When you're looking for ways to trim your budget, dining out is often the first thing to go. But, there are ways to enjoy a nice meal without spending too much cash. Start at one of these websites offering money saving deals to local restaurants.
Great Day St. Louis on KMOV-TV offers a daily deal Monday through Friday. Many of the deals are for half-price gift certificates to local restaurants. There are a limited number of deals (usually a couple hundred) and you can see how many certificates are still available, as well as any specific restrictions. Most restaurants allow you to use only one certificate per visit, and usually won't give you cash back if you don't spend the entire amount. Certificates are purchased online, and arrive by mail after purchase.
Deal Catcher is a website that combines all of the current offers from Groupon, Living Social and other discount sites. Like Great Day Deals, it's not just restaurant deals that are offered, but you can find plenty of discounts for local eateries as well.
Restaurant.com is a national site, but it has, by far, the most local restaurant deals. The best thing about the site is the variety. Restaurant.com always has dozens of offers (I pulled up 90 within the metropolitan region). However, there's a trade-off for that variety. The deals offered on Restaurant.com aren't just simple gift certificates. Most have restrictions, such as a minimum purchase requirement of $35 when you use a $25 gift certificate. Still, if you pay $10 for a $25 gift certificate, and use it on a $35 meal, your out-of-pocket cost is $20 versus $35.
Restaurant.com also offers something the other sites don't - the option to print and use your certificates immediately (versus waiting 7 to 10 days for them to arrive in the mail). You can even email them to friends and family as gifts.
Entertainment.com is the website associated with the Entertainment Book. The website offers coupons for many restaurants. You can also buy the St. Louis edition of the book for $35. Coupons to sit down restaurants are usually "buy one entree, get one free." And even if you only use a few of the restaurant coupons, there are enough coupons on things like oil changes, eye glasses, electronics and car rentals, to easily cover the book's cost. It's also a great resource when you're struggling to decide where to go for dinner.
Most of the fine dining ads include the restaurant's menu, so you browse by cuisine and by who's offering the best deal.
An easy way to save without using coupons is by attending one of the many Restaurant Weeks offered in the St. Louis area. During these special weeks, restaurants in the designated locations offer a prix fixe menu. In most cases, it's a three-course meal for $25 dollars a person. Restaurant Weeks can be found in Downtown St. Louis, Clayton, Alton, IL, The Hill and more.
If you are dining out with the whole family, you can save a good bit of money by going to a restaurant where kids eat for free. Restaurants often designate one day a week for these kinds of deals, so a little planning can mean big savings. In St. Louis, you can chose from pizza and pasta to burgers and bar-b-que. In most cases, children get a free meal with the purchase of an adult entree.