Are you on a tight budget but love dining out with your friends and family? Instead of dining out on a regular basis, especially on the spur of the moment, view dining out as something that you only do once in a while; perhaps for a special occasion. Plan out in advance when you will go out for lunch or dinner and choose your locations wisely.

Make sure you are going to a restaurant that you truly enjoy instead of just going somewhere to eat because you do not feel like cooking.

Dining out on impulse, as many of us do, will kill your budget in an instant and at the end of the month you will be very upset with yourself for not monitoring your spending more closely.

However, by planning things out in advance and allocating some cash from your budget for your dinner or lunch out, you will feel in control of your spending and your budget will balance out at the end of the month.

The trick to being able to go out for lunch or dinner without spending a lot of cash is to find great deals and to pay close attention to what you order.

Frequent Small Diners

Quite often you will find the most delicious food at small local diners, and usually their prices are a third of what you would pay at a big chain restaurant. Local diners enjoy cooking from scratch with very fresh ingredients. And it is always good to support your local business community.

Order Ice Water

When you dine out do you typically order a soda or a mixed drink? My husband and I use to and when the bill came the cost of our drinks alone came to $10 or $20.

Ever since we seriously started watching our spending, we save that money by simply ordering ice water. It’s free and it is much better for us.

Kids Eat Free

If you have a house full of kids, dining out can quickly become very expensive. A good way to save some cash is to look for restaurants that have a “kids eat free” menu.

Some restaurants may offer this everyday and some may only offer it one night a week.

Do some quick searches online or in your local newspaper to see what you come up with.

Share an Entrée

Meal portions tend to be quite large in restaurants these days, so if there are only two of you, consider ordering one meal and sharing it. You can ask for two dinner plates and split up your meal when it arrives.

Will doing this make you look cheap? Not at all. It will keep your wallet fat, and help keep your waistline slim.

Skip Desserts

Have you looked at the price of desserts lately? Many restaurants charge $8.00 or more for a slice of cheesecake or an ice cream sundae. For $8.00 you can get a large tub of ice cream at the grocery store and eat it every night after dinner for a week if you wanted too.

But by skipping dessert altogether you save more money and your body will thank you too.