Going out for a date night dinner at the new Italian hotspot, catching up with friends at the trendy cafe, or a bonding with the family for a meal at the local pub is a great way to get together for food and fun without having to do the dishes. Eating out is a way to explore different cuisines, be tended to, and not have to worry about burning the casserole.

While it's an enjoyable experience, dining out will cost you, and the bill adds up even in at the restaurants which claim to be budget-friendly. This doesn't mean you can't go out to eat every now and then, as long as you pay attention to money matters.

Don't go broke over a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. You can dine out on a budget and still have a wonderful experience. Don't worry, we're not sending you through the fast food drive through and calling it gourmet dining.

1. Split Some Apps

Rather than jumping right to the entrée section of the menu, peruse the array of appetizers. Not to start the meal, but to be your meal. Apps are always tempting and notably cheaper than the main course selections.

As per U.S. News & World Report, "If an appetizer will fill you up, skip the entree. Your wallet, and possibly health, will benefit."

You can order a variety of apps for the table to share. Those along with the free bread, are sure to be enough to eat. If you're still looking for a little something extra, get a side salad or a cup of soup. Viola…

2. Head Out for Happy Hour

Start the evening early and go out during happy hour. Drinks will be half off or be offered at a savings, as will select apps and dishes. Restaurants are looking for customers to come by at all hours, so they offer these deals to make the most of the night.

U.S. News & World Report recommends, "When you arrive, make sure you clarify with the staff whether you need to sit in the bar to take advantage of those deals."

Happy hour meals are casual, convenient, and cost-effective. Plus, you won't get home too late!

3. Hit Up Deal Sites

Before you select the restaurant you want to dine at, poke around on online deal sites and see which local restaurants are offering deals and coupons.

According to Cash Cow Couple, "You can immediately cut your food bill by around 50% by utilizing online group buy sites. Options like Restaurant.com, Groupon, Living Social and other related sites offer big discounts, often something like $20 of food for $10."

This is not only a great way to save, but to try new area restaurants you may not have gone to otherwise. With these coupons, you can put the savings towards your next meal out.

4. Ditch the Drinks

Yes, crafty cocktails and goblets of cabernet are enjoyable, but restaurants jack up the prices for liquor and wine tremendously. If you can go without the buzz, you'll save a ton of dough (and brain cells).

Opt for water (free), or go for a simple club soda or iced tea in lieu of the liquor. You'll save money and calories. If you really love a glass or two of wine with dinner, opt for a restaurant that has a BYOB policy and bring along a reasonably priced bottle of wine you can pick up at the liquor store on the way to eat. Or, wait until you get home and relax with a nightcap on the sofa. It's safer and cheaper.

It's time to eat! Go out and stress less when you savor your supper and your savings!

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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