$ave Me: The $3,076 happy hour bill
The cost of a night out may add up faster than you think.
In 2011, consumers spent an average $2,620 on food consumed away from home and $456 on alcoholic beverages, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those figures are up 4.6 and 10.7 percent, respectively, from 2010.
To put that in perspective, the total represents about 6 percent of the average $49,705 in annual expenditures. But it's more than people shell out in a year for apparel ($1,740), gas ($2,655) or education ($1,051), according to government figures—and still more than you really need to shell out.
Get some of the best deals by checking in with a restaurant or bar via social media. Restaurants often reserve their best deals for loyal customers who follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or who have signed up to receive email newsletters, said Aaron Allen, an independent restaurant consultant. Chains including Pizza Hut and Burger King also offer deals exclusive to their apps.
—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @kelligrant