Save Money While Dining Out with These 4 Scientifically Proven Tips

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Let’s face it, a night off from cooking and cleaning is a welcome break now and then. Or maybe you’re headed out to eat to celebrate an anniversary, milestone or friend’s new job.

But eating out can be costly, especially if you’re starving and are tempted to order extras like appetizers and dessert.

But eating out doesn’t have to break the bank. All you have to do is tap into the power of these scientifically proven ways to keep dinner out from sabotaging your budget.

Be the first to order.
She who orders first, orders best! Whether you and your pals are headed out to eat for book club or you’re sharing a power lunch with co-workers, the first person to order makes food choices based on her own monetary goals rather than eating like the group, according to a recent University of Illinois study. “When groups of people eat together, they tend to select items from the same menu categories,” says lead researcher Brenna Ellison, Ph.D. So if your BFF or boss binges on a pricey filet or lobster, you’re likely to do the same even if you set out to have a skimpy salad. Ellison speculates that individuality might not matter as much with food as it does style, personality, etc., because we want to fit in with those we dine with.

If you can’t order first, sidestep this budget buster by steering pre-ordering conversation away from talk about what your dinner mates are hoping to dine on.

Turn your back on food.
Staring at a sea of food at a buffet or streaming out of the kitchen can increase consumption by 15 percent, says research conducted by Brian Wansink, PhD. director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and author of the Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. “Constantly seeing goodies on the buffet or stream out of the kitchen fills your thoughts with food,” says Wansink. So you’re more likely to think about what your stomach wants to eat rather than what your budget can bear.

Reign in salivating to stop from overspending by completely turning away from all the food action. “Out of sight really is best because you don’t want to catch all the action in your peripheral vision, either,” says Wansink.

Skip your horoscope.
Overeating might be written in your stars if you’re a fan of horoscopes and fate. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found a negative or disappointing prediction ups the odds you’ll indulge in overeating or give in to food impulses like vending machines and drive-thrus on the way home. Contrary to logic, reading an unfavorable horoscope reduces the odds you’ll try to change your fate. So essentially, if you think you’re destined to not lose weight or follow a healthy lifestyle, you give up on eating healthy, says Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at California State University from a psychologist.

Close your eyes
The next time you want to reign in the urge to order one of everything on the menu, close your eyes. A new study from the University of Toronto says dim lighting can help you make better decisions.

The researchers found that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. That means the urge to throw budgetary caution to the wind may feel stronger if you’re eating at a restaurant that’s brightly lit. Since you can’t control the lighting (heck, it can’t hurt to ask your server to turn things down), closing your eyes can override the effect and tame the intensity to impulse order.

All this talk about food has made me hungry, so in the name of science, I’m going to persuade my family to go out to dinner tonight. But, to be kind to our household budget, I’m also going to put these tips into action.

Wish me luck!

Photo Credit: Getty ThinkStock

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