» How to Afford to Take your Dates to Better Restaurants

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Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.

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Secretly, everyone envies the free spender. You know the guy I’m talking about: the one who picks up the tab regularly, buys the last round even though it’s not his turn, and takes his dates to high-end restaurants.

Where does this extra cash come from?  Is he dealing drugs on the side or donating more than his share of plasma (or other fluids)?  Maybe.  Or maybe he is simply able to appear more moneyed than he actually is.

Spruce it up!

If the last explanation is true, what’s the trick?

Use discounts if you can find them, but, for God’s sake, have some tact.  You may be proud of yourself for finding a deal on Groupon or Savored.com. But there is not need to announce it to the entire restaurant or even to the comely (hopefully) women on the other side of the table.  If you want to make sure that your discount is valid or if you are sweating because you don’t want to max out your credit card to pay for the meal, you can simply excuse yourself and chat with the hostess or waiter out of your arm-candy’s hearing range.

What are the money-saving sites mentioned above?

Savored is a membership site that allows users to make online reservations.  Users pay a fee (usually $10) to reserve a table, and then get a discount of up to 30% off of their bill along with their reservation.  The good thing about this site is that the discount includes drinks.

Groupon has daily deals that can be browsed by location.  Deals change often, so promising the sexy thing that you are trying to roll in the hay with a trip to a certain restaurant and then searching for a discount after the fact is not a good idea.  But taking a date to a spur of the moment diner  works just fine for Groupon.

Restaurants.com is another option.  It is basically a restaurant listing site that occasionally has coupons and special deals.  And maybe you do have an old fashion paper coupon (maybe it was even clipped by your mom from the Sunday paper).  No need to whip it out at the table.  Casually get up and catch your server away form the table.  No harm done.

And why does everyone overlook lunch?

Evening is obviously the traditional date time, but lunch is arguably the best time to have a high-end eating experience for less.  Many restaurants have set lunches or selected menu items available over the noon hour.  Portions might be smaller, but, in general, the food is of the same impressive quality; you may even be able to score the same evening menu entrees for a lower price. So, a lunch date could definitely be worth a try, though you’d probably have to go back to work afterwards (most lunch discounts are only available on weekdays), so you’d have to hope that your date is sufficiently impressed so that you can seal the proverbial deal at a later time.

Restaurant-focused rewards credit cards can give you up to 5% cash-back on restaurant spending.  That’s not a huge deal, but definitely better than nothing, especially if you are counting pennies and can combine the card’s rewards with additional discounts.

You could also go ethnic.  OK, so in modern, multi-cultural America fewer people are going to be impressed with exotic edibles.  Still, a neighborhood sushi joint, a Greek restaurant, or another similar example of international cuisine could be worth checking into.  The exotic factor could make up for the fact that most smaller, neighborhood places are reasonably priced.  If you get a bit lucky, you may even be able to find great prices on menu items that are normally prohibitively expensive (crab legs, shellfish, pate, for example).

So you don’t actually have to throw around a lot of money in order to seem like you are throwing around a lot of money.  You just have to be savvy about your dining choices.

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