10 Savvy Ways to Save Money Dining Out

We all know that dining out can be prohibitively expensive. But making smart decisions can help you save dollars while indulging in your favorite culinary pasttime. Here are 10 savvy ways to save money eating out restaurants.

Take advantage of daily specials. Many restaurants offer two-for-one meal specials, especially during the week. Find out when your favorite restaurants offer deals and pick those nights to eat out. Look for kids-eat-free deals. Some may require adults to purchase a meal or limit the deal to one free kid’s meal for each adult meal ordered. Also, check out happy-hour food specials, where restaurants offer special prices on food if you dine early or late. Others offer half-price appetizers along with drink specials. When you arrive, remember to find out from the waitstaff if you need to sit at the bar to take advantage of those deals.

[Related: Fitness Track: Dining Out the Healthy Way with Coworkers]

Look for coupons. Before you go out, you can search for “name of restaurant” plus “coupon” online, as well as check the restaurant’s website or Facebook page. You can also find restaurant coupons in the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts, weekly neighborhood newspapers, or in your local community discount circulars.

Join restaurant loyalty clubs. Many restaurants send you coupons for free items or discounts in exchange for your email address. They may offer free meals or desserts for your birthday, send coupons throughout the year, or a reward for downloading or using their mobile app.

Sign up with online deal sites. Restaurant.com and Opentable.com are a must for restaurant lovers looking to save. Restaurant.com sells discounted dining certificates at $10 for $25 of dining any time at over 18,000 restaurants across the country. Take advantage of sales of regularly priced certificates for $4 or $5, or purchase gift cards for pennies on the dollar. Each restaurant sets its own rules, so read the fine print before you buy. OpenTable (OPEN) is a reservation site that gives you points every time you make a reservation. Once you reach a certain number of points, Open Table sends you a certificate good for a discount at any participating restaurant. For example, once you reach 2,000 points, you can get a certificate for $20 off. Deals on Yelp.com, the restaurant review site, are also worth checking out.

Buy daily deals. Livingsocial.com, Groupon.com and similar daily-deal services, are not to be missed when looking to snag great restaurant deals. New restaurants often offer deals even though some have restrictions, including minimum purchase requirements. Some deals are better than others, so before you buy, make sure the certificate will really save you money. Groupon also has a service that gives you a discount for reserving through its site, without a voucher.

Share a meal. Most restaurant meals can easily serve two people, and you can always add an extra salad or side dish, if necessary.

Find senior discounts. Some restaurants offer a special loyalty club or a standard senior discount for seniors while others offer a senior menu. Check AARP for a list of restaurants that offer discounts – usually 10% off to members.

Go out for lunch rather than dinner. This is a great way to sample the fare at more expensive restaurants without spending lots of money.

Friend your favorites — “Liking” a restaurant’s Facebook page is great way to snag deals and coupons online while showing the restaurant online support and attention. A win-win for both sides.