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Eating out without breaking the family budget

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

Eating out at a favorite restaurant is a traditional family activity for families everywhere. Whether it’s visiting an old favorite or trying out a new place, eating out is something families can look forward to as a real treat and an opportunity to get out of the house and break from the weekly routine. Dining out is also one of the first areas discussed when it comes time to tighten the budget – and one of the first to get the proverbial axe.

Brown bagging lunches and eating more meals at home will certainly help save money. However, it doesn’t mean you have to completely give up this opportunity to spend quality time together and experience new things.

Eating out is an escape that can make sense – and “cents” – if you spend a little time looking for discounts before heading out for that weekend dinner with the family. Why not allow yourself and your family a few escapes from the budget-cutting grind to enjoy what you’ve worked hard for while maintaining the overall budget.

The question: How do you accomplish this without breaking that budget you’ve worked so hard to develop? The answer: Look for deals and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.

Utilize coupons

My family really enjoys eating out on Saturday nights when we have the time, and we nearly always have a coupon on hand when we do. For example, our favorite local Mexican restaurant offers a $5 discount coupon on their website for anyone to print out and use. It’s as simple as printing one off before heading out. They also have kid’s specials on the weekend to further reduce the cost of eating out.

Many of your local restaurants likely do the same. Pick out some of your favorites and search their websites as a start. Check the back of your local grocery store receipts – many feature discount coupons from local eateries. And take some time to look through that “junk” mail. Many restaurants send direct mail coupons out to their local areas.

If all else fails and you can’t find coupons for your favorite local restaurant, don’t be afraid to tear out and present a competitor’s coupon. Ask the proprietor if they will honor it … I think you’ll be surprised at how many will do so.

Search the Web

Other sources of dine-out discounts include popular websites that offer online pre-purchases on dining coupons. These sites include:, and – among many others. As an example, you can purchase $20 of restaurant credit for $10 with popular restaurants in your area. In addition, many travel and credit card rewards programs offer pretty good deals if you trade in your points for restaurant gift certificates.

Hungry for more frugal food ideas? Download our free eBook: Cheap Eats.

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Clipping coupons can cut your costs.

The flyer in the front of the Sunday newspaper shouted “Over $200 in coupons inside!” Considering the average U.S. family of four spends around $8,513 a year for groceries according to the U.S. Department of Labor, couponing is serious business for food manufacturers.

Learn more in this MMI article

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Five steps toward financial wellness


April is National Financial Literacy Month, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Between rapidly increasing prices in gas and food along with sluggish economic growth, consumers are feeling more pinched each week. In fact, according to a recent survey by Career Builder, 77 percent of American consumers are living paycheck to paycheck.

Financial Literacy Month offers the perfect opportunity for individuals and families to change their financial situation by learning about important financial matters like creating and managing a budget, paying down debt while saving for emergencies, and creating achievable financial goals. We are committed to bringing you the financial education you need to reach your financial goals.

The following five steps will help you on the path toward financial wellness:

  1. Make a commitment. Changing your relationship with money is not an easy task; it takes hard work and a strong commitment. Visit and take the pledge to start on the path toward financial security.
  2. Assess your financial situation. A simple quiz can help you understand your current financial position. Knowing where you are today will help you determine the best path toward meeting your financial goals.
  3. Get organized. Getting your financial house organized is a great way to begin on a clear path toward financial wellness.
  4. Set priorities. Understanding the difference between needs and wants will help you establish financial priorities and set realistic goals.
  5. Live on a budget. Spending less than you earn is easier said than done, but a solid budget is the most important element of any successful financial plan.

Changing your financial habits and your relationship with money can be hard work, but the payoff is priceless. The important thing to remember while on your journey to financial freedom is to stay flexible. Revisit your financial plan often and make changes as needed.


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Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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