Some days, the convenience of dining out is exactly what you need after sweating out a tough day at work or school, but if money’s tight, it may seem like too much of a luxury. Here are a few simple hacks to help you prevent a good meal from landing you in debt.

Dining-Out Hack #1: Never Have Food Delivered

Pizza places and other restaurants offering delivery often tack on fees of 2-3 bucks to your total. After you add a tip, because you’re a nice person, you wind up paying $6 or more on convenience fees just to have food brought to your door. Gas is cheap right now, so if you have a car and the place is nearby, pick up your order. If you have an electric car, that’s even better or walk to get some exercise. Sound overly simple? It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of relying on delivery people, and if you order takeout several times a week like most people in metropolitan areas, those fees can add up quickly. 

Dining-Out Hack #2: Take Me Home Tonight

Have a craving for your favorite burger or salad from that beloved chain restaurant? Order takeout instead of dining in. Place an order online or by phone and pick it up on your way home from work. You can make your own side dishes at a lower price point than you’d find on most menus, and you won’t be tempted to order the $15 fudge tsunami. Plus, you save 20 to 25 percent tip on your bill.


food served on a table

Dining-Out Hack #3: Pass on the Booze

No matter where you go, the markup on alcohol is astronomical. If you have two or three beers or glasses of wine with a meal at a restaurant, you pay three to four times more than you would at your store. Also, consuming alcohol can make it difficult to make smart decisions, so while 'don’t drink and spend' is a sound tip, don't drink and drive is an even sounder one. It may sound simple, but many people learn the hard way.

Adjusting the way that you spend money is more realistic than trying not to spend at all. Using these hacks can help keep your favorite restaurants within budget.