Personally, I like to find different ways to celebrate my birthday each year. Sometimes I go to the beach, or to the mall, or downtown for coffee… but whatever I do, I try to do something fun. And, since I’m in college, CHEAP.
This year, family health issues prevented me from going out with my whole family and my friends’ jobs prevented me from spending time with them. So I went on an adventure with my fave bff- my little sister.
We decided to take on the excessively frugal challenge of collecting as much free birthday stuff as possible . What can I say? We’ve got too much penny-pinching Dutch in us.
So I signed up for emails and rewards cards to no end, printed out tons of coupons, grabbed a cooler full of ice for leftovers and prepared myself for a day of deals. Here is what happened.
We started the day pretty early, waking up to make the most of the cool morning air. Our first stop was Denny’s, where you can get a FREE Grand Slam breakfast (no purchase required!) by showing your ID, although they didn’t even ask for mine.
I got english muffins, toast, eggs and hash browns (which I used to make a couple pretty great breakfast sandwiches). A Grand Slam typically runs $6.89, so I was feeling pretty good about my morning.
Next we headed over to the mall to a couple of my favorite stores. I did some regular shopping but made sure to stop by Ulta and Sephora to grab their birthday freebies. I have rewards cards with both stores (I actually love the Ultamate Rewards perks, not gonna lie) so I got gifts from both.
From Ulta, I received an Urban Decay eyeshadow (a $19 value) and from Sephora a mini Marc Jacobs lipstick and eyeliner duo (worth about $20). We’ll just pretend I didn’t spend $20 between the two stores on regular purchases too.
Since the mall we visited was on the other side of town, we had the chance to stop by one of my favorite donut chains – Krispy Kreme! I signed up for emails from them and was sent a birthday coupon good for a free donut and soft drink or coffee (no purchase necessary!).
I saved about $3 here, although we stashed our donuts right away because we knew there would be a lot of sweets to eat throughout the day.
We weren’t too hungry after our breakfast, but we knew we needed to keep up our schedule. So we headed over to bd’s Mongolian Grille, which sent me a $10 off coupon (with no minimum purchase) because I’m on their email list, for an early lunch. The restaurant is one of those your-way stir fry places where you create your own bowl and watch someone cook it up on a big circular grill.
Because it’s $9.99 for a bowl, my $10 coupon made my meal totally free! And yes, I did eat the whole plate using only chopsticks. I’m just a little proud I never spilled on my white dress.
Next stop: one of my favorite local coffee chains, Biggby Coffee. My sis and I each got a frozen latte because I got a free coupon from signing up for emails.
I highly recommend the mint mocha and mocha caramel frozen lattes, which are $5.50 each for the 20 oz size.
Next came a string of dessert freebies, which I mostly stuck in our very helpful cooler to save for later. First up was Arby’s, which sent me a coupon for a free shake with any purchase (I got a roast beef sandwich and brought it back for my dad).
Typically $2.99, I was thankful for the free-ness of this shake because I only finished about half of it. (But it was really great and I love getting emails from Arby’s because I love free food!)
Then, since we were right in the neighborhood, I did a semi-dangerous left turn and pulled into Culver’s for a free scoop of custard! I got an email after signing up for their club online.
I kept it classic with hot fudge on vanilla custard for my $2.50-value free dish. I was starting to feel all the sweets hitting me, but there was no stopping now.
Thankfully our next freebie was easy to stash and save in the cooler. We stopped by a little shop called Cupcakes and Cookies by Design, where I received, of course, a free cupcake.
We chose a cherry chocolate cupcake, which has a lovely chocolate-covered cherry on the top and usually costs $3.50. I haven’t eaten this yet, but their cupcakes are always good, so I’m expecting the best.
Of course, I had to get my free Starbucks drink. As a proud Starbucks Gold Card holder, I got a free birthday drink (although entry level rewards members get one too!) and I chose a peach green tea.
I felt I really couldn’t go wrong with one of the lovely Teavana teas on such a hot summer day. This one normally runs $5.50 (which is why I never get this size).
After a little bit of window shopping (and walking off all that food), it was time for dinner. Of course, I had to make a trip to my favorite burger joint for a free double cheeseburger and and fries.
Good ole Steak ‘n Shake never lets me down with their $4 meals, but getting it free was great. My sis and I split the burger, a midwestern high-schooler classic. Ahhh, so many memories and such a classic taste.
As the sun descended, we slowed down our adventure. I grabbed the coupon I had for a free smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (a birthday reward from their email club) and picked up a 24 oz peach-banana smoothie.
It was SO GOOD to have something semi-healthy after a day of fried and frozen freebies, so this smoothie (normally $5) really hit the spot… even if I gave half of it to my dad.
After stopping back at home for a mini family celebration (there were even balloons!), we headed out for one last deal. Cold Stone Creamery sent me a BOGO coupon for being a part of their email club.
We used the $5-saving coupon to get some lovely pink lemonade sorbet as a treat for my mom and sister, both allergic to dairy (no ice cream?! insert sad face here). My family gives a lot to me, so I wanted to at least give a little something back after my adventure.
Just in case you were keeping track, that’s a total of $92.87. Considering I don’t have $93 to spend on birthday celebrations, I’d say that’s pretty good. I don’t know if I’ll be making this a regular thing (I am incredibly stuffed), but man was it a fun day.
Some other honorable mentions that we didn’t have time/stomach space for:
IHOP gives birthday celebrators a free stack of pancakes.
Noodles & Company sends a coupon for a free noodle bowl.
Buffalo Wild Wings celebrates birthdays with free snack size wings.
Red Robin will give a coupon for one of their famous burgers as a birthday gift.
Bagger Dave’s sends a $5 coupon, good for pretty much anything.
Most of the deals listed here require being registered for emails from these companies – click the links to head over to those websites to sign up!