheap all of the time! Unfortunately, eating out gets expensive. These tips will help you eat our for less money.

This post may contain affiliate links which pay a commission and helps support this blog. Thank you for your support!

How to eat out at restaurants for cheap when you’re on a tight budget!

Buy discounted gift cards

Discounted gift cards are one of my favorite ways to save money because it’s really easy to do. Every day certain websites sell gift cards at a discounted price.

Gift Card Granny is such a website where you can find amazing deals on gift cards.

How to eat out cheap using discounted gift cards

So how does it work?

People get gift cards that they don’t want every day. Rather than sitting in a sock drawer some people sell them for cash at a discounted price.

Let’s say Joe’s grandma got him a $100 gift card for Olive Garden. Joe hates Olive Garden and would much rather have cash.

Joe sells his gift card to Gift Card Granny for $80. It’s not $100 but at least Joe doesn’t have to sit down at a restaurant he doesn’t like.

Gift Card Granny isn’t in business to have unlimited breadsticks and there is no appeal to you, the customer, to buy a face value gift card. Gift Card Granny is willing to sell you that $100 gift card for $90.

Joe got his money, Gift Card Granny made $10, and you can eat at Olive Garden knowing you are saving 10%. It’s a win-win-win for all parties involved.

Gift card prices and discounts depend on a few factors such as number of people trying to get rid of their cards and how many people want those cards.


Split meals

My wife and I would go to a Mexican restaurant and order separate meals. Neither of us could finish everything on our plates and I would leave extremely stuffed!

Now we split a meal every time we eat out at this particular restaurant. We leave happy and content, didn’t waste food, saved money, and don’t feel like someone’s going to have to roll us away from over eating.

Splitting a meal is one of the easiest ways to save money. Rather than order two $12 meals for $24 you’ll only spend the $12.

Eat a snack before you go

Nothing says that just because you are going to eat out that you can’t have a snack!

Eating a snack before you go will help reduce your appetite so you won’t order as much food. Splitting meals will be easier for you because you won’t want to devour the entire meal.

Eating a snack will help you make cheaper choices even if you don’t split a meal. You might order two enchiladas instead of your usual three.

Get Frugal and Save:

Use a cash back credit card

I love using cash back credit cards because I might as well earn cash back for purchases I would have made anyway.

Only use credit cards if you plan on paying the balance off every month. A lot of people are struggling with credit cards and build up debt because they make purchases they shouldn’t and they can’t pay it off at the end of the month.


Half now half later

What’s better than enjoying a meal you didn’t have to make? How about enjoying a meal you didn’t have to make twice!

Before you start your meal ask for a to go box and section off half of it to enjoy later. You’ll only pay for the meal once but you’ll get two meals.

Subway is a good restaurant for splitting your meal into two. While I love gobbling down a $5 foot long I only need a six inch.

Budget like a pro!

Skip the booze

Alcohol isn’t cheap and buying it at a restaurant is even more expensive than buying it at a store.

Consider only drinking water when you go out to eat. Even soda can have prices that have been extremely marked up.

Don’t tip for poor service

I don’t know why everyone expects to be tipped these days. You work for a wage and tips are an added bonus.

Going back to the origin of the word “tips,” it actually is an acronym that stands for “to insure prompt service.” Why would you pay for prompt service if you had a horrible server?

Somewhere along the line the meaning has been misconstrued and people demand tips even if they provide horrible service. Almost like we feel entitled to money we may or may not deserve.

I’ve worked the food industry before and it’s always nice to be tipped but you should never expect or rely on being tipped.

Next time ask yourself how you felt the service was. Did the server attend to your needs or did they chat up their coworker? Did they make you laugh or did they ruin the atmosphere?

Evaluate your servers performance and tip accordingly. 20% is standard for good service but don’t let that dictate how much you tip. Tip what you feel is appropriate and what you can afford to tip.

There is no shame in not tipping nor are you required to leave a gratuity. Some people decide to never tip and that’s ok.

I usually tip for food servers because I expect prompt service but that’s about it. Other places ask for a tip but it’s ridiculous to freely hand out extra money anytime money is exchanged.

Hotel bed service asks for tips, but why? They’re just doing their job. Same with car wash workers. Are you going to slip a $5 bill to each of the towel driers for doing their job?

Where would it end? The cashier at the store for ringing up your groceries? How about the city bus driver?

Set a limit on eating out

I think it would be fun to eat out every day but I don’t think my stomach or my wallet could take it.

Make sure you have a budget in place for eating out and stick to it! Budgeting effectively is the number one best way to save money.

Budgeting will let you know when you can or can’t eat out. Without proper budgeting your finances will most likely be in trouble.

Set a limit for eating out. It could be $40 per month or it could be $100. Set a value that works for your family and your finances and stick to it!

If you’re looking to save money, consider signing up for our free budget and save money course. The course is full of information to help your family save more money.

What would you do with more money?

John is the founder of TightFist Finance and an expert in the field of personal finance. John has studied personal finance for over 10 years and has used his knowledge to pay down debt, grow his investment portfolio, and launch a financial based business. He is committed to sharing content related to personal finance based on his experience in his career, investing, and path towards reaching financial independence.