9 smarter ways to save money at restaurants in Singapore

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Singapore does have an affordable dining option. It's called a hawker centre. But if you want a break from greasy food or a more pleasant dining atmosphere, you're going to want something pricier. Here's a few ways to save your wallet when dining out:

1. Buy wine by the bottle or not at all

Decide if you're going to sit there and drink, or not. If your intent is to just have one or two glasses of wine, skip it and order another beverage. The mark-up on a per-glass basis is huge, and some restaurants cheat (if you don't see the bottle, they may be pouring you another, cheaper wine).

Buying a bottle can shave almost 10 to 15 per cent off the price.

2. Go somewhere else for dessert and coffee

If you're nearing the end of your meal, don't be compelled to fork out the gross domestic product of a small country for an overpriced cake and coffee. Take a walk to aid your digestion, and have it somewhere cheaper.

3. Put the combined bill on one credit card

Dining with friends? Put the combined bill on a credit card optimised for dining, then collect their share from them in cash. Be sure to pay back the card in full.

If you have any cashback or cash rebates from the credit card, you will end up saving significantly in the long run. We recommend the POSB Everyday Card, which gives a 5 per cent cash rebate on dining at all restaurants in Singapore. Yes, you read that right - all restaurants!

You can save a LOT with the POSB Everyday Card's 5 per cent dining rebate:

4. Dine on appetisers

You're supposed to order a main, but you don't have to. These days, restaurant appetisers are bigger, and often tastier (it's a culinary truth. Appetisers are meant to be heavier on flavour to raise your appetite).

You can also consider ordering a series of appetisers, if you are peckish but not starving. In mid-level cafes, this will normally fill you while saving a few dollars.

5. Compliment the chef. Lavishly.

Prepare a compliment for the chef, so you don't need to invent one when you're there. Make it plausibly real by putting in detail (e.g. the last time I had pasta this good I was in Italy, and I think this one may even be better).

Sometimes you'll luck out and get a complimentary dessert or drink. Otherwise, keep coming regularly and once they get to know you, you're likely to get a freebie eventually. Remember, compliments cost nothing.

6. Don't take "special menu" promos

Sometimes, a credit card will offer "special menus" rather than a discount or bonus points. Try to avoid promotions like these - there's a high chance that leftovers or unpopular items are being pushed to you this way.

Stick to points and discounts to optimise your card.

7. Split a main

You want to avoid doing this on a first date, it might make you look cheap. But if you're with a buddy, this could help you save money. Simply ask what the biggest main on the menu is, and split that.

These days some restaurants even have platters that are meant to be shared. These two, four, or sometimes even six-person platters tend to cost much less than having everyone order individually.

8. At buffets, skip staple foods

If you are at a buffet, skip over the staple foods like rice, bread, and pasta. These foods will fill you up fast, and you'll end up paying for something you could have had for much less.

Instead, focus your attention on the goodies - the high grade beef, oysters, fish, etc. This ensures you'll get your money's worth.

9. Ask for the bill right after ordering

Here's a plan that also works with dieting: order the right portions, and then ask for the bill immediately after ordering. This will remove the temptation to try out a desert or to add another cola.

It also saves you time when you're leaving - just up and go.