This is a guest post by longtime reader Glenn. His feat – paying $3.99 tips for 19 birthday freebies worth $199.65 – has left me wordless. His story shows his zeal for saving money by taking FULL advantage of freebies. To see his ranking of the 19 birthday freebies he received, scroll to the end. Here are excerpts of his story.
December is my birthday month. Many businesses offer people a free appetizer or entrÃ©e during your birthday month if you join their free e-clubs. And I’m not talking about finger sandwiches or a teaspoon of ice cream either. We’re talking complete meals up to $30 in value. All that’s required is a little basic information from you. This year, I managed to find 19 places that offer up birthday freebies. The challenge is to find a way to redeem them all before they expire.
12/15/10 — For lunch, I went to El Torito’s in Sherman Oaks to get my free birthday entrÃ©e. I got there shortly after 11am, so the place was nearly empty. They had a Christmas tree near the entrance and lights strung up that made it look very festive. My friendly server brought me a basket of chips and salsa right away. I love that part about authentic Mexican restaurants. I showed him my birthday certificate, and he told me that I could order anything on the menu. Typically, I order a burrito when I go to a Mexican restaurant, but with a free entrÃ©e offer on the line, I decided to try something different. I went with the Flaming Fajitas Supreme. A $17.99 value. While waiting for my entrÃ©e, my server brought me a second basket of chips and more ice water in a separate glass. The Fajitas Supreme arrived just as I polished off the second basket of chips. The skillet was sizzling and consisted of seven pieces of grilled shrimp, carne asada steak cut into 7 slices and grilled seasoned chicken cut into 9 slices. My server also brought me a third basket of chips. I was able to make four soft tacos with the flour tortillas they gave me, and I still had some meat leftover to pick at with my fork. I was stuffed. I asked for a box to take the chips home for later consumption. Had I left them there, they would have thrown them away.
12/17/2010 Another successful food run. Burger, tacos and ice cream. Total value estimated at $9.18. Satisfaction of smart planning, execution and a full belly — priceless.
12/21/10 — For my next birthday freebie adventure, I ventured through the morning rain and went up to Bakersfield to spend an early Christmas with my godson’s family. Before reaching my final destination, I stopped at Red Robin’s restaurant to claim my free birthday gourmet burger. My server was Sammy. When she saw my birthday certificate, she immediately said, “Happy Birthday!” cheerfully. I knew what I wanted their bacon cheeseburger — value $9.59, and she hustled off right away. My ice water arrived in a minute. I always get my burger made well done in order to guard against all forms of bacteria and other biological threats. I used this time to listen to my favorite Christmas tunes on my iPod and people watch. The burger looked picture perfect, and I love their steak fries. I actually started on the fries first because I hate cold fries. Halfway through my burger, Sammy asked me if I wanted a reload of fries. Huh? “I get more fries?” I asked. With a huge grin, young Sammy said, “Absolutely. Here at Red Robins, our fries are bottomless.” On the inside, I yelled, “˜Ha-la-la-shanda!’ I nodded for the go ahead of more fries. Then came the real surprise. In addition to another full basket of steak fries, Sammy””joined by three of her co-workers””surprised me with a free vanilla ice cream sundae. The embarrassing part was when they all loudly began to sing “Happy happy birthday to me. I was grateful, but being a newly minted 44 yr old, I also felt like an idiot with the kids watching me. This freebie rates among the top the list as far as the service, value and overall satisfaction goes. When it was time to go, I left a nice Christmas gift for Sammy.
12/28/2010 – At long last, the day came for me to redeem the highest valued birthday freebie. The $30 certificate from Benihana Restaurants. This was the very first birthday freebie I received, and one of the last ones to redeem. Benihana gives you the entire birthday month to redeem it. This one does have a restriction of redemption on Mondays-Thursdays only, so it’s important to read each offer carefully. I ended up meeting a very nice couple, Jim and Jennifer, at the restaurant and by the end of our meal, it seemed like we were old friends. grill from me. When our server arrived and introduced himself as Jonathan, he immediately acknowledged my certificate and wished me a “˜Happy Birthday.’ The lady, Jennifer, got Jonathan’s attention that she had a certificate as well. Not feeling particularly shy at the moment, I shouted out, “I’m the 18th.” To my disbelief, Jennifer replied, “I am too.” Jim said, “What are the odds?” Our shared birthdays opened the window for additional conversation.
It’s important to note at this point that Benihana’s is the only establishment that checks I.D. in order to validate the certificates so make sure to have it with you when you go. When it came time to order, I chose a dish called Rocky’s Choice. It consisted of Hibachi steak and grilled chicken to my specification – $24.60 value. Since we were the birthday guests, Jennifer and I received an ice cream sundae for dessert with lots of whipped cream and a chocolate pocky stick. And we both got our pictures taken. I also gave them the bargainbabe’s website so they can learn how to stretch the almighty dollar on a regular basis. They said they were looking forward to reading my report when Julia posts it on her blog. It was also cool not getting a bill at the end. To summarize, the meal was excellent, but meeting Jim and Jennifer was the real treat. The lesson I learned to wake up with a positive mental attitude and seizing the moment years ago really paid off this time. You just never know who you’re gonna meet that day.
To summarize my entire birthday adventures, I’d have to give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I had some incredible meals, reconnected with some old friends and made some new s. Overall, the experience was tremendous success. However, I did fail to redeem every single freebie like I had originally planned to do. Among those that I did not redeem for one reason or another were a second offer from Chevy’s Fresh Mex (Free appetizer with entrÃ©e purchase), Marie Callender’s (management refusal of home printed coupon), Medieval Times (Free dinner and show with purchase at regular price), Ruby Tuesdays (no local locations anymore), Schlotsky’s (Free Junior Cone & Free small original sandwich) and Tony Romas (Free dessert). It’s okay though. It gives me incentive to try harder for 2011. One thing’s certain, I will have even more birthday freebies to redeem because I signed up at more places on New Year’s Day. Had I signed up when it was still December, who knows how many more freebies I would have scored in 2010.
#1 BENIHANA (Encino)
FREE $30 Certificate — Rocky’s Choice — ($24.60 value)
#2 BLACK ANGUS (Santa Ana)
FREE entree up to $19.99 with purchase of entrÃ©e — 11oz top sirloin center cut — ($19.99
#3 CLAIM JUMPERS (Northridge)
FREE EntrÃ©e up to $18 — Beef Rib Supper — (Value $18.95). Bill was $1.04
#4 RED ROBIN (Bakersfield) — Ming Ave
FREE Bacon Cheeseburger + Bottomless Fries + Free Ice Cream Sundae — ($9.59 value)
#5 EL TORITO (Ventura Blvd / Van Nuys Blvd)
FREE EntrÃ©e — Flaming Fajitas Supreme — ($17.99 value)
#6 CHEVY’S FRESH MEX (Burbank)
FREE EntrÃ©e — Mix Grill — Value $16.99
#7 ACAPULCO (Sun Valley)
FREE EntrÃ©e — Gigante Fajitas — ($17.99 value)
#8 DAPHNE’S GREEK CAFÃ‰ (Burbank)
FREE Half Chicken Plate — ($8.59 value)
#9 CLAIM JUMPERS (Northridge)
FREE Appetizer up to $14 — 12pc Chicken Wings — ($12.95 value)
#10 IHOP (North Hollywood)
FREE Rooty Tooty Fresh N” Fruity or entrÃ©e of equal value — ($7.49 value)
#11 FUDDRUCKERS (Burbank)
FREE 1/3 LB Burger — ($5.19 value)
#12 HOOTERS (Burbank)
FREE EntrÃ©e up to $7.99 — Grilled chicken burger — ($7.99 value)
#13 MOUNTASIA (Valencia)
FREE 1hr access to gas powered go-karts — (estimated value between $6.66 – $27.96)
#14 DAVE & BUSTERS (Arcadia)
FREE $10 GAME PLAY — Redeemed
#15 COLD STONE
FREE Create Your Own Creation in a cup — ($3.35 value)
FREE Create Your Own Creation in a cup (2011) — ($3.35 value)
#17 DEL TACO
FREE Premium Shake — ($2.69 value)
#18 WING STOP (Sepulveda / Van Owen)
FREE 5 Wings with any soft drink purchase — Estimated value $3.30
#19 ARBY’S (Van Owen / Van Nuys Blvd)
FREE 12oz Shake with any purchase — ($1.89 value)
Additional Sign-Up Locations
Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant
Maggiano’s Little Italy