Stopping at a nearby fast food eatery once was an affordable option. But like food costs at the grocery store and sit-down restaurants, fast food menu prices have continued to climb in recent years. The good news is there are still ways to get a deal when pulling up to the drive-thru of your favorite local fast food spot. Read on, as I outline a few tips that may help you find affordable, fast food options despite higher-than-usual menu prices.
1. Don't ignore loyalty programs
Many top fast food chains have free loyalty programs that customers can join. You'll earn rewards when you spend money with the brand, which you can redeem for discounts on future orders or free food and drinks. Some fast food loyalty programs also offer members-only discounts and deals that could help you keep more money in your bank account. Ensure you use programs like this to avoid spending more than necessary on fast food.
2. Pay attention to daily deals
Some fast food and fast casual food chains have daily deals that could help you save money. For example, Burger King promotes its Whopper Wednesday in its mobile app. By activating the deal, you can get a Whopper for $3.
Prices vary nationwide, but at the time of writing, the regular menu price for a Whopper is $5.69 in the Chicago area. There may be other discount opportunities like this, so review the offers from your favorite eateries so you don't miss a good deal.
3. Use in-app coupons to save big
Most fast food brands have mobile apps. You can easily order your food using these apps to save time in the drive-thru line. But these apps also have coupons and deals that could help you make your next fast food trip cheaper. Here are some examples of recent deals I've seen:
- $2 breakfast sandwich at McDonald's
- BOGO Original Chicken Sandwich at Burger King
- $3 off any purchase of $15 or more at Wendy's
Deals like this prove you don't have to pay the standard menu price to enjoy fast food.
Even if you don't see a deal that you love, there may be other ways to save using coupon codes. Subway is one fast food spot with coupon offers for discounted sandwiches. You can get a footlong sub that would usually cost you $9.99 for $5.99 with the right coupon code. You can use one of the best coupon apps to find active coupon codes to get the best deals.
4. Don't overlook meal deals
Before rushing through the drive-thru to order your food, consider whether you can order more strategically to get a filling meal without spending a significant amount of money. Instead of ordering individual items, a meal deal may make the most sense for your wallet.
Taco Bell offers a Build Your Own Craving Box in its mobile app for $5.99. You'll get multiple food items and a drink for a low price. Another example is Wendy's $5 Biggie Bag Meal Deal. With this deal, you'll get a sandwich, four-piece chicken nuggets, a jr. fry, and a small soft drink.
Some fast food restaurants also offer family meal deals, which could help you feed your entire crew for less. Don't overlook these deals if you're trying to keep your spending in check. The last thing you want to deal with is a costly credit card bill due to overspending on fast food.
5. Skip delivery
Fast food is convenient, but if you're getting it delivered, it likely won't arrive as fast as you'd like. Plus, you'll be paying more for the added convenience. You can avoid extra delivery and service fees by picking up your fast food instead of getting it delivered to your home. It may take a bit more work to drive to your favorite spot and place your order, but it'll cost you a lot less money.
Avoid paying full price for fast food
It can be nice to treat yourself to fast food occasionally. But make sure you're not paying more than necessary. If the fast food prices you're seeing scare you, consider using one of the above tips to get a better deal when you order. If you can avoid paying full price for your next fast food order, it can be a win for your personal finances.
Alert: highest cash back card we've seen now has 0% intro APR until 2025
If you're using the wrong credit or debit card, it could be costing you serious money. Our experts love this top pick, which features a 0% intro APR for 15 months, an insane cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee.
In fact, this card is so good that our experts even use it personally. Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.