An Easy Way to Save Money (and Calories) While Dining Out

I enjoy dining out for multiple reasons. When we dine out we don’t have to plan a meal, thaw out meat ahead of time or spend time cooking. We don’t have to wash the dishes or clean up either. The two things that I don’t enjoy are the bill, because dining out is definitely more expensive than cooking at home in most cases, and the effect on my waistline. The food normally isn’t so healthy and has larger than usual portions and that means more pounds on the scale in the mornings.

There are many ways to save money and calories while eating out but there are two that are so easy that everyone can do with no additional time or effort needed. You don’t have to go online, search for ten minutes and then find out what you thought was a great coupon is no longer valid. Drink water. Don’t buy alcohol, sodas, juices or other beverages that a) cost money and b) are probably high in calories. Now to address each point more specifically.

On the money side drinks can be very expensive when you dine out. A soda averages anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00.  Multiply by 2 (for myself and my girlfriend) and that is $3 to $6 and then add the 20% tip and your sales tax and you are up to at least $3.75 to $7.50 and that is assuming you are drinking soda. Alcohol and other drinks are usually more expensive and don’t get free refills. Those fancy lemonade drinks from Wendy’s? Same thing! Drink bills can add up fast if you aren’t paying attention. The bigger the family the bigger the potential savings.

The other factor is the waistline effect. A 21 oz Coca-Cola has 210 calories and when I dine out I normally go through at least two and sometimes as many as four. That is 210-840 calories not even including any food. This means I could be drinking more calories than I am eating in a meal which is a scary thought. To be honest I had never really thought about how many calories I actually drink at a meal and never have been (or probably will be) a calorie counter, but after researching for this post it did open my eyes.

Now I do want to make this clear, if you love your drinks when you go out then you should continue getting them if you can afford it. This is just a choice I made because drinks aren’t that important to me. I would also like to point out this isn’t a unbreakable rule. If there is a day I want to get a drink I will get it because I can afford it. You must remember that personal finance is personal! Do what works for you. I hope I have opened your eyes to a possibility and if you like it I suggest you try it for a while.

What do you normally order to drink when you go out to eat? Has this post made you rethink it at all?

Like What You See?

Join the other readers who have signed up for our email newsletter! No spam, just periodic updates to help improve your finances!

About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I’ve stopped drinking soda so I typically will just do water. Once in a while I might get a fancy drink. I also end up with two meals for the price of one as I only eat about half of what I order but unless it is really bad, I take it home for the next day.

  2. Wow, four 21-oz sodas during one meal! You gotta realize folks, Coke, et al are nothing more than liquid candy. You might as well sprinkle eight or twelve sugar packets over your food. And the sugar substitutes in diet sodas are some scary chemicals. Google a few of them!

    How about nice, fresh water with a little (real) lemon or lime squeezed into it?

  3. Water with lemon is what I always order and I never go to a bar unless they have a drink special. Can’t stand paying $4 for a beer.

  4. We never really order soda when we eat out and we definitely don’t buy it for the house.

    We ate out twice today as my wife and I looked at houses…total FAILURE on the calorie intake. Eating out sucks. I feel like a lard after I stuff my face full of food at the restaurants.

  5. Tackling Our Debt says:

    Years ago I drank so much coke and pepsi and now I don’t like the taste of them anymore and I don’t like the way they make me feel about an hour later. You are definitely correct, the cost of drinks, whether it is coke, lemonade, or mixed drinks, really does add up quickly. Sometime ordering a cup of tea can be expensive as well, depending on the location. I usually just ask for water.

  6. Oh, I always do the water thing. Another thing we do is sign up to the email clubs of our favorite restaurants. Only the ones we go to “frequently.” We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do we always get 20% off because of those emails.

  7. Water with no ice is my standard phrase as soon as the waiter comes by.

  8. I drink exclusively water, so it’s no trouble to ask for it in a restaurant!

  9. I’m glad to see I am not a weirdo! I see many more sodas than waters it seems whenever I go out to eat. Nice to know I’m not alone.

  10. I only drink water at restaurants too, though if there is a special occasion I’ll get a glass of wine but that’s pretty rare. Sodas at restaurants are definitely a rip-off.

Share Your Thoughts