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Your Dime, Your Dance Floor: Wining And Dining On A Dime

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

We all know how costly grocery shopping can be, especially if you’re eating holistically. But, dining out can be equally as expensive, with the average cost of a meal ranging from $12 to $20 per person on average. Now tally in drinks, coffee, dessert, tip, and a couple of kids (if you have them and take them with you) and you’re looking at a bill that’s about or over $30 per person.

So, what does that mean? Does it mean that you can and should never eat out again, that you should take turns (eating out) with your spouse, leave the kids at home, or relinquish your fine dining experiences to fast food establishments?

The answer would be none of the above, at least if you’re smart about saving and spending and if you know how to get the best “burger” or filet mignon for your buck.

And, according to experts discount dining is a great way to eat well for less, as long as you are willing to clip coupons, look for specials, and eat at establishments that offer kids-free meals.

Furthermore, with life getting more costly, forcing families (and individuals) to cut back, restaurants are taking the lead from other types of businesses who are becoming increasingly more enterprising in order to attract more business. In fact, many are enticing patrons with rewards for eating there often.

Some are posting 2-for-1 coupons in local coupon books, Websites and papers and/or joining a Rewards Network, offering consumers 20% off the final bill.

Members of a Rewards Network program pay a fee or are referred by their air miles program in exchange for a rebate of between 10 and 20 percent on each meal, including drinks and tip.

Customers simply register their credit cards and use them to pay for the meal to obtain the savings. And, you can keep it confidential as the rebate is credited to your card within a matter of days, and the cardholder notified by email.

For most the program costs about $50 unless it is offered by your frequent flyer program, in which case it is free. The only stipulation is you get your money back in miles.

But, according to experts these miles can “easily” be turned into meals. Professionals point out that many airlines allow you to trade in your miles for restaurant gift certificates depending on how many miles you have acquired.

Gift certificates are another great way to cut costs. Some sites sell relatively inexpensive gift certificates to restaurants, though you are limited to time of dining, entrees included and/or minimum purchase.

However, many still suggest they are a good investment, if you can find a restaurant you like.

Still, another option is turning the tables on dining out by getting paid for it. Much like “mystery shopping” you can become part of a company that gives you the chance to savor the flavors of a vast array of eateries rating the quality of food, ambiance, service, even cleanliness of their washrooms. And while many companies may convince you that you must pay for certification, experts suggest that it shouldn’t cost you a thing.

However, reviewers generally only get an opportunity to visit a certain establishment once every six months or so, so it’s probably a good idea to register with a variety of companies if you are determined to dine for free.

Also, for those who prefer the more upscale eateries, it best to make reservations ahead of time via online resources as your best way to dine for free.

Restaurants use these services to entice new patrons rewarding them for making reservations online. And, those who are okay with eating a bit earlier or later than usual can get the best rewards, as much as $10 per reservation.

And those who frequently dine out should check to see if their favorite places have a Web site. Many eateries post online coupons and some even have frequent dining clubs, which send out coupons every few months to their members, plus, they may offer rebates on frequent visits.

And every restaurant, not experts offer price promotions. You can even find out about additional “discounts” by doing a neighborhood restaurant search on you PC. Simply type in “restaurant”, “the name of the establishment” and “coupon” and see what turns up.

You may also want to get your hands on a coupon book that gives you an extensive array of discounts on all forms of entertainment in your local area. Note that these books are sold for a fraction of the price halfway through the year, making it a good idea to perhaps pick one up for your favorite getaway spot.

But, proceed with caution, because more and more companies are offering these discounts for free via The Net (making the book an un-necessary expenditure).

And if all this is too much (trouble) for you, you can still wine and dine for less with a little fancy financing.

Stick to the basics and forego the fancy beverages and/or high-ticket items. Order one appetizer and one meal and split it, and by all means skip the coffee and dessert, it’s cheaper at home.

You can also always order in. While you’ll wind up paying for the meal, you won’t wind up spending extra money on drinks, coffee, dessert, or a 15 to 20% tip.

Long Island Home & Lifestyle Articles > Your Dime, Your Dance Floor: Wining And Dining On A Dime

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