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Top 8 Ways to Eat Out for Less

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Eating out can be a real treat, but often the resulting bill is anything but. Here are six simple strategies to cut your bill, so that you can enjoy your restaurant meal without the side of guilt:

1. Share a Meal

Couple Sharring a Dessert.
Frank Gaglione/ Photographer's Choice/ Getty Images
Restaurant portions are often huge, so consider splitting a dish with someone else. If you ask, many establishments will even divide your order onto two plates before bringing it out to you. The unexpected bonus for your frugal efforts? Fewer calories and fat grams hitting your waistline.

2. Drink for Free

Drinks can really add to your tab, particularly if you're drinking something that is billed by the glass. To keep your check as lean as possible, order water (almost always free), or opt for a beverage that comes with free refills – soda, coffee, ice tea, etc. Can't do without that alcoholic beverage? Order one glass, and then stick to water for the rest of the meal.

3. Clip and Save

Coupons aren't just for groceries. Flip through your local newspaper and junk mailers, and you're likely to find lots of restaurant coupons. Buy one get one free offers can make a big dent in the price of eating out, so they're worth the search time. For even more savings, consider investing in a school coupon book or an Entertainment Book, if they are available in your area.

4. Go Kid-Friendly

Lots of establishments feature special nights where kids eat free with the purchase of an adult entrée. Do a little research to find restaurants in your area that do this, and you could slash your meal cost in half – now that's sure to make you and the kids happy.

5. Skip Dinner

No, I'm not suggesting that you skip dinner entirely, but I am suggesting that you consider skipping dinner out. Eating out at dinnertime is often much more expensive than eating out at lunchtime – even if the same foods are on the menu. Make the switch to mid-day meals, and you'll avoid the higher price tags and probably the crowd as well.

6. Order By Phone

If it's the restaurant food that you crave and not the restaurant experience, you can cut your costs by ordering your food to go. Many restaurant chains now offer car-side service, making it easy for you to get your favorite meals to go. How does this save you money? By taking the sit-down experience out of the equation, you can skip the drink order entirely and also avoid having to pay a tip – a savings of 15% by itself.

7. Buy Discounted Gift Certificates

Purchase discounted gift certificates to your favorite restaurants through restaurant.com, where $10 certificates sell for $3 and $25 certificates sell for $10.

8. Buy an Entertainment Book

Pick up an Entertainment Book for your city It's loaded with 2-for-1 restaurant coupons and 50% off deals.

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