Continuing with last week's column regarding dining free or on a penny ante amount, consider the following:
• Kids' Night offers - Go to www.out toeatwithkids.com for a calendar showing where the little ones can eat for free or cheap every night of the week.
• Tapas-style meals - Many restaurants offer tapas (appetizer)-style dishes for $3 to $6 per order.
• Customer surveys - These surveys usually earn you a free meal, as well as giving the opportunity for some consumer input. For example, Arby's gives you a free roast beef sandwich and Burger King offers a free Whopper.
• Thank you rewards - I recently cashed in my Citibank business credit card's points and received several dining cards to Panera, Olive Garden and others. I doubt I'd ever earn enough points to fly free so I may as well eat free (or not-so-free when I take into consideration how much I originally spent for the service). Amex cashes in for The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's or Bonefish Grill.
• AAA membership - Show your Triple A membership card for a 10 percent discount on food and non-booze beverages at chains like Hard Rock Café. Check www.aaa.com for participating restaurants.
• Give Me More Stripes - This program, sponsored by TGI Friday, earns a certificate for every $100 you spend. Plus, you'll receive a coupon for a free appetizer.
• Happy Birthday - Reap rewards for your entire birthday month by going online to your favorite restaurants' sites. Ben and Jerry, for example, offers free ice cream, while Red Robin sends a voucher for a free burger. Many more establishments love to send happy eating birthday wishes.
• House wine - Skip this step to save on your bill. Not only are house wines usually marked up, but they're often lower-quality. You're better off selecting one of the cheapest options on the wine list, which likely is of higher quality.
Tax Tip: If you bought a big-ticket item, such as a boat or RV, before Dec. 31, the sales tax deduction becomes a nice advantage for Tennessee residents. Since we don't pay state income tax, check the IRS' tables and online calculator to figure the amount; just add the large sales tax amount to the amounts from Uncle Sam's tables or calculator.