Happy birthday (to me)! How we celebrated my 32 years for under 20 bucks


Did I get your attention with that?  I know that catches my eye.  I like FREE stuff.  Not just any ol’ stuff but food and beverages and clothes that I like… for FREE.

Yes, I treated myself for $4.32. Then spent about $9 to cover what the coupons didn’t.  That isn’t technically FREE but this is what I got:  a fancy coffee from Starbucks, a tasty pastry from Panera, a regular sized bowl of noodles from Noodles & Co. plus a drink, a handful of cute things made from fabric from JC Penney, and chocolates from CVS.  If you count what I spent two days before at Coldstone Creamery, the total spent (not including gas) was $18.57.

And you can do it too!

Follow me, and you’ll get some wonderful goodies for yourself on your birthday.

First, think of what you really like.  Me?  I’m a big fan of food.  Any kind of food will do but the best kind of food is FREE food.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Let’s see… I like Asian foods and drinks, I’m a sucker for desserts and sweets of all kinds, I love wine, I enjoy a good cup of frilly coffee, I’m a big fan of shopping for new clothes, I like good barbeque, I want to spend more time with my husband and friends, and I’d love for someone else to regularly clean my house.

Sadly, no one turned up to clean for me.

Next, pinpoint specific places and people that can deliver what you really like.  Noodles & Co. makes a dish they call Japanese Pan Noodles that I prefer to get with tofu.  Starbucks makes a great caramel macchiato.  Panera has an assortment of pastries while Coldstone Creamery has a million ways for me to enjoy ice cream.  Penney’s is my go-to place for new clothes as I have a store credit card there.  Sadly, there isn’t a decent bbq place under an hour’s drive from where I live.  As for my friends, family, and clean house… well, we’ll tackle those desires another day.

Then, go to the websites of your favorite restaurants, stores, cosmetic products, foods, et cetera.  Just about everything out there has a website and the majority of them have clubs or newsletters or fan lists you can sign up for.  Go ahead, sign up!  See what goodies you get!

Examples (FREE stuff and Almost-FREE stuff):

Noodles & Co. has an eclub, where you sign up for their Noodlegrams. For my birthday, they sent me an email with a coupon for a FREE regular-sized bowl of my choice.  (I chose to add a drink so paid two bucks and change for food and a refillable beverage, which fed and hydrated both myself and Angel Baby.)

I now have a My Starbucks Rewards card that led to me being emailed a coupon for a FREE regular coffee or tea.  Now, this is where things didn’t go the way I planned.  I needed to go to Target while in town and our Target has a Starbucks in it.  Sadly, the emailed coupon from my rewards card was not accepted at the Target’s Starbucks; something about how the ones in stores are actually Target and the code to be scanned could only be scanned at a free-standing location.  That’s cool, though, because on this particular Target trip, I had a coupon from a previous trip where I’d get $1.50 off one of the specialty drinks.  Since I got the littlest size (who the eff named the sizes at Starbucks anyway?!), I only paid two and change for a fancy-schmancy caramel macchiato.  I got my frilly coffee for Almost-FREE.

Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t have a My Panera Rewards membership.  I signed up and immediately got a coupon for a FREE pastry.  That’s it.  It didn’t have to do with my birthday or anything. But check this out:  I had the option to “donate” my treat.  They have this aspect to their program that once you earn something with your points or if you don’t want that first FREE pastry, you can give it back to them to give to someone in need.  How’s THAT for warm fuzzies?

I’ve had a JCPenney credit card as long as I can remember.  Some years, I use it for every last item of clothing, linen, kitchen gadget, et cetera; other years, I won’t touch it once in efforts to pay it off.  (I have a love-hate relationship with credit cards.)  No matter what I spend, every December, I get a coupon for $10-15.  This year, I received two coupons in a mailer (YES!  Snail mail!):  one was FREE shipping on anything to anywhere; the other was $15 off a single item of $15 or more.*  So, like, FREE money?  Thank you, Penneys!  Don’t hold me to this but I’m pretty sure last year I received a mailed coupon for $10 to be used however, no fine print about it being on one thing costing at least $10.

The BHE and I enjoy the Jack Daniels menu at TGI Fridays.  As Stripes club members, we had points plus I received an emailed coupon for my birthday to get a FREE appetizer.  Dinner would have been Almost-FREE, but Angel Baby wasn’t game for behaving in a busy restaurant, so we skipped that.  But, hey, we could’ve had FREE food, leading to a cheap dinner, on my birthday.

I’ve also joined the eclub at Coldstone Creamery so got a coupon for my birthday from them as well.  In my email, I got an offer for BOGO FREE ice cream.  After my father bought us dinner a couple days before my birthday, we dropped into the Coldstone that was just a mile up the road and spent about $4 for waaaay tooooo much ice cream (two of the medium-sized bowls) which we split between the BHE, Angel Baby, and myself.**

Finally, you can have a great day on your birthday for Almost-FREE!  Just do a little clickity clackity on your computer (I did most of mine from my Windows OS phone), gather your coupons (I had others that had been piling up, some for FREE goodies and some were just money off or BOGO—that’s how I got $6 worth of chocolate for $1.98), and head to town. Maybe call a couple friends or plan an evening with your spouse.

Ta-dah!  A cheap and easy birthday!

The bonus:  Angel Baby was such a easy doll all day.  It was like she knew the best present to give me was awesome behavior.  Not that she’s a difficult child by any means; it was just nice that she napped when I needed her to and happily went along with everything I did.

*I needed panties.  Ever since I had Angel Baby, my body has gone through some weird transformations.  I don’t fit the underwear from before nor the ones from during pregnancy.  Anyway, JCP had some great deals like 5 panties for $25… but that isn’t a “single item of $15 or more.”  Grr.  I found in the baby section 4 long-sleeved onesies as one item for $16.99 on sale plus got a few pairs of panties.  My total was around seven bucks.

**Don’t discount FREE meals purchased by someone else.  I’m not suggesting you take advantage of anyone.  Your friends and family love you, they offer to buy you lunch or dinner, you say yes and enjoy a meal and their company, and you got something for FREE.  Be grateful, but don’t abuse it.  😉  I got FREE dinner out of my father, and a couple girlfriends had bought lunch for Angel Baby and myself a few weeks before.  I’m grateful for their company as well as the food. Thanks again, ladies!


2 thoughts on “Happy birthday (to me)! How we celebrated my 32 years for under 20 bucks

  1. Pingback: 100 Blog Post Ideas! | Thoughtfully Sought

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