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Dining for Dollars

                                          Dining for Dollars
Dining out can be a great way to kick off the weekend, catch up with friends or celebrate special occasions. But it doesn't have to break your budget, especially if you know the best tricks for saving at restaurants.

Here are three great ways to get the most from your favorite local eateries:

If you can't cook it yourself, enjoy it out.
Ordering meals you could make at home for a dramatic markup at a restaurant makes no sense. Instead, treat yourself to those complex dishes you wouldn't normally prepare at home, so you get the most enjoyment from the money you spend.

Think small, save big.
With portion sizes at an all-time high in many restaurants, your favorite lower-priced starters and a house salad will make for a money-saving meal. If you prefer an entree, try splitting the plate and an app with a friend. You could also take half "to go" for lunch the next day, which is like getting a two-for-one deal!

Surf deals, free meals.
Most restaurants are getting more active on the web and social media, but people still forget to check online for specials and loyalty programs. The reservation system OpenTable offers rewards that can earn you free meals for fulfilling reservations. Also check Restaurant.com, which offers discounted certificates for thousands of popular establishments.

You can also score deeply discounted dining from both new and established restaurants with platforms likeGroupon, LivingSocial and other daily deal sites, which offer coupons, two-for-ones and other temporary offers.

Sources: About.com, Woman's Day, Real Simple

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