Free stuff for your birthday
Ice cream, burgers, pancakes and more, just for being born.
Over the next 10 days I'll be eating at Red Robin, IHOP, Qdoba and Cold Stone Creamery. The good news is that all the food will be free because Dec. 5 is my birthday.
The bad news? I have to speak the phrase "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity," the name of the gratis grub being offered at IHOP.
Americans love free stuff, and national chains know it. They're willing to hand out burgers, sandwiches, ice cream, gift cards and discounts to loyal customers.
- Bing: Birthday freebie sites
If it's free, it's for me
As I wrote in "20 freebies for your birthday," some deals are better than others. T.G.I. Friday's wants to give me free dessert, which presumes I'll be buying a meal first. That Qdoba coupon is a buy-one-get-one, versus the Red Robin voucher that's good for a burger and fries even if I dine alone.
Sometimes a deal is site-specific, i.e., you're asked to pick the location where you'll be using it. It might be negotiable, though. Right now I happen to be in Anchorage visiting relatives and friends. Since the Cold Stone birthday e-mail sent me to the company website, I was able to change the location before printing the coupon.
On the other hand, the IHOP coupon was contained in the e-mail. I went to IHOP's Facebook page and asked if I could change my location. Within 20 minutes I had an e-mail from a customer service rep offering to help.
I still have to say "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity," though. It's probably not polite just to point at the menu, especially when I'm getting something free.
To sing or not to sing?
My advice is to sign up for any such bonus you can find. Sign your kids up, too, for free meals at places like California Pizza Kitchen and Denny's or a small gift card at Toys R Us. The "20 freebies" column includes links to the different places offering free stuff.
Look elsewhere, too. For example, the Entertainment Book had a coupon good for a free movie on my birthday at Regal Cinemas. If you have a favorite store or restaurant, check its website or Facebook page to see if any natal-day deals exist.
A site called BirthdayFreebies.com exists only to spoil you, and Freebies 4 Mom has a "birthday" section. The Bing link above has other online sources for freebies, but keep in mind that some sites offer information that's not entirely accurate. For example, some franchisees opt out of national promotions so be sure to call before you go.
A few more tips:
- Bring a printout of the offer and also your ID.
- Tell the server you'll be using a birthday deal, and say so right away rather than after the check arrives.
- If you don't want "Happy Birthday to You" sung, let the server know that, too.
- Base the gratuity on what you would have paid if you didn't have the coupon.
Happy Birthday! My birthday was last Thursday and, yes, I've learned the art of milking it for all it was worth. In fact, I celebrate all month long with all of the freebies I get. It's almost become a challenge to see how much free loot I can acquire before the end of the month. By the way, I can't imagine going to Cold Stone Creamery in ANCHORAGE IN DECEMBER! For some reason, that struck me as funny.
I've also known people who drink hot tea in the summer to stay warm. Maybe it's the same thing.
Thanks for reading Smart Spending.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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