Today is my birthday. Every day is someone’s birthday, so mine is no more special than the next person — except maybe to me, of course. But what I’ve learned over the past few years is that you’re not the only person who thinks they’re special on their birthday; and neither are your friends and family. Restaurants, retail spots, and even some companies are so interested in getting more of your business, that THEY think you’re special too! And for that, you can use it to your advantage in catching these raindrops in your water buckets.
I’ve shared how I feel about Rewards programs before. But in case you’re not sure — I LOVE THEM and encourage people to sign up for the most helpful, useful, and practical ones for you (not all programs are best options for everyone) — whether that’s saving money on your gas bill because of your food purchases; getting make-up products for free; or earning a free bagel at your favorite breakfast spot. But what I’m talking about today are all of those special meals and treats awarded to you just because it’s your birthday! There’s nothing you have to do (once you’ve signed up), except just wait every 365 days to cash in.
And while I haven’t even begun to take advantage of everything that’s out there for birthday anniversaries, the week leading up to my actual birth date has been filled with plenty of money-saving free stuff just there for my taking. You see, most companies give you anywhere from a week to a full month to cash in on your birthday surprises. And if you time them right, you could spend an entire day eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks, out on the town, and never spend a dime.
Let me tell you a little of my adventure. Last year my sister, whose birth date is one week before mine, turned me on to Red Robin’s Birthday burger. Sign up for their program and they’ll send you an email every year with a coupon for one of their FREE burgers. And least you think it’s a trap to get you into the restaurant (which of course, that’s where they’d love for you to be) to get you to spend more money, this year we actually phoned our order in from the gym where we’d just worked out, and then went by to pick our sandwiches up on the way home. I had the Turkey burger and it was fabulous! One FREE dinner down; several other freebies to go.
A day before my Red Robin experience, I bought $10.31 worth of merchandise at the World Market, using my $10.00 birthday coupon. To get my money’s worth, I went straight to the Clearance table and picked up some items that were marked down 55%. So for just 31 cents, I picked up some chips, popcorn, and Italian soda for the movie night we had planned.
The next morning, on my way to go spend some time visiting my parents’ gravesite, I stopped by Starbucks and used my birthday rewards points for a Frappucino which came in handy sitting out in the hot sun. What was really cool about the Starbucks surprise is that they gave two rewards — one for in-store and another (which I haven’t claimed yet) for online! Later that afternoon, I stopped in on Honeybaked Ham to redeem my FREE birthday sandwich, which I saved until the next day, and ate for breakfast during my almost 500 miles travel back to TN. That saved me money and the time making an extra stop.
When I got back from SC, I had an email from Applebee’s waiting for me for a FREE birthday dessert — no purchase necessary (the best kind of “freebie!”). And if that wasn’t enough, one of my new favorite local places to get gas is Thorntons, who also loaded something on my car. I originally joined their rewards program for the free coffee. But since then, they’ve revamped things, and now, I get freebies dropped on my card a couple of times a year. This is my first “birthday year” with them, and what awaits me is 10 cents off per gallon of gas! It’s almost time for a fill up, because I of course made sure to run my tank down as low as possible before utilizing the birthday discount.
And that brings me to today; my actual birthday. Circumstances were such that I did not do anything with the friends who I would normally go out to eat with. So I treated myself to a FREE meal at iHop. Though the coupon called for a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancake special, the fine print gave option to order anything up to the cash amount of the same. Always read the fine print. So I enjoyed a very filling plate of chicken and waffles for lunch. I could have ordered an omelette or even a salad too! The only money I spent was on the tip for the waitress who was a pleasure. But what sweetened the deal even more is that the receipt had a survey on the bottom that once I complete, I’ll get yet another coupon to return for one FREE short stack of pancakes. How great is that?!
So what’s the moral of this story? SIGN UP! Create a separate email account, if you will, so that you don’t have to be bothered with any extra emails throughout the year. But take advantage of these freebies — and sign up your significant others so they can take advantage of it too. Because when your birthday comes around, and you realize that if planned according, you could eat free for an entire day, or spread your fortune around for an entire week, it will start making sense and be more than worthwhile for you to do it. And if you don’t personally want to “eat,” all of this, treat a friend!
And to think, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of all that’s out there. Next year, I’m going in search of more retailing opportunities! My philosophy is, “money saved is money earned for something else!”