Two weeks ago I celebrated my 34th birthday, and in true frugal fashion, I enjoyed it by getting as much free food as possible. What could be more fun?!
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always loved the free stuff you get on your birthday. I remember being part of the Baskin Robbins’ birthday club and getting a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream. Even though it was a small thing, as a kid it was pretty magical.
My Mom must have signed me up in the store. I remember getting a birthday card in the mail and being a very happy 8 year old. Those were also the days before email was really a thing. 26 years later, and now thanks to the internet, you can take this to a whole new level. So many more deals to find and easily sign-up for at the touch of your fingers.
How I Got Free Food On My Birthday
My actual birthday fell on a Monday this year and that is the best day to take advantage of such birthday deals. Some deals are only good on your specific birthday. I had been watching birthday coupons arrive in my email so I started loosely planning out the day about a week prior. I have some favorites that I do every year, and some that were new this year. My goal was to leverage the birthday deals as much as possible and spend as little as possible.
Kevin was at work so I took both kids with me on a little daytime birthday adventure. Kevin would join us later for dinner after work.
Here’s a breakdown of the day, what I could have done better, and some general tips to help you maximize your birthday deals.
Ok…so I technically skipped breakfast that day. Nothing gained, nothing lost I suppose.
I ended up taking our youngest to baby time at our local library while our oldest was at preschool. It still fits under the “free category” though. I didn’t spend any money, and got quality time with our baby. Double win!
Even though I passed this year, breakfast is a great opportunity for free food. As options, IHOP offers a free entree and Einstein’s offers a free breakfast sandwich. A tip would be necessary for IHOP and a purchase (like a small drink) is necessary at Einstein’s. The overall expense would still be kept to a minimum though.
After our oldest got back from preschool we headed out to lunch at PDQ which recently opened up in our area. PDQ is similar to Chick Fil A but has some more options available. I recently signed up for their email list to see what deals they would send out. A few days before my birthday, I was surprised to get a coupon for a free “any size” combo, no purchase necessary.
I got a large combo which was plenty to share with a one and three year old. We got chicken, french fries, and a soda. The no purchase necessary was the best part of the coupon I literally didn’t even have to take my wallet out and the meal valued about $10. Score!
After lunch we ran some errands, including a trip to Costco. Who doesn’t love free samples at Costco? You could practically make a lunch out of that! Here’s our oldest enjoying a little popcorn while lounging in the grocery cart. Ahh, the life of a 3 year old!
After the errands were wrapped up, I decided it was time for a little caffeine. I knew that Dutch Bros offered a free drink on your birthday and it is a total guilty pleasure of ours. No catch or sign-up necessary!
I just had to show my ID, and I was welcome to any drink, any size. That is right, no sign-up necessary! I went the decadent route and got a birthday cake freeze with whip. You only turn 34 once…right?!
I love Dutch Bros!
The drink was valued around $6. Now I was up to $16 and I had yet to open up my wallet.
As a plus, the boys ended up falling asleep in the car so I got some nice quiet time to enjoy my dessert coffee drink. When you have two little boys, peaceful silence is very much appreciated, especially on your birthday.
After Kevin got home from work it was time for dinner. We went out to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.
We’ve been making Grimlaid’s a birthday tradition after we discovered how amazing their birthday deal is a few years ago. For your birthday, you can get a large one topping pizza (up to $19) and no purchase is necessary (once again don’t forget the tip!).
The pizza is very generous in size so it was plenty for all 4 of us. We even had leftovers! As you can see in the picture below, our youngest was a little overwhelmed by the shear size!
Grimaldi’s ended up being the one exception of actually spending money. It was very much a planned expense though. We all got water but splurged by getting multiple toppings (pepperoni, meatballs, and extra mozzarella).
After tip, we ended up spending $14. Considering this was my birthday dinner and we enjoyed a sit down meal, I’d consider that a deal! Had we forgone the extra toppings we could have just ended up paying tip.
The pizza voucher was worth $19 which brought the grand total for the day to $35 of free food with no breakfast. Not bad for a day’s work!
Lessons Learned Or How To Make The Most Out Of Getting Free Meals On Your Birthday
After enjoying a fun day of free food, here are my biggest takeaways.
1. Bring Friends And Make It An Event
My biggest mistake was that I didn’t take the birthday freebies as far as I could have. $35 worth of free food is awesome, but I know I could have taken this further.
I also know there’s a limit to how much food one person can consume in a single day. The perfect solution is to involve a friend or two to help.
For example, instead of just going to one place for lunch you could go to two and split an entree. With sharing, you’re consuming less food which allows you to go to multiple places. You can turn it into your own traveling buffet. Plus, there’s no shame in wrapping some of it up!.
A trip to baskin robbins for a free ice cream cone, free coffee at Starbucks, a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s, a sub at Firehouse Subs, a free breakfast sandwich at Einstein’s would have brought us over $60. So much food!
I’m already scheming for Kevin’s birthday in April. Kevin and I could make it a shared event with our boys and share everything starting with breakfast. After the lessons learned from my birthday, I can’t wait for our next opportunity! Stayed tuned for our April 2019 blog post.
2. Be Prepared Before Your Birthday
Like many things, a little careful planning can help you maximize your birthday deals. While some companies allow you to just show up, the vast majority require you to get on an email list.
A quick google search, and you’ll find plenty of lists out there. I think the birthday lists from No Guilt Mom and the Peaceful Mom are a great place to start. I also have a list of some of my personal favorite deals below (see item #6).
Most companies will start emailing birthday coupons about a week before, and if you wait until your actual birthday you will most likely miss your opportunity. I tried to do a few last minute myself and unfortunately I was too late. It’s probably best to make sure you sign up at least a month before to make sure you’re officially in their system and on the birthday distribution list.
I’m also not a fan of email overload. While it’s necessary to sign-up for the deal, you might consider applying filters to your incoming mail to minimize the massive wave of all the new subscriptions you just signed up for. Perhaps, create a “food” folder and have that go directly into a seperate folder, and not into your main inbox.
3. Don’t Let A “Good Deal” Bust Your Budget
Not all birthday deals are created equal, so think about what kind of deal you’re getting.
Plenty of places offer a free dessert, or a buy one get one deal, but they might not be the best idea for your budget because it requires you to spend money.
In other words, don’t use all your “BOGO” coupons as an excuse to keep eating out all month. This can quickly get out of hand and become counterproductive. I have a bunch of coupons I won’t be able to use because it just doesn’t make sense with our budget.
The true “golden tickets’ are the ones that don’t require you to even open your wallet.
4. Learn About Local Deals
The free deals that I enjoyed were regional and not located everywhere. While PDQ, Dutch Bros, and Grimaldi’s have lots of locations you might not have one by you.
I’d recommend doing a search for birthday deals in your city or even asking your Facebook friends. A quick poll from my friends and I have a whole bunch of places I want to check out next time.
In fact, I learned about a local BBQ place that offers a free meal just by word of mouth. Once you starting seeking out deals you might be surprised what you’ll come across.
5. Enjoy the Experience
Obviously, the free food is great, but for me the experience was really the fun part. There’s nothing quite as fun as getting something for free, especially when you’re watching your budget closely.
It’s very rare for us to go out multiple times in one week, let alone in a single day. Your birthday is a great opportunity to do this for little to no money. Why not take advanged of the opportunity if it’s something you enjoy?
Plus, I love how maximizing your birthday becomes a challenge. You often hear how shopping can be addictive and can produce a “high” for many people. In this scenario, I got a “high” when I didn’t spend money. It’s a good substitute. Both are activating the reward centers of the brain, but one is much more productive in terms of saving money.
Instead of focusing on your budget from a deprivation mindset, make it a game and figure out how to maximize it. Saving money forces you to be creative, but that’s also part of the fun.
It kind of reminded me of the month when we kept our food budget under $300 for our whole family. Having a limit very much forced me to think differently and come up with unique solutions.
Cutting back also allows you to appreciate the occasions when you do spend more (or in the birthday scenario, receive more). It kind of like decluttering, when you get rid of excess clutter, you’re able to appreciate the things you do have. I appreciated the drink from Dutch Bros so much more because it’s not a daily or even weekly event that I indulge in.
A Few of My Favorite Deals
Some of the locations I mentioned below won’t apply to everyone depending on where you live. Although, I bet there’s a bunch of great deals you can enjoy locally that we don’t have available in Phoenix.
The places I listed are my favorite because other than a tip, or a small purchase, you aren’t required to spend any other money.
Here are my favorite deals by category:
Do you enjoy birthday deals on your birthday? Have any favorite or awesome deals you know about? We’d love to hear about them!