We all know that recommendation letters can play a pivotal role in the college application process. But do they work the same way in the professional world?
Some hiring managers will tell you that they're not interested in recommendation letters. Others may prefer to speak to your former bosses and colleagues and ask questions rather than just read what they have to say.
But then there are those for whom recommendation letters are instrumental when making hiring decisions. And since you never know what the situation will be when you go to apply for jobs in the future, it's a good idea to get your hands on some recommendation letters along the way.
Who to Ask
If you're a student and have yet to hold a job, your best bet is to ask a teacher or professor who knows you well to write a recommendation. But if you've worked at all, even part-time, feel free to hit up your current or former supervisor to write a letter on your behalf.
If you're already part of the working world and have a good relationship with your manager, he or she is a great candidate to author your letter of recommendation. But don't limit yourself to your superiors; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your colleagues to write recommendation letters as well.
When to Ask
Though it's fine to go back to former colleagues or managers and ask for recommendation letters, you may be better off requesting them while your working relationship is still going strong. Remember, it takes time to write a good letter of recommendation, and some companies ask for written references up-front as part of the job application process. If you have a letter on file, you'll be able to offer it up as needed.
Now if you're thinking it could be awkward asking your current boss for a recommendation, well, you're right. When approaching a manager, be sure to emphasize the fact that you're not looking to leave your job, but rather just want something on file that speaks to your work ethic and capabilities. A good manager will understand where you're coming from and will likely comply.
On the other hand, don't be surprised if your boss or colleagues turn down your request. Unfortunately, some companies have policies that prohibit the endorsement of fellow employees in writing.
What You Want Your Letters to Say
Ideally, any letter of recommendation you get should be as personalized as possible. The person who authors the letter may throw in some buzz words or clichés, and that's fine, but make sure the bulk of what's written doesn't come off as generic. A recommendation that reads like a form letter isn't likely to do much for your career. What you really want is an endorsement that highlights your best traits as an employee and shows others why it's a great idea to hire you versus someone else. If, for example, you're good at staying calm under pressure or managing multiple projects at once, those are the sort of things you'll want in a recommendation letter, along with specific examples that drive the point home.
Not Just on Paper
Your recommendation doesn't have to come in the form of a formal letter. Sites like LinkedIn are also helpful for sourcing and displaying recommendations.
Finally, don't discard older recommendation letters once you get new ones. A steady stream of accolades shows that your stellar performance is not just limited to a particular project or job, and if there's one thing hiring managers are big on, it's consistency.
Whether you're currently looking for a job or want to increase your chances of finding one in the future, these days, a resume will only get you so far. While your resume is a great place to summarize your work experience, it's hard to capture your talent and personality on a single piece of paper. And, depending on your line of work, your resume may not be a true indicator of what you're really capable of doing. That's where online portfolios comes in.
Why Create an Online Portfolio?
An online portfolio is a great way to showcase your skills and accomplishments. While any type of professional can benefit from creating a portfolio, you should especially consider one if you work in a creative field. After all, it's one thing to say you're a great copywriter or web designer, but it's another thing to prove it by displaying your samples for the world to see. In fact, according to Workfolio, a company that provides products and services for professional visibility, 56 percent of hiring managers are more impressed by personal websites than any other personal branding tool, including standard resumes.
An online portfolio also gives you an opportunity to sell yourself as a person. Sure, you can list your experience on a resume, but you can't really get into detail. With a portfolio site, on the other hand, you can show off your work, but also the thought process behind it.
Furthermore, if you are looking for work (or simply want to keep your options open), an online portfolio can help you set yourself apart from the competition. Since only 7 percent of job seekers actually have personal websites, if you create one, you're sending a message that you take pride in your work and are willing to make the effort to market yourself accordingly.
How to Build Your Site
There are numerous platforms for creating your online portfolio. A few popular choices include:
- WordPress: If you're looking to create an online library of your writing samples but don't have too many technical skills beyond that, WordPress is a good place to start. And it's free.
- Carbonmade: If you're an artist or designer, Carbonmade is a great platform for displaying your creations. In fact, the site boasts over 900,000 portfolios to date. The only downside is that it'll cost you between $6 and $24 a month to maintain your portfolio depending on the number of projects you're looking to upload.
- Coroflot: Want to show off your talent as an illustrator or designer? Coroflot hosts over 2 million images and publishes more than 150,000 new projects a month--for free. It also includes a job board.
- Wix: If you're looking for a free, user-friendly website builder, try Wix. Wix is designed to help users create a professional looking website that is easy to update and edit. Plus, they offer user forums for troubleshooting tips.
- Domain Hosts: If you already know what goes into creating a website and want to cement your site into the online realm then purchasing a domain name is a great idea. Simply having a .com address can boost credibility when showing off your portfolio. Average costs can range from $1.99 to $8.00 a month.
Crafting Your Site
At a minimum, your portfolio should include:
- Samples of your work
- Details about you--your background, your interests and your goals
- A link to your official resume
- Your contact information
When crafting your portfolio, be sure to:
- Give it personality. Your portfolio should be anything but boring.
- Make it user-friendly. Your site should be clean, organized and easy to navigate.
- Avoid errors. Poor grammar and broken links can make you look sloppy and unprofessional.
- Keep it current. Add recent samples of your work, and if your site includes a blog, update it regularly.
Yes, an online portfolio takes work. But it's also a fantastic opportunity to promote yourself and convince others that you're as awesome at your craft as you claim to be. And once you set up your portfolio, you'll most likely come to find that maintaining it is not only easy, but fun.
If you want to get technical about it, my first roommate was actually my younger sister, and she and I butted heads on more than one occasion. But the first person I shared a living space with outside my parents' home or the confines of a college dorm was a rather interesting gal we'll call J.
I found J through an online listing for an open room in her two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. I brought a friend along to see the place and meet her, and we both agreed that she seemed nice and normal enough. Two weeks and $2,000 later, I was handing over last month's rent and a security deposit and moving into J's spare room.
Things seemed to be going fine at first. She did her thing, I did mine, and we generally didn't see much of one another since we both worked long hours. But that all changed somewhere around the 3-week mark when I had the audacity to invite a friend over for dinner at 8:00pm on a Tuesday. That's right: One friend, for a quick dinner at a reasonable hour. No sooner did she leave when J emerged from her room and went off on a diatribe about how inconsiderate I'd been, and that in the future I'd be obligated to obtain her consent before bringing guests to her--not our, but her--apartment.
For the next month, J's inner crazy really began to take hold, manifesting in a variety of scenarios so nuts you'd think I was making them up (but I'm not--sadly, this all actually happened to me). First she stole some of my medication out of our shared bathroom cabinet. Then she clogged up the toilet and left it for me to plunge. And eventually, she started making a habit of moving the living room furniture around without consulting me, often times barricading the door to my bedroom in the process.
On one occasion she left a punctured ice pack she'd been using on the floor to melt. Not wanting to make a scene, I cleaned up the mess and tossed out the torn bag. Later that night, she hollered at me for disposing of her property without permission and threatened to take legal action the next time I dared mess with her stuff.
The final straw was when I came home one Friday to discover that she'd rented out our couch for the weekend to make some extra money--money she had no intention of splitting with me. I told her I wanted to move out, at which point she informed me that if I did, I'd be in violation of the sub-lease I'd signed upon moving in. Sure enough, she was right. I was legally obligated to pay rent or find a replacement roommate who met her approval.
What I Know Now
I learned a lot of things from my first roommate experience—namely:
- Get references before moving in with a stranger. If possible, try to find out why his or her last roommate moved out. Do some Google stalking to see if anything glaringly ridiculous comes up.
- Set ground rules that are consistent and fair. You could even do a Leonard and Sheldon-style roommate agreement, albeit far less detailed and extreme.
- When living with a crazy person, never leave your favorite ice cream unattended. Otherwise you may come home to an empty pint on the counter with a note attached reading "Needed more freezer space so this had to go. Next time check with me before taking liberties with storage."
Like I said: You can't make this stuff up.
Whether you're new to the job market or have been part of the workforce for more years than you'd like to count, the right recruiter can be a valuable resource when you're searching for work. A good recruiter can open doors to different opportunities, and some even offer guidance on all things job-related, from interview tips to resume suggestions. But unfortunately, there are some recruiters out there who don't have job seekers' best interests at heart. Since it's common practice for recruiters to work on a commission basis, some professionals in the headhunting industry have a tendency to aggressively push candidates to take jobs that aren't ideal simply to earn more money.
So how does your recruiter stack up? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does he or she take your job requirements seriously? Your recruiter shouldn't pressure you to accept a lower salary than you're looking for, or a job with a much longer commute than you're comfortable with. He or she should also be mindful of other preferences, such as your willingness to travel or work overtime on a regular basis.
- Does he or she push you to apply for jobs that don't match your experience level? Your recruiter shouldn't try to sell you on a position for which you're clearly overqualified. While it's true that many roles come with some administrative duties, your recruiter shouldn't try to hide these or convince you to ignore them. Rather, he or she should make sure that the job responsibilities in question align with your career goals.
- Does he or she send out your resume without consulting you first? Some recruiters have a practice of blasting out resumes whenever a new position rolls in. Your recruiter should give you an opportunity to review a job listing and express your interest before submitting your resume.
- Does he or she encourage you to lie on your resume or during an interview? It's okay to play up your skills, but lying about your experience or misrepresenting your qualifications is never a good idea. If your recruiter suggests or promotes lying, it's a sign that he or she is probably not the most honest individual to begin with.
- Does he or she tell you where you stand? It's not uncommon for the same recruiter to submit multiple resumes in response to a job opening, but if yours already has a viable candidate in the works, he or she should be candid about that and let you know.
On the other hand, a trustworthy recruiter will:
- Take the time to understand the type of job you're looking for.
- Care about the reasons you left your previous job or are unhappy at your current job.
- Prepare you for interviews and check in afterward to get your feedback.
- Offer suggestions on how to improve your resume or skill set.
- Be respectful of your time by not wasting it on openings that clearly aren't right for you.
Remember, a recruiter's job is to listen to what you want out of your next job and work to match you up with an appropriate opportunity. If you have reason to believe that your recruiter doesn't have your best interests in mind, you shouldn't hesitate to end the relationship and find someone else to assist with your job search. There are plenty of honest, talented recruiters out there, and finding the right one is the first step toward landing the job that's best for you.
Graduation is coming. School's almost over. If you're like I was, you're thinking about three things:
- Summer is coming.
- I hope I don't have to plan any reunion ever.
- Time to start saving for retirement!
Okay. Did I at least get two out of three? But if you aren't thinking about saving for retirement yet, you're not alone. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 32 pecent of adults save zero percent of their income for retirement every year.
That's one out of every three people saving absolutely nothing for their future.
Don't be that one person. If you're not saving now, ask yourself why not. Is it because you don't think you make enough? A dollar a day can make Future You that much happier. Besides, you're not just saving up a bunch of money for the sake of having a bunch of money. You're figuring out how you want to live, and what it will take over the coming years to maintain that lifestyle, especially if you decide you'd like to work less later on, or not at all.
From investing in yourself to compounding interest to mini-retirements, here are some reasons why saving for retirement can make you better prepared for an easier, more fulfilling life.
- Job Uncertainty. Saving for retirement means paying Future You a living wage, and not worrying (like 30 percent of adults) about being laid off or having your wages reduced because you're prepared.
- Invest in Yourself First. Warren Buffett says the best investment you can make is investing in yourself. Planning for retirement is planning for your future self. Are you going to argue with the Oracle of Omaha?
- The Life You Want. By thinking about how you want to live, you can figure out what kinds of savings you'll need to have at the point you stop working full-time.
- Let Calculators Calculate. This list of calculators will make number crunching simple, for everything from compounding interest to retirement funds.
- Don't Think Decades, Think Days. Investing a dollar a day, or $30 a month, can have impressive returns. Starting at 18, and being consistent, can set you up for a stress-free retirement.
- Go the Roth IRA route. If you're under 18, your parents can co-sign, and you're off for the retirement races. Starting at 19 instead of 25 can lead to a difference of over $300,000 when you retire.
- The earlier you start, the less it takes (percentage-wise). Wait until you're 40, and you might have to save 14 percent of your income to save as much as you want. Start at 25, save just six percent.
- Learn from others. Two websites, Mr Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme, take retirement saving to the limits. With that, they offer helpful lessons and reader stories so you can see how others like yourself are saving for the life they want.
- Seven years on, One year off. Rethink retirement as that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Stefan Sagmeister is famous in the creative and design world for his practice of taking sabbaticals every seven years.
- Mini-retirements. Tim Ferriss advocates for the idea of using mini-retirements on a regular basis to energize and inspire you. Get into this regular habit and saving will become automatic.
Whether you treat retirement as a when-all-is-said-and-done deal, a spice to sprinkle along your life's journey, or something else entirely, know that by beginning to save now you will have much more control of - and get more enjoyment from - your life
You studied for more hours than you can count. You combed through countless textbooks, wrote dozens upon dozens of papers and survived finals week many times over. And thankfully, all that hard work has finally paid off, because here you are, celebrating your college graduation.
Making it through college is a major accomplishment, and if you're lucky, family members and friends will acknowledge your achievement by showering you with heaps of congratulatory cash. Figuring out how to spend all that graduation money is a good problem to have, and here are some tips to get you started.
First, the Responsible Stuff
Sure, you'll be entering the working world soon enough, and with that will (ideally) come a steady paycheck. But unless you've already secured a job, it's hard to say how long it'll take you to find work. And if you're planning to live on your own once employed, you may find most of your money eaten up by rent and other monthly expenses. So if you've got a decent chunk of graduation money at your disposal, make the following smart moves:
- Start or add to your savings account. Even if you're planning to live at home for the time being, you still need money on hand in case you encounter an emergency. And if you're planning to move out, you should have at least three months of expenses saved up before you take the plunge.
- Put aside money for move-in expenses. Once you sign a lease, there's a good chance you'll be looking at first and last month's rent plus a security deposit all up front. Throw in the cost of movers and new furniture and you'll need a pretty decent amount of money just to get yourself situated.
- Pay off a chunk of your student loans. Even if you've resigned yourself to making monthly payments for the foreseeable future, you may be able to shorten that payback period by six months, a year, or even longer.
- Pay off your credit cards. If you racked up debt during college (and you wouldn't be the first), you now have a great opportunity to rid yourself of the looming dark cloud that is your credit card balance.
- Put a down payment on a car. If you don't have a car but need one to commute, this one's a no-brainer. Similarly, if your current vehicle needs major repairs, better to tackle them now while you've got the cash.
And Now the Fun Stuff
You've worked hard to get through college, and you deserve to use at least some of your gift money for things that are just plain fun. So you may want to:
- Take a big trip. Once you start working, you may find it difficult to get away, so now's the time to check one or two items off your travel bucket list.
- Update your wardrobe. Dressing professionally doesn't have to mean wearing the same boring attire day in, day out. Treat yourself to some clothing that's as fashionable as it is functional.
- Buy a new gadget. Tired of dealing with a phone battery that won't last? Need a new tablet or laptop? Here's the perfect opportunity to upgrade.
- Give back. It's hard to put a price tag on that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping others. Consider making a donation to your favorite charity while you've got the money to do so.
No matter what you decide to do with your graduation money, just remember: It may be a gift, but you earned it. And that's reason enough to celebrate.
To be young means to be free. I was always told you should enjoy your youth now because it's going to be the only time in life when you get to be all about you. Entrepreneur, real-estate investor and my sister-in-law, Jamila Souffrant, purchased her first home at 22-years-old: A condo in the highly sought after D.U.M.B.O. neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her early success proves that with a bit of sacrifice, enjoying your life and reaching your goals is absolutely possible!
What prompted your interest in entrepreneurship and real estate at such a young age?
My Grandmother, who knew nothing about real estate/investment, was able to buy a home in downtown Brooklyn (not too far from my first two properties). Unbeknownst to her, the real estate industry was booming and she was able to build wealth from that move to invest and purchase a home.
I knew I never wanted to work for anyone. I always thought I would be self-employed and thought I could build wealth through real estate. My Grandmother didn't know it, but she had inspired me to do so.
How was the importance of saving introduced to you?
My mother, who was and still is my mentor. I have always followed my mother's lead and she always told me to save money. My mother opened up a bank account for me when I was young and any money that I received my mother would put into the account for me. As I got older, and began making my own money, I would say to myself, "The most important thing is to save." I would think of a percentage to save, which was about 80 percent, and would use the 20 percent to buy what I wanted. I always made saving a priority.
What were some of your goals, in order to be sure that you achieved the ultimate goal?
I knew I wanted to make money (this was the ultimate goal). So, the focus of my undergrad degree was finance and I received my degree in business management. Once I graduated, I secured a job through Met Life, where I interned and continue to work currently. It is at Met Life where I was able to gain experience that set me up and allowed me to learn and ultimately do what I wanted to do. I then decided I wanted to pursue real estate and that was the path that I continued down as I worked toward a graduate degree. I made sure that my major and job coincided with what I wanted to do for the future.
What are some tips that you would give to young adults to help them reach their financial goals?
- Save (even if it's not a lot).
- Think about what you want to do in the future and then take those steps to reach the goal (ie. internship), and build your resume'.
- If you want to be an entrepreneur, find an internship or just jump right in. Start planning and take tangible steps everyday to help you to reach the bigger goal. Focus on what you can do now!
- Utilize your resources (family, friends) and think for the long-term. And if you don’t have the resources, think smart. Ask yourself, “Will this item matter in the long term?” Think about how this short-term purchase will affect the long term.
Everything that I have accomplished thus far is the reason why I am successful today. Those decisions I made then were the building blocks to creating my future.
Photo courtesty of entrepreneur extraordinaire Jamila Souffrant.
Summer is coming. The threat of swimsuit season can push people toward a number of trendy crash diets out there on the internet. But don't forget about your financial waistline. If you've gotten lazy over the past few months and want to tighten up your finances in order to ensure a care-free summer, avoid simply slashing your budget to get your accounts back into shape. Crash budgets can complicate your relationship with money, lessen your overall enjoyment of the money you do spend and lead to overspending.
Think about the ways you can cut the fat from your budget without crashing into bad habits. Just remember: If your budget isn't painful, you're more likely to stick with it (but it still may sting a little).
More or Less, Not All or Nothing
According to Psychology Today, the idea of setting stretch goals for ourselves, while seductive, can leave us feeling defeated and inflexible if we don't meet them. That's what a crash budget is--it's a goal that sounds great, i.e. "I'll just cut out all entertainment and fun and save $100," but sets unreasonable expectations for yourself. We all stumble. The key to a realistic budget is recovering from that stumble—not falling down.
Budgeting is about acknowledging what you're likely to spend in a given time period and knowing what you're able to spend. Again, you may be tempted to just drop categories completely. If you need to save $100, reduce your spending in a category by $50. After that, plan to reduce it again the next month. So instead of going from eating out five times to cold turkey, go to three times a month and see how that feels. Even if you stumble and eat out a fourth time, you're still saving money based on that previous budget.
Develop Good Habits
If you're thinking about a crash budget then something's gotten out of line for you. While it's tempting to want a quick fix, good habits and setting up systems are the secrets to success. As James Clear argues, systems are better than goals because while “goals are good for planning your progress … systems are good for actually making progress.”
Additionally, if you're able to put in place a plan that works, you won't spend time continually revising that plan. You won't have to look at it and wonder what else you can cut or where you went wrong. By being mindful in your approach from the beginning, you allow yourself to develop habits and free up your attention for more interesting things.
According to Daily Finance, one of the primary reasons we tend to overspend, is our personal need for instant gratification. Buying things impulsively can wreck a budget just as quickly as a cupcake can wreck a diet. With a budget, you know ahead of time what you hope to spend on a given category, and you can use that as the first line of defense against the temptation to spend.
You put in your time and studied your heart out. At long last you're finally gearing up to graduate. But instead of reveling in your significant accomplishment and getting excited for the next chapter in your life, you're crunching numbers and stressing out over the cost of getting that diploma. What's wrong with this picture?
Graduation costs have skyrocketed in recent years, and even if you're lucky enough to have parents who are willing to help cover them, you're still looking at hundreds of dollars or more. These days, you can expect to pay:
- $20-$55 for a cap and gown
- $20-$200 for announcements
- $100-$300 for photos, with some packages costing over $1,000
- $70 and up for a class ring, with high-end options topping the $1,000-mark
- $65-$100 for a copy of your yearbook
On top of these, if you're finishing up your college degree, don't forget about graduation fees, which could run anywhere from $25-$250 or more. Many schools charge these regardless of whether you attend your graduation ceremony. And then of course there's the cost of a graduation party, which can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a smaller, simpler affair to many thousands for a big-time extravaganza.
Ways to Save
Unless you've got really generous (or rich) parents, you'll probably want to do your part to cut down on some of these expenses. While some of these costs are non-negotiable--graduation fees, for example--you can save plenty of money by getting creative in other areas:
- Borrow a cap and gown instead of buying or even renting one (renting may only be marginally cheaper than buying).
- Create your own graduation announcements using online tools.
- Take your own graduation photos, or gather a group of friends and hire your own photographer at a discounted rate.
- Host your graduation party in your home or backyard. Even if you get it catered, it'll be cheaper than doing it at a restaurant or banquet hall.
Eliminate the Things You Don't Really Need
You can also save a fair chunk of money by compromising and foregoing some of the things you probably don't really need. Take your class ring, for instance. Sure, it might be a nice thing to have, but at several hundred dollars, is it really worth the price tag? The same goes for your yearbook. If you're the sentimental type, the $100 you'll spend might be worth it. But if there's a good chance that your yearbook is going to wind up buried in a box somewhere in your parents' basement, there's no sense in paying for something you're never going to look at.
Then there's that graduation party. While you certainly have every right to celebrate, you can save yourself (or your parents) hundreds of dollars by opting for a small dinner with your immediate family instead. And if you're worried that skipping the party will inhibit the influx of presents you're hoping to receive, fear not. As long as you send out graduation announcements, those inclined to shower you with gifts will be thoughtful enough to put theirs in the mail.
Even though your high school or college graduation is that once-in-a-lifetime event, you don't have to spend a crazy amount commemorating the occasion. As you calculate your costs, think about some of the ways you could otherwise be spending that money. Ask yourself what's more important: a class ring, or furniture for your apartment or dorm? Fancy photos, or money toward a car? At the end of the day, it's really all about priorities.
If you're trying to save money, a good place to start is by cutting back on dining out. Americans spend at least $1,000 per year on lunch alone, according to Forbes. But you don't have to cut it out completely just because you're on a budget. Here are some tips for saving money at restaurants:
Sign up for e-mail alerts. If a restaurant has an e-club or allows you to sign up for e-mails, go for it. Many restaurants offer freebies just for signing up or for your birthday. Plus, they will send you coupons, discounts and deals while keeping you up-to-date on any money-saving promotions. To stay organized, create a separate e-mail account just for restaurants and stores so your important e-mails don't get lost in the shuffle.
Follow restaurants on social media. You're spending time on Facebook and Twitter anyways, so why not use it to save some money while you're at it? Restaurants will often offer discounts and coupons via their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media accounts. Plus, it's a great way to learn about daily specials that could help you save, too.
Go during lunch or happy hours. Chances are, lunch is going to be cheaper than dinner, but the hours between lunch and dinner are where the real savings are at. Many restaurants offer happy hour discounts on regular menu items like half-priced appetizers. Check the restaurant's menu to see if they offer a happy hour or use an app, like Happy Hours or Happy Hour Finder. Always find out what the special is for the day which could be a cheaper option.
Look for deals. There's always a deal to be found. Groupon, Living Social and Restaurants.com are just three websites that can save you money on dining out. Some restaurants offer deals for checking in on Yelp. Find coupons and deals in local papers and magazines, too.
Read reviews. Customer reviews on Yelp, Google and Facebook are usually a great look into the restaurants top dishes, service and average wait time. People often include helpful money-saving options, like if a particular meal is enough for two or if a restaurant offers a great weekly special that's super cheap. Not to mention, you'll be able to get a feel if the place is even worth it to begin with.
Use the discounts you already have. Bring your student I.D. and always ask if there are discounts for students. It's not just students who can get discounts, either. If you're an alum, serving in the military, a member of various groups or organizations or even a resident at a specific apartment complex you may be eligible for deals at local restaurants. And when you're traveling, don't forget to ask the hotel, campground or motel you're staying with if they offer any coupons for nearby dining options. Many times restaurants offer discounts to try and get travelers to stop in.
Order smart. If you're looking to save, simply order with some thought behind it. Opt to have friends over for dessert afterwards instead of ordering it at the restaurant. Instead of a dinner, order a few appetizers. If your dinner is a big portion, ask to have half wrapped up right off the bat. Besides saving some extra calories you'll have lunch or dinner for tomorrow, which is stretching those dollars even more.
Whether you're traveling, strapped for cash or just staring at an empty pantry, know that there are still options out there for dining out that won't break the bank. Be proactive and know the discounts in your area. You could be well on your way to enjoying that can't-make-at-home meal and saving a few dollars while you're at it.