We all know the feeling of counting the loose change at the bottom of our purse to see if we have enough money to order our ideal meal. Adding a drink for $3.99, substituting fries for a side salad at a $1.99 up-charge, and ordering a $5.99 dessert adds up, people.

Don't worry, though: We don't need to sacrifice our favorites to save money on food. Here are some tips so you won't have to dismiss your cravings due to high prices.

Tip 1: Look for Early Bird

Most popular amongst old people who eat dinner at 4PM, some restaurants discount their dinners if you eat during their low time of the day (usually between 3:30 PM & 5:30 PM).

Usually, early bird dinners come with some sort of appetizer/soup/salad, the entree, and a smaller portion of dessert. AND, they can be discounted to as much as half the price of the same entree served from 6 PM on. 

My personal hack: Look at the menu online before-hand and know what you want to order off the early bird menu. Get to the restaurant as close to the end of the early bird time frame possible, and order right away. That way, you're eating dinner at the most normal time possible while still receiving the discount.

Remember, it's healthier to eat earlier, too!

Tip 2: Take Advantage of Your City's Restaurant Week

Normally found in larger cities, Restaurant Week is a time frame designated by hundreds of restaurants city-wide where their meals are offered as a "prix fixe." For those of you who don't know what a prix fixe is...basically, you pay one set price for a multi course menu with different options. The prices don't change based on what you order, so take advantage of it! Most definitely order the steak over the pasta and the cheesecake over the vanilla ice cream. Get the most bang for your buck.

My personal hack: Most restaurants that offer a prix fixe during restaurant week are fancy, so this is a huge discount. Spots fill up fast, so I suggest researching your local city's restaurant week dates and make reservations fast!

Tip 3: Appetizers are Your Friends

Happy hours aren't just for drinks, you know. Most bar areas of restaurants offer discounted appetizers during their designated "Happy Hour" times (usually between 5-7 PM). If you order a variety of appetizers, you can definitely fill up on them to achieve the dinner-level "fullness."

My personal hack: The Cheesecake Factory offers discounted appetizers/burgers/select salads on weekdays from 4-6 PM. Since their appetizers are big enough to begin with, 2-3 can most definitely be enough food for 2 people...with leftovers to take home!

Next time you find yourself low on cash, try one of these hacks. Sure, you might have to bend your schedule a little bit based on the discounted time frames, but it's worth every penny.