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Dining Out on the Cheap: A miscreant's primer

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One of the few things that, for the most part, confound our deal-getting talents is the price of a meal when eating out at a fancy restaurant. Sure, Red Lobster might offer coupons for a free shrimp with purchase of a kid's meal, but you're not very likely to see any such bargains at The Four Seasons.

Below, we've rounded up some best bets for eating on the cheap* — no matter which celebrity chef owns the joint!

Don't tip
Tipping is optional. While tipping etiquette dictates that some people will pay 20%, others pay 15%. So why not just take that difference to it's natural progression and pay 0%? If you're worried about the waiter / waitress not making a living wage, then maybe you should support wage-law reform. (It's free to sign petitions, after all.) Plus, if one other person tips 20% that night, they'll average your 0% tip to 10%, which isn't too shabby.

Only eat in places with fat waiters
It makes it easier to out-run them when you duck out on paying the bill altogether.

Bring a hair with you
Towards the end of the meal, just when you're about full, simply insert the strand into your entrée. Then pretend to be disgusted and complain until the waiter announces that they'll be taking your meal off the bill. (It is very important that the hair is not one of your own, though. It makes the deception more believable. After all, you don't want the waiter to get all CSI on you and claim that it's just flown south from your well-coiffed plumage.)

For advanced cheapskates: Bring a roach with you and drop THAT onto your plate when you're ready to leave. You'll have to complain less and probably get the entire meal for free. (But you'll also have to find and carry the bug around with you. So, only try this one if you're OK with handling bugs.)

"Lose" your wallet
This one works best with large groups of friends, particularly ones you don't really care about. Order what you want — be extravagant (e.g. TWO lobster tails, stuffed with foie gras, covered in shaved black truffles). Then, when the bill comes, claim you forgot your wallet and ask one of the other suckers (I mean friends) to cover you. Swear you'll pay them back, then avoid seeing them ever again.

Alternative: If your friends have heard the "I lost my wallet" line one too many times, switch it up by saying, "I left my wallet in the car, I'll be right back." Then, drive away.

50% more steak
While at your local chop-house, order your favorite steak. When it arrives, slice half of it off and stash it in your napkin. Call the waiter over and complain that your steak is not cooked, to your liking. Even if it IS cooked correctly, and your server tries to point this out to you, remind him or her that "The customer is always right". (Don't be TOO arrogant about it, after all, you don't want to receive a spit-covered replacement.) With the right kind of complaining, the server will bring around another, complete, steak. Return the saved portion of napkin-steak to your plate, and enjoy 50% more steak - for the same price. OR, keep the saved portion in the napkin and take it home for a free steak lunch tomorrow. It's win/win!

See? With a little acting ... and even less moral sense ... you could be eating on the cheap every night.

Jeff Somogyi is dealnews' Media Editor. He will soon be spending time in a "state facility" if he does any of these things.

* Of course, if you try any of these things then you're a horrible person who deserves to have spit in every course of every meal you ever eat.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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