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December 16, 2013 2:31:36 PM PST
'Tis the season to spend time with family and friends...and that can involve a lot of dining out! Here are a few ways to have yourself a merry little meal without stepping into sneaky little spending traps.

1. Decode The Menu
Layout and design can often subconsciously shift our ordering patterns. For instance, a new study found that when menus omit the actual dollar sign we are less likely to focus on cost. Experts say we also spend more when we hear catchwords like succulent, tender or organic.

2. Know The Strategy Of Specials
They are usually read aloud, and most of the time the pricing isn't included. Experts say restaurants play on the fact that people won't want to appear cheap by asking for pricing information, but go ahead, ask! Researchers also say that men on a date are more likely to accept a server's offer for dessert, after dinner drinks or expensive wine. Also, the second-cheapest bottle of wine on the list is often marked up the most.