Pinching Pennies: How to Save on Outings

Hello Readers! Now, I know that many of you may have made a financial goal for 2017 or that your New Year’s Resolution may pertain to saving money over the next few months.  And I know one of the biggest budget killers is going out.  Take out, dining out, going on fun adventures.  These are all activities that often can break the bank if you aren’t careful.  But it doesn’t have to bust your budget.  Even if you aren’t focused on saving money or aren’t on the Dave Ramsey plan like we are, there are still some great benefits to saving money while still enjoying your outings.  So, let’s go over a few of my favorites.

1.  Dates
In a previous post of mine, I discussed a few techniques we use in our home to save on Date Night.  For those that haven’t read it, you can find the post here.  Now, our favorite technique is to take advantage of gift cards that we receive as gifts.  We have also been able to expand on this with rebates and services like Groupon.  My mother is in love with Groupon.  Even though she lives at the other end of our state, she keeps her eyes peeled to the Groupon deals in our area, not just for us but also for my sister and brother-in-law who also happen to live in our area.  After learning that my husband Ryan and I take full advantage of gift cards and whatnot, she began sending us Groupon deals that she thought we would like.

Similarly, we have had family members offer other deals that we have used to our advantage.  For Christmas last year, I received a coupon for a cooking class at a local cooking school.  We took advantage of this and did a cooking class Date Night, during which we only had to pay for one person since we had a coupon.  Though it was pricier to do this than our typical dates, it was well worth the cost to enjoy a great dinner that we had learned to make with each other, and we had a blast learning!  Another absolute favorite of ours is to attend painting classes together.  For our anniversary, which is at the end of this month, we have signed up for a painting class at my favorite session time: bottomless mimosas!  We were given some cash at Christmas, and we held onto it in order to attend this class as a glass for the bottomless mimosa option is $16, and that doesn’t even include the cost of the class! However, these are great gifts to ask for as they provide a great reminder of the fun you had at the class.  And that’s the key: have fun with it!

While painting or cooking may not be your thing, there are other great options you can ask for from others.  Dancing classes, which I have always wanted to do, are a fun way to enjoy time together, not to mention the great workout you can get while having fun.  Another one that may be more expensive but would be a fun class to do is Wine or Beer Tasting sessions at a local brewery or winery.  This is a fun way to learn more about these places and the products they showcase, and it’s a great way to have a lot of fun as a couple.  So, the next time someone asks what you want for your birthday, Mother’s Day, anniversary, or Christmas, mention a class or two as options for them.  Some people will jump at the opportunity to provide a great and unique gift like these.

2. Dining Out
This one is a tough area for all families.  It’s hard to stay focused on your financial goals when you feel like you can’t do anything or spend any money.  However, even we allot a small amount of money each week to dining out with our son Sean.  Even though we want to save every penny, and we need to since our budget is tight, we feel it’s important to teach Sean proper manners when out in society, and we feel it’s necessary to socialize him at restaurants so he learns how to act in such situations.  And we often feel like we need a break from dining in all week long.

So, we take advantage of meal specials at various locations.  For example, a favorite place for me is Famous Dave’s.  On Mondays, kids eat free; so, on Mondays, for every adult meal purchased you can receive a kid’s meal for free.  On Tuesdays, they have a 2 for $22 deal in which you can purchase two meals for $22, which can be quite a deal.  Another favorite of ours Steak ‘n Shake.  On weekends, kids eat free here.  And so forth.  I have found a lot of these savings by looking around or by sheer accident.  However, I know that there are deals offered every day of the week at many locations.  I have often seen lists of such deals on Pinterest, so it’s a great place to start.

Another fun option that’s a unique take on “dining out” is to start a round robin potluck supper club with some friends or family members.  This is a great way to spend time with friends and family while still enjoying a dining out experience.  How it works is that you and a group of friends (or just one family friend) plan a day each week that you can do a dinner together.  The more friends you have the better.  Choose a day that each of you typically has free, which may be Friday or Saturday nights.  Then, you rotate through hosts, each person hosting the supper club at their house in a rotating pattern through the weeks.  The host is responsible for the main dish, such as roast or burgers, and each member brings a different dish in some manner.  My favorite technique is to base the dish on birthdays: January through April birthdays are responsible for soups or salads, May through August have sides, and September through December take desserts.  Then just have them make enough for four to eight people, depending on the crowd, and let the fun begin.  Usually, you will end up with a great variety of food that everyone can enjoy.  And rotating through each host allows you to feel like you are “dining out” while saving yourself some money in the long run.

3.  Take Out
Sometimes we find that the places where deals are offered aren’t what we want to do, or we have a day during which it’s been so crazy that we just want to grab takeout and be done with it.  A favorite of ours is pizza, and I hate to admit it but Little Caesar’s is our favorite pizza place.  Ryan loves that it’s only five bucks.  I actually love the taste.  But sometimes we don’t want the same ones, or we tire of the same flavors.  We have found that on Tuesdays Papa Murphy’s Take n Bake pizzas are $10 for a large of any kind.  So for a little more, we can often get a specialty pizza that we can bake at home or take to a friend’s house.

Sometimes, however, we aren’t in the mood for pizza, and this is where my cooking skills comes in handy.  I have learned how to make “Chinese takeout” at home.  Some of our favorite dishes that I have learned to make are Shrimp Stir Fry, Moo Shu Pork, and Pot stickers.  The Shrimp Stir Fry recipe is really easy to do from scratch, and I learned it while watching Food Network’s Worst Cooks of America a few seasons ago.  It’s a Bobby Flay recipe, which means you know it’s good!  And because it was used on a reality tv show about the worst cooks in the country, you know it’s going to be easy to replicate!  The Moo Shu Pork and Pot Stickers recipes are from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food cookbooks Great Food Fast and Fresh Flavor Fast.  Both recipes are easy to make, and the ingredients are easy to find in your local grocer.  What I enjoy about these is that we can still enjoy our favorite takeout without the expense of it.

So here are a few techniques we use in our home to save on family dining out and Date Nights.  I hope you and your family will enjoy these cost cutting options while still enjoying your outings together!

Until next time,

-BBM

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