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Queen of Free: Saving money at restaurants

A good strategy starts with planning, not panic.

INDIANAPOLIS — Almost everyone likes to dine out from time to time. Some like a fancy sit-down meal while others prefer the convenience of carryout or delivery that leaves a clean kitchen.

But the expense can add up quickly if you’re not paying attention, according to Queen of Free Cherie Lowe.

She shared her smart strategies to help you save money while dining out this week on 13Sunrise and in her blog.

A good strategy starts with planning, not panic.

"The majority of overspending occurs by accident – or when we find ourselves hungry, angry, lonely, or tired," which Cherie shortens to the acronym "HALT." 

To avoid overspending because of a rash decision or poor planning, Cherie recommends planning the meal around the experience. Check the menu in advance and try take some stress out of choosing what to order when you get to the table.

Cost-reducing tips

If you pay attention to gift cards and restaurant loyalty programs, you can cut some costs of eating out. 

"Places like Sam’s Club and Costco sell gift cards under face value," Cherie said. 

If you load money on your restaurant’s app, you know exactly how much you’re spending. And, if the app offers a rewards program, sign up for it and accrue points toward a free dinner or coupons and discounts. 

"It never hurts to double-check before you place your order so you don’t miss out on saving money!" said Cherie.

If your favorite restaurant offers early bird or happy hour discounts, take advantage by beating the crowd.

You can also save time and money by ordering ahead and picking up yourself from the restaurant instead of paying for third-party delivery services.

Watch Cherie's full 13Sunrise segment in the video player.

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