Get it to go
A large portion of any restaurant bill is tax, tip, and beverages. Skip all of these by ordering your food to go. (Bonus points if you opt for takeout instead of delivery.) Go fancy by serving the food on your nicest plates and popping open a bottle of wine, or enjoy a low-key evening in front of the TV, and eat right out of your to-go containers. (These sheet pan dinners make cleanup easy, too.)</span>
Check for discounts
A quick Internet search provides plenty of mobile apps (such as Groupon, OpenTable, Restaurant.com, Coupon Sherpa and Valpak) that offer deals or discounts you can download to use in area restaurants. Be aware, however, that your inbox may be inundated if you sign up for every money-saving app.</span>
Don’t forget to take advantage of any status discounts that may apply—teachers, students, senior citizens, military personnel and AAA members often get special pricing.
Finally, many credit cards offer cash-back programs specifically geared toward dining out. While it may not seem like much, the rebates you reap later will add up to a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Try these 12 ways to save money and have a night out that’s fun, relaxing and budget-friendly. Just one parting word of advice: If you’re going to splurge on dining out, order something you wouldn’t cook for yourself at home. The night will be that much more special. (Tempted to try your hand at beloved restaurant dishes? We’ve got copycat recipes right this way.) Plus, here are 33 ways to get great deals on just about everything.