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Every now and then, we all need to let our hair down and let someone else do the cooking for a change.  While ordering a simple entree may not cost much, adding drinks, appetizers and dessert can send your bill through the roof.  Fortunately, there are ways you can cut corners without leaving the restaurant hungry.  Here are 10 ways you can drastically reduce your bill.

Set a budget and stick to it

Going out to eat isn’t a problem provided you set a budget first.  So the next time you get the urge to treat yourself, review your finances and set a spending limit.  Once you have a figure in mind, check out the restaurant’s menu online and plan your meal accordingly.  By setting a budget and sticking to it, you’ll avoid ordering more than your wallet can handle.

Schedule your plans during the week

Foot traffic tends to be slower on weekdays so restaurants are always looking for ways to get customers through the doors.  Keep an eye out for special promotions at your favorite restaurants and go on those days.  Aside from spending less, you’ll also get your food faster since you’ll be competing against a smaller crowd.

Drink water

Ordering a couple cocktails to go along with your meal can really inflate your bill.  Skip the alcohol and soft drinks and opt for some good old-fashioned H2O instead.  It’s healthier plus many eateries offer free tap water as a courtesy to their guests.

Take advantage of happy hour specials

For some people, food and cocktails go hand in hand.  If you prefer not to skip the liquor, go out during happy hour.  Usually between 4-7pm, restaurants lower their drink prices to attract customers heading home from work.  Some even offer discounted appetizers to help sweeten the deal.

Search for deals online

Tired of frequenting the same restaurants?  Daily deal sites make it easy to satisfy your craving for something new without breaking the bank.  Sites like Restaurant.com can help you save up to 50% off every meal.  Just do a quick search and choose the offer that makes your mouth water.

Visit an all you can eat buffet

All you can eat buffets are a food lover’s dream come true.  They’re a great way to enjoy a variety of dishes without emptying your wallet.  Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, pasta or salad, they’ve got you covered.  The downside is you may overeat and pack on a few extra pounds.

Go where kids eat free

If your kids are tagging along, visit places where kids eat free.  Participating restaurants include Denny’s, IHOP and Golden Corral.  The downside is you’ll be restricted to dining on certain days and times.  You may also have to pay for drinks but it’s still much cheaper than footing the entire bill.

Become a rewards member

Want to be the first to know about exclusive deals?  Then sign up to become a rewards member at your favorite restaurant.  Anytime there’s an upcoming event or special promotion, you’ll receive an email notification.  Some places like Red Lobster and TGI Friday’s even throw in a free appetizer or dessert for new subscribers.

Take your food to go

If you care more about the meal than the actual restaurant experience, order your food to go.  This will save you money on drinks and tips.  Which can lead to big savings since the average person tips 15-20 percent of their meal cost.

Check the bill

Nobody is perfect and your waiter is no exception.  Before you hand over your hard-earned cash, comb through the bill to ensure that everything is correct.  If there is a mistake, bring it to their attention so they can adjust your bill accordingly.