These days there is no shortage of dining and restaurant coupons. Books of 2 for 1 and other offers are a popular fund raiser in many communities, coupons frequently arrive in the mail (both e- and snail), and websites such as Groupon, Living Social, Half Off Depot, and the throngs of competitors offer steeply discounted deals on eating out. But in order to take advantage of the savings you need to actually have the coupon with you when you are both near the restaurant and hungry. Sounds simple enough, but how many times have you realized after eating out that you had a coupon at home? Or how many restaurant coupons have you tossed after realizing they have expired?
Before I go any further, I just want to make perfectly clear that I am not recommending that you use every restaurant coupon or offer that comes your way. Cooking and eating at home is healthier and saves money, but most of us are going to eat out every once in a while. And when you do eat out, I’d like you to save every penny that you can.
Ok, with that covered, here are a few tips for getting the most use out of those coupons:
- Keep them where you’ll use them. If you generally drive to a restaurant keep them in the car. If you’re in an urban area and are more likely to be walking or taking public transportation keep a stash in your purse or wallet. Put those for places you’re most likely to order delivery from wherever you keep the take out menus – or by the computer if you tend to look them up online. Stick the ones for restaurants near the office in your desk drawer.
- Make a list of new spots to try. Rather than just using the coupons for your favorite places take a look through the options and earmark a few restaurants you’ve never been to. You might find a new favorite, and if not at least you got a great deal on your meal.
- Ask some friends to join you. Do you have a few friends you eat out with often? Or some you’d like to see more of? Suggest that you each purchase a coupon book from the local elementary school and try some new places together. Check the policies about redeeming multiple coupons with one party before heading to dinner.
Remember when using a coupon for eating out to always tip on the price before the discount was taken off. For example:
You order 2 $12 entrees, and get one for free, you should leave a tip based on $24 (20% = $4.80) not $12 (20% = $2.40.)
Do you have any other tips for making the most of these deals? And how do you feel about using coupons while eating out? Great way to save or too embarrassing?