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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dining Out on a Dime



Dining out deals vary by where you live, so I am going to focus on the more "national" opportunities as well as general ideas where to get coupons and locate local deals. Please post your own suggestions if you have ideas to share!

One of my favorites is Restaurant.com and they always have a special running. If you read this today, you still have time to get in on the current special:
purchase a $25 gift certificate for only $2! Go to www.restaurant.com and select your restaurant from their members. Enter the discount code: LUCKY at checkout and hit "Apply". Some quick info about this site - you can purchase as many certificates as you want, you get them to print out immediately online once you've paid, you can order for restaurants anywhere from their list (i.e. great if you are going on vacation and get them in advance) and you can even email them as gifts.

What you need to be aware of:

* You have to pick the restaurant the certificate will be used at (they are good for 1 year from purchase) and it can't be switched later...so "use it or lose it!")

* The restaurant must be identified from their site (they have a great search engine)

* Use of the certificate requires a minimum purchase (i.e. $50) at the restaurant and this in generally for "dine in" only and may exclude alcoholic beverages.

* Check to see if there are blackout dates prior to buying a certificate for a certain restaurant...I haven't run into any, but that doesn't mean it might not occur for different restaurants.

* You can only use ONE certificate per visit to a given restaurant. But if it's a favorite watering hole, stock up when the $2 or $3 sales occur!

Another obvious source of dining deals is the Entertainment book - check it out at www.entertainment.com. The book generally retails for $30.00 each year, but local schools and non-profits and sometimes stores will sell it at a slight discount as part of a fundraising project. Deals are generally buy one/get one 50% off or free. There may be blackout dates for certain restaurants and other rules, so always read the fine print. Also, always tell your server you are using this discount when you order. The cool thing about this book is in addition to dining deals you also get coupons for entertainment, museums, services, events, retailers, travel, etc. At the very least you will make back what the book costs and then some!

Other budget-worthy sources for dining out:

* Valpak (or other mailers) coupons for local establishments (check expiration dates)

* Coupons that are sometime squeezed into the Sunday paper coupon sections...more often these are for pizza and fast food, but lately I've seen coupons for Red Lobster, Olive Garden, our local Asian food buffet and some sushi places.

* Check specific restaurants' websites for specials, coupons, and events...sometimes these deals aren't as well-publicized but may be worth the websurfing time!

* Don't be afraid to ask what type of deal is available if you are taking a large party (8+) out for a meal...given the economy, everyone is willing to make a deal these days!

Big note and very important: ALWAYS tip your server based on what the full price of the bill would have been without the coupon, deal, etc. They need to make a living too!

Bon appetit!

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