Slash restaurant bills and avoid debt

Susan Erasmus
2016-05-23 19:36
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Cape Town - South Africans eat out a lot.  In the year 2013 they spent almost R43bn at restaurants, fast food outlets and on catering services, according to a Stats SA report released in December 2014.

Eating out is convenient, and sometimes you don’t have the choice of preparing a meal in your own kitchen, such as when you are travelling, at work, or you are going out with friends.

But there are ways of keeping these costs low, and sparing your credit card. Here are a few ideas.

Choose the restaurant yourself. If friends want to go out, try and choose the restaurant yourself. Pick one that has a variety of options to suit every pocket.

Learn to say no. Tell your friends if you are flat broke and they want you to join them for a night out on the town. Don’t be shy – they’ve all been there. Suggest an alternative, or tell them you will join them again once you have money in your pocket. Restaurant meals and nights out are bad reasons to make debt.

Avoid restaurants with no prices on the menu. These are usually top-end fine-dining establishments, and they don’t come cheap.

Pay corkage on your own wine. Find out first if it is acceptable (it’s common practice in Cape Town, but apparently not everywhere in SA). This could save you a lot of money, as wine mark-ups in restaurants can be very steep.

Check the menu on the internet. Most restaurant menus can be found on the internet. This will give you an idea of the food prices and choices. You can decide beforehand what you want to have.

Avoid add-ons. Stick to having a substantial main course and avoid doing the expensive starters, the cocktails and the desserts. You won’t be hungry and your bill won’t be sky high. This goes for fast-food joints as well.

Take a look at the bill if it seems very high. People do make mistakes – you might have received the bill for the table next to you, or been charged for a bottle of wine you didn’t order. It could be an honest mistake.

Stick to the menu items as they are. Chopping and changing ingredients on something like a pizza can increase the price hugely.

Takeaways should be an exception, not the rule. Every now and then, buying a takeaway meal is the only option, but if you are doing it once or twice a day at work, your waistline and your wallet will suffer. Pack your own lunches. And get into the habit of cooking double at home – and freezing the extra portion for the night you really don’t feel like cooking.

Don’t split the bill in restaurants. That is unless you all spent more or less the same amount. If you had a salad only, you don’t feel like paying for someone else' expensive steak.

Don’t take the cash and put the bill on your credit card. The cash disappears fast, and then it feels as if you actually paid for the whole bill when the statement finally comes.

Order the house wine. It’s usually good enough – no restaurant will put their name to something that is not drinkable.

Start a supper club. Rather than spend money at a restaurant, pool your resources and cook at home. Each person can make one dish, relieving the stress on the host. You can probably eat three times at home for the price of one restaurant meal.

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