Ah, the third week of January.  The holiday cheer has subsided, the reality of winter has set in, and your resolve to uphold those resolutions you were so gung-ho about last week is waning.

If you’ve noticed the enthusiastic crowd that descended upon your gym on January 2 beginning to thin out, or the co-worker who resolved to start packing lunch sneaking off to Chipotle, that’s because it’s about that time.  Two weeks of good behavior has taken its toll and people begin to slip back into their familiar bad habits.  BUT, if your resolution was to spend less and save more in 2012, we’re here to help you keep pushing through!

Saving money is a practical – and common – New Year’s Resolution.  As with many weight loss resolutions, people find it hard to keep because they sacrifice too many of the things they love.  In our opinion, dining out should not be one of them.

Just because you’re tightening up your purse strings doesn’t mean that the experience of eating in a restaurant should be trimmed from the budget.  There are lots of ways you can continue dining at restaurants and still save money.

1. Get a doggy bag! The vast majority of restaurants these days serve portions that are more than generous.  Rather than scarfing down an entire entrée or letting your plate be cleared with half of a meal remaining, take your leftovers home and enjoy the other half of your dinner for lunch the next day.

2. Share with a friend.  Revisiting the aforementioned issue of portion size, most entrees are large enough to share with a friend and both leave feeling full and satisfied.  Order an appetizer and one entrée and you’ll save half of the regular bill and still get to enjoy the meal!

3. Order a la cart.  Do you really need all those sides?  French fries are yummy, but they’re also greasy empty calories that tack dollars onto your tab.  Skip the “meal” options and just go for the burger, or order a burrito without the side of rice and beans.  Your wallet AND your waistline will thank you.

4. Drink water.  If you’ve ever examined your bill closely, the costs of drinks –
particularly alcoholic beverages – adds up quickly.  Opt for a glass of tap water instead of the specialty margarita and you could save yourself enough for lunch out the next day.

5. Browse daily specials.  Lots of restaurants have special discounts during the week to engage customers that do the majority of their dining out on weekends.  Seek out that 50 cent wing night or half-price entrees deal and enjoy a night out at a fraction of the cost.

6. Buy a Restaurant.com certificate!  You’re already here reading the Dish, so this
one should be obvious.  In case you need reminding, Restaurant.com offers savings at more than 18,000 restaurants nationwide.  Sign up to receive emails and you can save even more by being alerted to special promotions and discounts.