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A few weeks ago I shared how we spend money on video games, now I wanted to share another expense- dining out.

It think this is probably the biggest expense in our discretionary budget.

While we cook at home many times, we love going out to eat with some friends (and sometimes just on a date night) and enjoy the night out.

Limiting Dinners Out to Enjoy Them More

When we go overboard on eating out of the house, not only are we hurting our wallets, but we're not enjoying dinners out as much.

They stop feeling special, at least to me, and hate that. I want to appreciate those times we spend together.

Our Favorite Spots in Raleigh

It's hard to pick all the places we enjoyed, but I figured if anyone is in Raleigh, they should definitely check out these places.Learn how you two can enjoy nights out without draining your wallets!

  • Vic's: Tons of wonderfully delicious Italian food at great prices. I love, love, LOVE their pizzas. My hardest decision with this place is choosing what to eat. This is the spot we go to when there are free concerts in the area.
  • 518 West: We've taken family and friends here for anniversary dinners (upstairs is a bit more private). They have great dishes (the crab is fantastic) and a nice drink menu.
  • Los Tres Magueyes: Our Mexican lunch spot- it's quick and it's delicious. We get our Speedy and chimichanga combos and we're happy.
  • Jibarra: It's not a typical Mexican restaurant, which I like. It's more urban in style and the dishes are fantastic. It's hard to describe the flavor of the food beside saying it's spicy and incredible.
  • Sawasdee: Several friends had mentioned to us that this is the place to go for some good Thai food. They have two locations now in Raleigh, which makes it more convenient (and tempting).
  • Mura: If you're looking for great sushi and a wonderful atmosphere, Mura is  the spot. We've gone there and had great service and a wonderful time. If you're in the area, on Sundays they have the buy one sushi roll, get one roll 1/2 special that we take advantage of. We also grab a glass of house wine for 1/2 off too. My personal favorites are the Screaming O, Surf & Turf, and Piano roll.
  • Asuka: This Japanese restaurant is a favorite lunch date spot and they have a great buy one, get one roll free special (including dinners). It's a bit out, but it's definitely worth the drive.

This is not a complete list by any means, so if you have a favorite in the Raleigh area, please share it in the comments.

Planning Out Date Nights

To help us, we're going to plan out our meals more so we don't feel tempted to eat out so often.

I might try out copycat restaurant recipes for some things. It wouldn't hurt to learn something new.

We'll also have better control on how it's prepared, which could help us cut some calories.

Your Thoughts on Eating Out

I'd love to hear what you think – do you believe going out often affects how you feel about it? 

How do you keep your spending in check with eating out?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

14 comments add your comment

  1. Great post! This is one area of our budget that gets used up every month as we love eating at new places specific to the triangle area. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for great new restaurants in the Raleigh area to try. My wife and I also love mexican food. With that, here are a few we frequent…
    We really love Armadillo Grill (downtown). The Dillo deal, which consists of a chicken soft taco and cheese dip is hard to beat and very affordable at $6 (which includes a drink). Add a little pico de gallo to the taco and you’ll have just the right amount of spice. Be careful though, the cheese dip is very addictive.
    We also enjoy Chubby’s Tacos in Lake Boone Shopping Center. The spicy Carne Asada has great flavor and definitely carries some heat. The salsa bar, with 8 different salsas, has something for everyone. You can get the carne asada in a soft taco, quesadilla, or burrito. After dinner you would be doing yourself a favor by ordering the sopapillas for desert.
    A few other dishes we enjoy include the Kosmic Karma pizza @MellowMushroom (downtown), the Chicken Curry and Falafels at Baba Ghannouj (Cary Crossroads), and Tyler’s Carolina Nacho’s at Tyler’s Taproom (Apex and Durham). The large selection of over 100 beers on tap at Tyler’s is a nice touch as well. For breakfast we love the Flying Biscuit in Cameron Village. The Egg-stravaganza is enough to satisfy the heaviest eater’s appetite. Expect a decent wait on weekend mornings though. Trust me, the food is worth the wait.
    Sorry about the long comment. I could go on. There’s really too many to list. I try to make comments about other good ones as we visit on my twitter page. Thanks again for the great post!

  2. Eating out is definitely the biggest hole in our budget. We don’t actually eat at the restaurants that often (when we do it’s with kids which is really expensive), but we eat a lot of carryout for the convenience. We’re working on cutting back on this, though!

  3. I love eating out as well! We love to try all the new restaurants in town, and love a variety of foods. Some things we do to reduce the costs include going out to lunch, instead of dinner (lunch costs less) and not ordering drinks or dessert. If we want dessert, we stop at the less expensive pastry shop or the local homemade ice cream place instead of getting it at the restaurant.

  4. Food is very important to me and my husband. Since starting a family, we have significantly decreased how much we spend on eating out, but we splurge once in a while and cut ourselves slack when we have had a long week and need to be waited on for our sanity. We set some rules though because ordering food out can add up without you knowing it. We will only order food out 2x per month. This has helped us trim about $200 from our spending each month. It makes us feel good, in control and we enjoy it even more.

  5. I’ve never been to any of those places in Raleigh, Elle! But I intend to try a couple next time I am there! I’m a sucker for both Italian and Mexican, so I will probably hit Vic’s first, followed by Jibarra.

    One thing you can bet is that I will also be hitting Goodbury’s for dessert! 😉


    Len Penzo dot Com

  6. We find that the formal eating out — deciding to go to a restaurant for the night’s dinner isn’t what kills our budget, it’s the little stop here and little snack there. I was just adding up the monthly expenses and was shocked at all the $4, $2, $6 transactions at convenience stores, Subway, fast food, and coffee shops. It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but with my husband and I both participating in these little stops, it can be $50 or more a month! I would much rather put that towards an actual goal like new flooring or a vacation!

  7. @Tami: We love good Mexican food too!

    @Chad: Thanks for the local recommendations! We love Mellow Mushroom. We have got to hang out at Cameron Village a bit more and try some stuff there. 🙂

    @Dustin: It’s something that we have to keep an eye out- you can sometimes go overboard if you’re not careful.

    @Miranda: I really appreciate the eating out tips. Going out for lunch is just as good as dinner.

    @Katy: I love how you and your husband have a system for eating out. You’ve saved a bit of money!

    @Len: No joke; -Goodbury’s is great on a hot summer day. Vic’s and Jibarra have some really good food; I think you’ll love them.

    @Lindsey: Yeah, we used to be horrible about that when we were around 7-11s; we used to just grab stuff for the go.

  8. Eating out is one of my biggest expenses as well. Actually, after housing costs, eating out/entertainment is the largest portion of my budget! But, I really do enjoy it and have cut back significantly from where I was years ago, if you can imagine that.