Mind Your Manners: 7 Money Mistakes to Avoid at Restaurants

4 Minute Read

If most of us are honest, we’ll fully admit that we love going to restaurants.

Eating out is one of the biggest issues for people when it comes to tightening up their budget. That’s why some budget-conscious people will do anything to keep from giving up their eating-out habit—and that includes breaking some basic rules of money etiquette in restaurants.

So if you’ve adopted one of these habits as common practice in the name of saving money, then it’s time to come to the realization that you simply can’t afford to eat out right now.

1. Undertipping

If you tip less than 15% for standard, good service, then you’re a bad tipper.

Most restaurant servers don’t make the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The minimum wage for workers who make more than $30 a week in tips is only $2.13 an hour.

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Waiters and waitresses live off tips. If you receive good service, then tip well. If you can’t afford to tip well, then you can’t afford to eat out. It’s as simple as that. 

Related: How to Tip in All Situations

2. Splitting the bill (unfairly)

There’s always one in every group. You order a salad and a glass of water. Your friend orders a burger, fries and a milkshake. When the check comes around, he pipes up and says, “Let’s split the check!”

Come again?

Your order cost $6, while his order cost $18. Split the check? No way! Tell him (nicely but firmly) that he needs to check himself before he wrecks his budget—and yours. Trying to split the bill without agreeing on it before the order is just bad form. Don’t do it.

3. Freeloading

Don’t be the guy who always seems to “forget” his wallet when he goes out with friends. Or the girl who “isn’t hungry” but somehow manages to grab a portion off everyone else’s plate.

You might be saving a few bucks here and there, but you’re doing yourself no favors in the end. Living on a budget is much more fun when you still have friends who enjoy being around you. 

4. Complaining about your food (after you’ve eaten it)

Your steak is overcooked? Your mashed potatoes are too salty? Then you should bring that up to your server right away.

Don’t eat half your steak, complain about it, and then attempt to get a free meal or a second portion out of the whole deal. That’s just a basic integrity issue, and you should never lie or gloss over the truth in order to save a few bucks.

5. You asked? You pay.

Use common sense here. If you’ve invited a bunch of friends out to dinner, you shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill—unless you’ve set that expectation in the past.

But if you invite that potential special someone on a first date, then it’s just basic common decency to pick up the tab. And if you can’t afford that, then you might need to settle in for a date night of ramen noodles and Netflix.

Related: First Dates and Coupons - A Controversy Like No Other

6. Taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet

In other words, you’ve enjoyed four slices of pepperoni pizza, so you think it’s perfectly fine to grab four more pieces in a to-go box for lunch and dinner tomorrow.

We don’t think that’s what they mean by “all you can eat.” If you disagree, go ahead and grab a moving truck, back it up to the front door, and load up the entire buffet. It is all you can eat after all!

7. Hogging tables

You’re with a big group or a couple of friends, and you finished eating nearly 45 minutes ago. There’s a crowd standing in line waiting for a table.

While you chat, your server is losing money every minute. Be considerate. And if you do choose to talk it up a long time after finishing your meal, then you should tip very, very well—like well over 20%.

As long as you’ve budgeted for those restaurant meals, and as long as they aren’t breaking your bank, then there’s nothing wrong with eating out.

But just make sure your thrifty spending doesn’t include forgetting these basic common courtesies. You can get out of debt and be a nice person too!

Looking for an easy way to budget? Check out our free budgeting software EveryDollar! You can budget from your computer or the iPhone app.

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