A glass of wine here, an appetizer there … and before you know it, that fun night out can quickly turn into a not-so-fun night of stressing about the damage you’ve just done to your checking account.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can treat yourself at a bar or restaurant without breaking the bank.
In fact, here’s proof—straight from six industry experts who know a thing or two about cutting costs when it comes to drinking and dining out.
Ways to Save When Ordering Drinks
1. Buy a bottle of wine. If you knew what the average wine mark-up was in most restaurants, you might swear off ordering vino with dinner. It’s not uncommon for an establishment (especially a high-end one) to charge $8 to $15 for a glass of wine—which is what the place likely paid for the entire bottle!
There are about four six-ounce glasses in a bottle, so you’re paying about four times the actual price when you get a glass. One solution? “If you’re out with at least one other person, consider buying a bottle—the cost per glass is much lower,” says Madeline Puckette, a Seattle-based sommelier who runs the blog Wine Folly.
Bonus tip: Remember that if you don’t finish the bottle, in many places you’re allowed to take it home.
2. Look for special wine lists. You can sometimes snag a bargain if you ask the sommelier to point out the “pocket list” or “end of bin list.” According to Regina Arendt, general manager at Smith & Wollensky in Chicago, “it means that the restaurant has only one or two bottles left, so they sell it at a discount to move the product.”
3. Pick an unconventional pour. When picking out a bottle of wine, don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path, advises Puckette. “Well-known wine varieties, like cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, tend to cost more than lesser-known varieties,” she explains. “[And you can often] get the same bang for your buck with a cheaper option, like shiraz.”
4. BYOB. If the restaurant allows it, bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee, suggests Sebastien Tribout, general manager of Meat Market in Miami. Depending on how upscale the place is, the corkage fee can be as low as $10.