Eating out is a luxury that many people cut when budgets are tight, but there are ways to save money and keep dining out. Take a look at our 5 simple tips:
1. Seek out special offers
Deciding where to eat is a big part of the pre-dinner mission, but rather than scouring reviews for the hottest new dining experience, why not let your nose for bargain's lead the way? Websites like GroupOn, lastminute.com and Wowcher offer limited-time deals for meals at a constantly changing array of restaurants, which are searchable by area and available at bargain prices. That way, you're guaranteed a new experience as well as a reasonably priced bite to eat.
If you have a favourite local outlet or a particular chain restaurant you'd rather stick with, you can find out whether they have special offers available on dedicated voucher sites like VoucherCodes and MyVoucherCodes.
2. Sign up for loyalty schemes
La Tasca and Nandos are two of the many popular chains that reward UK customers for repeat visits with generous savings. But it's not only the restaurants themselves that repay loyalty with free food.
Credit card loyalty schemes and reward points frequently offer free and discounted meals in exchange for accumulated points, and Orange offers its mobile customers two-for-one pizza at Pizza Express every Wednesday: so you never know when the opportunity for a cheap meal could present itself.
3. Join a diner's club
This one's not quite as high society as it might sound, although it can be if you so choose. A diner's club is simply a way for a group to negotiate a bulk discount, whether that's through a simple club card like the tastecard or the Gourmet Society, which offer subscribers discounts at popular chains like GBK, Prezzo and Ask; or more exclusive supper clubs, which offer reasonably-priced dinners to a limited guest list.
4. Book online
Booking in advance is always advisable when you want a table at a popular restaurant, but less well known is the fact that many restaurants will offer a discount for online bookings.
What's more, savvy entrepreneurs are capitalising on this by offering their own discount booking systems. Tablepouncer, for example, gives customers discounts for filling tables at the last minute; while OpenTable gives customers reward points for each booking, which can be redeemed as vouchers for future dinners.
5. Become a mystery shopper
They say there's no such thing as a free lunch: not only is that untrue, you can even get paid to eat it. In fact, The Guardian found one professional mystery shopper who earned £40,000 a year from her work.
The catch is that you'll have to report back on the quality of the restaurant, service and any other factors the company may request. But for free meals, it could be worth it. You can find a list of European mystery shopper companies on the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website.
If you're really serious about monitoring your food budget, use our free budgeting software to keep track of your monthly dining spend, and, if you're lucky enough, your earnings.
Posted by Money Dashboard