Tag Archives: free stuff

Three Reasons Why You Should Join Rewards Programs

I’m sitting in a Starbucks, back in my SC hometown where I like to visit during the first weeks of summer. I just enjoyed lunch on Starbucks, including a Turkey Rustico Panini and sweet tea. Yes, I said lunch ON Starbucks, not just “in” Starbucks.

It’s been almost a year since I signed up for their Rewards program. And while I’m still trying to figure out exactly how their Bonus Stars program works, one thing that works for me is the birthday gift they load onto the card each year! So today, I had a FREE sandwich and a discounted drink to accompany my hang time at the restaurant, catching up on email and social media stuff.

I have often talked about the “rewards” that come with signing up for Loyalty and Rewards Programs; especially with places that you already support. But even with places you don’t normally shop, receiving a freebie just for having a birthday is a great excuse to try something new, or just enjoy a treat at a place you perhaps would otherwise never have visited.

Monday was my birthday. But my celebration started a week earlier. Though I’m a huge supporter of certain rewards programs, it was one of my sisters who turned me on to a number of restaurant programs I’d been missing out on. Two years ago I signed up for Red Robin’s birthday club and started enjoying a FREE burger (which comes with fries) for my birthday each year. I love their program because I don’t have to eat-in to take advantage of it. Not so with Applebees, whose free dessert I have missed two years in a row. But I did take advantage of a FREE Honeybaked Ham sandwich I grabbed on my way to the movies (aren’t large purses the best?), and went to Buffalo Wings after church last weekend, enjoying a FREE Shareable, their fancy word for Appetizer. An yeah, they did make money on us for lunch, but you don’t have to give in to that. Just go with some friends after work and enjoy an appetizer for FREE! Plus, shortly after that visit, they sent me another email offering me free wings to complete a survey about my previous visit. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that??

I had a meeting at Panera a week ago, and took advantage of the FREE birthday pastry that day. But I missed signing up for Jersey Mike’s Subs in time (they require two weeks in advance of your birthday), so my FREE sub sandwich treat will have to wait until next year. Again, you don’t have to make the same mistake. Sign up today! What still awaits me in my email is a FREE breakfast at IHOP, a FREE scoop of ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery, and an email from another organization listing other deals I didn’t even know about, including a FREE burger at Ruby Tuesdays and a complimentary steak dinner at Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Lest you think it’s all about the food (though I make no apologies for having various lunches and dinners taken care of during this vacation time period), there are also numerous other stores where you can take advantage of their birthday club program. My favorite place to get gas near where I live is Thornton’s, where I regularly enjoy a three cent savings on gas each time I fill up (ditto with Kroger). But for my birthday, Thornton’s sent to my card a 10 cents off per gallon special discount. Perfect timing to use for my long my drive back to TN. And earlier today, I picked up a tea kettle from World Market that was similar to a more expensive one I’d wanted on an online site; only today I not only paid less for it, but was able to use my 15% birthday discount for the purchase. Now to be honest, I didn’t really consider this to be that great of a deal, since up until this year, World Market gave a TEN DOLLAR birthday coupon, which made going by there worth the trip. But now they’ve changed it, which will likely negatively impact the number of people they drive to their stores, since it’s hardly worth the special trip given compared to what they offered before. I only stopped because I was in the area.

I also discovered several websites that list a number of the places offering free or discounted items, meals, and services for your birthday. this time next year, my list will at least double with all that I’ve uncovered during this birthday celebration!

So why bother with loyalty and reward programs just for your birthday week?

First, most of them offer discounts on their products, meals and services year-round. If it’s something you would use, eat, or buy for a friend, why not save money on it?

Second, the majority of them have worthwhile Freebies to take advantage of during your birthday week; some up to a month to redeem.

Third, if you’re saving money on that overpriced, but still hugely popular Mocha Frappucino, you can spend that money on something else instead  — like, say an extra gallon of gas or half of next month’s water bill!

I’m just saying!

Prepare Yourself for Success!

Today I was reminded why I LOVE customer reward programs and try to remember to use those which I sign up for. Now, I’m not one of those people who sign up for everything (I’ve met some of those people before). And I hate it when my email inbox gets flooded with offer after offer from some companies, once they get my email address. It’s one of the reasons I reserve a specific email address to use whenever I sign up for a new reward program. But any inconvenience that I might endure is still worth it for what I get back in return.

I heard a report on one of the morning programs that over 21% of Americans are members of various reward programs. Unfortunately it went on to say that only about 9% of them actively use their accounts and redeem the offers. In this continually challenging economic times we live in, I am always looking for ways to save money and get something back while doing it, as often as I can. So the concept that people just “don’t” collect on the freebies that are available for them, blows my mind. I may not always remember to redeem everything due to me, but there are certain things that I make a point of always doing to save money now, and be rewarded later. One of those things is using my Kroger Plus card. Sure, there may be other grocery stores any given week that may have certain products on sale or listed for a less expensive price. But I like to look at the overall benefit. For instance, while I get my groceries at a savings by using the card, I also get three cents per gallon off at their gas stations too; and have the ability to build up even more money on that.

So while I was out running errands today, I knew I would pass three different Kroger gas stations in my travels. The first one, just a couple of miles from where I live, was $2.99/gallon. I kept that in mind as I continued my drive, passing a second one at 2.97/gallon, and finally, the third one that was $3.06. After getting my errands done, I knew the route I would take back home — and stopped at the station with $2.97. I was expecting my grocery savings to reveal a 10 cent savings at the pump. But I was even more surprised to learn I actually had accumulated 20 cents. So today, I filled my tank up for only $2.77 a gallon — the same day a news report indicated that gas prices were on the way back up this winter.

Without the rewards program, and searching out the best gas station, I could have easily paid 20-30 cents more per gallon. Those costs really add up when you’re filling up every week!

That’s why I don’t get what people have against signing up for programs like with Krogers. I enjoy knowing I’m saving money when I shop and then again when I get gas. I actually like finding out what kind of surprise awaits me at Panera, where I take several meetings; especially when something comes up on the days I’m a little low on cash. Or getting extra savings at places like CVS, Walgreens, and even the Regal movie theater. Who wouldn’t want to save on a movie ticket, or get a free bag of popcorn at that show you’re already attending?

So if you want to start making some changes that will show up in your bank account, start first by planning ways to save money. It’s been said that “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” One of the ways you can prepare to succeed is to start implementing changes in your life and not just talk about making changes. Sign up for reward cards. Cut coupons.  Shop for bargains. Plan your travels to keep from wasting gas. Do what you have to do to make the kind of changes in your life now, that will result in a better life for you later.

In other words, prepare yourself for success!

Summer on the Cheap!

Kimberly Pierce Carter is a stay-at-home mom of three children, ages 10, 6 and 3. “Being a stay at home mom is the best and the hardest job I’ve ever had,” said Kimberly, whose two daughters and young son keep her busy. “I learn something new about my children or myself almost every day!”

Having only one source of income, one thing Kimberly has also learned is how to seek out the best deals for her family, not just at the grocery store or mall, but to provide various activities and educational opportunities beyond the classroom, without spending a lot.

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“When summer approaches, one of the first things I do is check out our local library summer schedule,” she says. “Our library has a fantastic summer reading program and they give the kids little prizes along the way, which helps to keep my kids motivated to want to read.”

In most communities, libraries are an excellent place to find not just reading programs, but other activities geared for kids of all ages. Some places offer plays, live music, and even arts and crafts. “Our library has some fantastic programs all during the summer and they are free! From one-man puppet shows, to African rhythm instruments, to a wildlife exhibition, there is always something to see or do once or twice a week, in addition to story times.”

Another outlet that Kimberly takes advantage of during these long days of summer is Vacation Bible School (VBS) at her church. Most VBS programs are open to community kids, regardless of whether or not they are members of that church, and just like programs at the library, most VBSs are free. “One of the things I like about the VBS programs in our area is that the kids get to learn about God, make various crafts, play games, and meet new friends; kids who may not attend their school.”

Other activities that parents can get their kids involved in range from special free movies that Regal Cinemas (and other movie theaters) offers throughout the summer or heading to the local city or state parks for a picnic or nature hikes. “We pack our lunch, sunscreen, some sidewalk chalk, a container of bubbles, and a few outdoor games, and it makes for another great day in the outdoors.” Many parks offer free or minimal cost nature programs and special projects for kids to engage in as well.

Just like with parks, moms can also look for street festivals, community fairs, music programs, and other special events designed to attract families. “At least once a month our Farmers Market holds a family night with games, face painting, and other entertainment. And of course, going also gives us access to some great local produce.”

So just because your kids are out of school for the summer, doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars sending them off to camp, or think that saving money means  having them sit in front of the television or playing computer games all day. There are a lot of free or inexpensive things to do with your kids that can be educational, entertaining, and fun experiences for the whole family.

Kimberly and the kids

Kimberly has been married to her husband Chance for over 16 years, and they live in the San Francisco East Bay area.