Let’s face facts: Most of us are mere financial mortals. As much as we may love to leave dinner in the capable cleavers of professionals every night, eventually the bank account goes a little anemic. Here are a couple of tips and tricks we use to stretch our dining dollar:

livingsocialGroupons:  Leveraging the power of a group purchase, Groupon publishes a new deal every morning featuring a discount on a reasonably known restaurant, salon, spa, or activity. Most groupon offerings are local or at least in the inner rings of MD and VA- this isn’t your parents Entertainment Book filled with exurb chains. Recent appearances include $40 of food at Sushi-Ko for $20 and $15 for $35 worth of food and beverages at PS7. LivingSocial.com has recently thrown its hat into the ring and may be worth keeping an eye on as well — Monday’s deal featured 50% off at Zengo. DC City Paper’s deals are not to be overlooked, with $50 gift certificates that only cost you $25. Current restaurants on offer include Dino, Policy, and Commonwealth.

opentableOpenTable Dining Points:  OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation system can give you a little extra cash in addition to finding a reservation quickly. For every reservation you make and fulfill on OpenTable, you get 100 dining points.  Like frequent flyer miles, points add up to a check coming back to you to spend on dinner. Checks are available in $20, $50, and $100 increments. To bulk up quieter hours, some restaurants work out 1,000 point reservations with OpenTable, getting you to the magic check finish line even faster. OpenTable does not send you your check automatically – you have to order it when you have enough points.  The checks typically arrive within 2 weeks and can be used at any restaurant featured on OpenTable.

Weekly Specials and Happy Hours: I learned the hard way that a weeknight happy hour, despite my best intentions, ends up putting the spotlight on cocktails and the hindsight on bad food decisions that come after an intense post-work gossip session. Jumbo Slice at 1 am on a Tuesday? Yeah, I’ve seen the belly of the beast. For those with an adult sense of restraint, check out Metrocurean’s Wednesday Delicious Deal, featuring a constant parade of intriguing specials and deals. Refined happy hour tastes will appreicate Metrocurean’s tip on the the sexy, sophisticated bar at the St. Regis, miles away from candy-coated, half-off cocktails at Ozio.