Here’s how you can stick to a budget while indulging your taste buds

7 Ways to stay within your budget when eating out

Check out the newest restaurant in town, savour those sinful macaroons at the dessert bar and enjoy that nitrogen-chilled cocktail – without blowing all your money

The influence of western countries – or even Asian countries such as Singapore and Thailand – is now being seen in India. From home-cooked meals that was the tradition earlier; eating out is becoming the new normal for Indian millennials. 

The average millennial dines at a restaurant or opts for take-away five times a week. Moreover, 29% of millennials say they buy coffee at least three times a week, according to a 2017 study by Bankrate.

A simple calculation will reveal that five meals and three expensive Starbucks coffees could mean a millennial is spending around Rs 5000 a week on eating out, if not more. While eating out is not a crime, it means that salaries (and savings) can take a serious hit. 

If you are a foodie, there are ways to eat out without emptying your pockets. Here’s how you can stick to a budget while indulging your taste buds:

1) Happy hours

Many restaurants have happy hours to boost business. These are generally valid on alcohol, but often for food as well. Frequent these joints during happy hours and you could end up saving 30-40% on the cost of food. Check out the best restaurant in town during Restaurant Week to eat a three- or five-course fixed meal at a huge discount. You can take your culinary senses on trip without burning a hole in your pocket. 

2) Discount/deal coupons

Check out coupon sites to get deals. You can get heavy discounts, cashback, and numerous other offers. Sites such as Zomato, Coupondunia, Dineout, Nearbuy etc. offer discounts up to 50% or more! However, be wary of constantly checking these sites as you may be tempted to eat out even when you don’t plan to. Scout for deal coupons only when you have already decided to eat out.

3) Hidden jewels

You don’t always have to go to a fancy restaurant to find good food. Even tiny, hole-in-the-wall eateries can dish out some amazing food. Seek and you shall strike gold. From dosas to pav bhaji for vegetarians to chicken kathi rolls for carnivores, you will discover places that serve cheap but delicious food. 

4) Shared meals

Eat with like-minded (or rather, like-budgeted) people. Not only will it work out cheaper to share meals, you will also get to try a variety of dishes. Sharing a soup and a main course is always cheaper than ordering separate dishes, and very often a single dish has sufficient quantity for two. But choose your dining partner carefully; the plan could backfire if the other person is not price-conscious when ordering.

5) Mobile wallets for cashback

With so many mobile wallets vying for attention, a lot of lucrative offers are often up for grabs. Using wallets such as Paytm or Mobikwik can get you instant cashback. Some have tie-ups with restaurants to get you additional discounts, along with coupons or other deals. You can even use Google Pay to pay your bill and get scratch cards, which again offer cashback.

6) Debit and credit cards

Banks today are aggressively offering deals on eating out. Paying with a specific bank card could get you an immediate discount of 10-20%. Additionally, you can rack up reward points with your credit card transactions. These reward points can then be used to shop for goods or to get air miles. 

7) Money-tracking apps

This is most important. Use a money tracker app such as Mint to stay on top of your dining habits. Input all your expenses and review it at the end of the month. You will know if you have gone overboard in a particular month and where you can cut back. Tracking your spending will allow you to enjoy that lobster thermidor, followed by a tiramisu, stress-free and guilt-free!

Bon appétit!

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