Restaurant.com

I love to eat out.  We don't do it terribly often, because it is expensive, often unhealthy, and it is hard to please everyone.  Still, eating out is one of my favorite things to do.  The last few times I've eaten out, we've saved quite a bit by using discounts offered through Restaurant.com.

Here's how it works.  Go to Restaurant.com and select the area in which you hope to dine.  You can either enter a zip code with radius, or use a state search that then drills down to a specific area.  Select a restaurant, read the details (dinner only, must purchase two entrees, etc.), and then choose which price certificate interests you.  For example, say you live near Fort Bragg.  After selecting your area, look over the list.  Perhaps Lock's Creek looks good to you.  Click on the various price points to figure out which one fits your needs.  You'll have to have a rough idea how much your bill will be in order to make the best choice.  Fortunately, most restaurants have links to sample menus, which helps to get an idea how much you will be spending.  Also look carefully at the minimums – there is no consistent formula for how much you have to spend to use each certificate.  At Lock's Creek, you have to have a $35 bill to use a $25 certificate, but you have to have a $100 bill to use a $50 certificate.  That is a huge difference.

Once you've figured out which certificate is right for your needs, put it in your cart.  The regular price is usually less than half the face value but again, there is no sensible relationship.  Here's where it gets good:  Restaurant.com is nearly always offering discounts on their certificates.  Google Restaurant.com coupon code to find current codes.  I've seen codes from 50% to 90% off the regular price.  If you could find an 80% off code, as I did today, then a $25 restaurant certificate to Lock's Creek would be just $3 ($15 X .2).  If you spent around $40, then used the $25 certificate, your out of pocket costs would only total $18 ($15 of bill plus $3 for the certificate.) 

Of course, you should always tip on the original cost of the bill.  Many participating restaurants automatically add gratuity to checks that use the Restaurant.com certificates but check your bill carefully to be sure you don't double tip, or fail to tip, your server.

Restaurant.com certificates are printed on your own printer and are available to be used immediately.  Also, they can be saved and printed (or reprinted) at a later time.  Just be sure to keep track of which ones you've used.  They have a handy feature that allows you to keep track online but it doesn't keep track for you – you still need to enter the information yourself.  Restaurant.com certificates are good for one year from the date of purchase.

I have found this to be an excellent way to save while still enjoying a meal out.  In the last few weeks, we've used one $10 certificate at a local sub place (I paid about 80 cents for it) and a $50 certificate for a group dinner (that one cost me $6.)  We tried to use one at lunch today but we didn't spend quite enough money to meet the minimum – poor planning on my part.  Fortunately, it is a local restaurant that is very family friendly and I am sure that we will have the opportunity to eat there again in the next year.

One more way to save money and still enjoy life.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.