There are ways to eat out without just paying from ready cash. Earning gift cards for restaurants is one way. The blood bank usually gives me a restaurant gift card when I donate blood. MyPoints gives them too. MyPoints also offers reward points when you buy a gift card through them. A gift card doesn’t have to be given as a gift; you can just as well spend it yourself.
Around holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day some restaurants offer gift card specials where you buy a $25 gift card and they give you a $5 one free, a 20% return on your money. IHOP, Taco Bell, and Chili’s have done that that I know of. Take note of the expiration date. It may be shorter on the free one than on the others.
Many restaurants also give you a free something for your birthday. When I did a search on “free birthday meals Daytona Beach,” I found many inactive links. I did better on About.com’s frugal living site, http://www.frugalliving.about.com. Search on “eat free on birthday”; scroll past the ads to the articles. The article has links to the restaurants’ sites where you can sign up for a gracious plenty of free meals, sides, and desserts near you. Many of them give you several days to use the offer, not strictly your actual birthday.
When I signed up with Ruby Tuesday, they sent me a coupon for buy one get one free entrees right away; I didn’t even have to wait until my birthday. I also signed up at http://www.birthdayfreebies.com, where “being born has its privileges.” Some places offer something free on April 15th, tax day, as well. If you are a veteran, many restaurants offer free meals or desserts on Veteran’s Day.
At sit-down restaurants, lunch is usually less expensive than dinner. If you sign up at your favorite restaurants’ websites, they will send you coupons for discounts now and then. Local restaurants and chains sometimes have discount coupons in the paper or in a coupon packet in your mail. Cliff and I bought the Entertainment Book and used the buy one meal get a second one free coupons. The Entertain-ment Book will more than pay for itself if you actually use it.
If you are fifty or older, it can’t hurt to ask for the senior discount in restaurants. Some have it already in the menu, but others only give it if you ask. Taco Bell gives a senior discount on all of their menu, not just coffee or breakfast like some fast food places. If you’re comfortable eating dinner before 6 p.m., you’ll get a discount at restaurants that offer early bird specials.
Restaurant portions can be large. Cliff and I could often share an entrée with the addition of another side salad or side dish. Beverages add to the cost of a meal, especially for a family. Ordering water instead of soda or coffee can lower the bill a lot.
Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.