We love to eat out at delicious, local restaurants. We especially love to try new places while traveling. Unfortunately, living on a perpetual vacation is not an option for us. While we do our best to eat at home or take a lunch with us when we go out, it is nice to have a yummy meal out now and then, especially on travel days — when fast food and sandwiches tend to take over — or when we are in a new place.
There are many ways to save on eating out, but for this post I am going to focus solely on getting the best bang for your buck using Groupon, Living Social, and other such sites. Not all deals listed on these sites are good deals and some may be great for one family’s needs and not so much for the next guy. Consider the following before you touch the buy now button.
- How much is it? – This is the first thing I ask myself. Remember, just because something is less than full price doesn’t mean I can’t find a cheaper meal of similar quality elsewhere.
- What is the fine print? Some vouchers will have restrictions attached to them. Sometimes they may be only for certain days of the week. Other times they will be only for specific menu items. Make sure the fine print does not make the voucher worthless to you.
- Does it include unneeded extras? – Sometimes vouchers will be for specific things. An example would be 2 burgers, 2 fries, 2 drinks, and a dessert. These are rarely a good deal for my family because we don’t generally order drinks or dessert, and we would probably just share an order of fries. It would be too much food and we could probably eat for less without the voucher.
- What are the menu prices like? – If I’m alright with the price of the voucher I usually look for the menu and prices. Sometimes a Google search and/or Yelp or Urbanspoon may be needed to help me find this info. I figure out what my family will order and how much that will cost. I do this keeping all of the eating out tips mentioned in this post in mind. If the amount I come up with is within a dollar or two of the value of the voucher it is likely a good pick. If the total comes out to be much more or much less I generally pass.
- Does the restaurant offer deals that can be combined with the Groupon? – Check out the website of the establishment in question. Do they have kids eat free, happy hour, or half price pizza night? If so, call and ask if you will be allowed to combine this discount with your voucher. You’d be surprised how many businesses allow this and it can save you a ton! Please note – the answer to this question could change the answer to question number two, so never rule out a deal until you’ve asked this question.
- Is there a promo code I can use to buy the voucher? – Groupon tends to send out codes fairly often. I have also seen codes for Living Social on occasion. Be sure to use these codes and stock up on deals when you get one.
- Is there a better deal out there? – Look around online and make sure there isn’t a better deal out there. Sometimes an establishment will even offer you a better deal if you call them up and let them know you plan on purchasing a Groupon and ask if they can offer a better deal. This is because Groupon (and similar sites) take some of the profit from every voucher sold, and many times the company will come out ahead by offering you a lower price that still gives them a bigger profit.
My final tip is to sign up for Ebates and use their cash back program every time you buy something online. This site will give you a small amount of cash back for every online purchase you make (including Groupons) and all you have to do is click through to the store of your choice from their website. Each purchase will likely render only pennies, but those small amounts of money add up! There are other sites like this, but this one has the best cash back offers and customer service in my experience.
Using these tips, you should be able to feed your family at a local establishment for around 60%-80% less than full price. Our family of three frequently uses Groupon, Kids Eat Free, promo code, and cash back combined to eat out for $12 or less.
Note: There are referral links in this article. I would very much appreciate anyone who uses my links to sign up for services as it helps keep this site up and running.