Cheapskate has 5 tips for saving your dining dollars

Winnipeggers love to eat out. But not everyone wants to spend their hard earned dollars in a restaurant, especially this close to Christmas when our money is going in other directions.
Coupons are just one way to save when eating out, according to Winnipeg Cheapskate author Jeremy Bradley. (Sandra Thacker/CBC)

Whether it's a special occasion or you are just too lazy to cook, everybody loves a good meal out. But the good meal out often leads to an expensive bill in the end.

Jeremy Bradley is a Winnipegger who is always exploring ways to save money, whether it's on his heating bill, buying gifts or eating out.

This past spring, he launched his book The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate. Since then his books have been flying off the shelves and Bradley has been all about town, at book signings and other events.

He says there are some obvious things you can do to keep it a cheap dining experience, while other tips need some creativity.

Here are his five tips for saving on your dining dollars:

1. First and foremost: order water.  It is not uncommon to pay nearly three dollars for a watered down fountain drink. Getting a glass of water is free (if it isn’t, you might want to rethink your restaurant choice) and it balances out the flavour overload you’ll be having with the meal.

As well, you should carefully consider what you order from the menu. I tend to order the main course so I save a lot with no salad, no appetizer, no dessert and no beverage.

The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate by Jeremy Bradley. (Speak Free Media Inc.)
2. If you have a family and the kids don't eat an entire meal or fuss with what’s given to them, you can save money by giving a little bit of your portion to your child. If all else fails, bring a small bag of food the youngster picked out before going out. This way there is no complaining they don’t want it because they picked it out. Most restaurants are cool with you bringing something for kids to eat if they are under a certain age.
3. There are two great sections of a menu that I love ordering from: kids menu and seniors menu. As a teen I quickly flipped away from those pages thinking I couldn’t order from them. But I was pleasantly surprised when a chicken dinner on the seniors menu was not only cheaper than the main course in the regular section of the menu but it was actually the meal I wanted. There was fine print at the bottom of the page saying non-seniors would be charged an extra dollar for ordering off that menu.
4. At fast-food restaurants it is easy to get hooked on the extras. You can get cheese with that, bacon with that, gravy with that etc. These extras can add up. I'm not suggesting you bring your own packaged cheese slice to slip on the burger once you are at the table...but if you are getting it to go, why not just use cheese and bacon you already have at home? Getting the burger combo is five dollars but when you add this and that your meal nearly doubles in price.

When it comes to condiments, keep them! If you don’t use the condiments during your meal, take them with you for another meal. Use them at home. It saves you in the long run by keeping a collection of them at home. This is especially true if you don’t normally use the condiment very often and only need a little bit instead of having a full jar or container go to waste.
Jeremy Bradley is the author of The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate. (SpeakFree Media Inc.)
5. I can’t say it enough: coupons, coupons, coupons. Save them for a rainy day. There is nothing wrong with using a coupon for a night out. Who cares if you might be considered a cheap date? Flip around that criticism and tell people you are a financial expert and have money for the best things in life – not just for food.

With gift cards, if you don't like the restaurant that you received a gift card for, find someone to trade or even use a swapping service online. Doing this will ensure no cards are wasted and you still end up getting a free meal when you go out.

Hear Jeremy Bradley on Information Radio on Monday December 2 at 6:45.


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