I spent the week of my birthday scouring New York City for birthday freebies and discounts.
In total, I visited 10 businesses around the city and saved nearly $140.
I strategized by signing up for rewards programs early and spreading my search out over several days.
I love free things (who doesn't?)! And since many brands offer birthday freebies, I recently decided to see how much free stuff I could get ahead of my 25th birthday.
Over approximately one week, I stopped by 10 stores around New York City and received many gifts, from a dozen donuts to a handful of beauty samples. In total, I scored $138.57 worth of stuff.
But this was no easy feat. I started planning at least a week ahead, plotting out the places I knew had discounts or freebies and entering them all into a spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet started with dozens of stores that offer birthday discounts. I whittled down the list by determining which brands don't have locations in New York City and which ones had the best deals.
I had to figure out which ones required you to sign up for their rewards program before you receive a birthday gift — it's most of them.
To make sure I qualified for each one, I started signing up at least a week ahead of my birthday.
Three days before my actual birthday, I headed out to start collecting freebies. My first stop: Krispy Kreme.
The experiment started off strong. About a week before my visit, I had signed up for a Krispy Kreme rewards account, which is required if you want a birthday treat.
When I got to the store, I told the employee it was the week of my birthday and showed her an email I'd received that promised a free box of a dozen donuts anytime during my birthday month.
She asked for my phone number, confirmed my name, and passed over a toasty-warm box of glazed donuts worth $15.29 free of charge. My sense of victory made them taste that much sweeter.
I'm a benevolent being, so I brought the donuts to my office in New York to share with my coworkers.
As if hitting up one doughnut shop wasn't enough, I dragged my coworker across the street from our office to Dunkin' later that day.
Even though I had signed up for their "DD Perks" about a week in advance, I still hadn't received a coupon for their promised birthday beverage, but I gave it a shot anyway.
The employees initially told me they couldn't offer me a free drink. But after some explaining (and perhaps to get me to stop talking), they asked for my order and handed me a medium iced coffee, valued at about $3.19.
After finishing up my iced coffee at a nearby park, my coworker and I took a short walk over to Sephora.
I'm a Sephora rewards member already, so they started emailing me early in July about cashing in on birthday rewards, and I couldn't wait to snag mine.
This year, Sephora's rewards members — or "beauty insiders," as they call them — can choose between a Laura Mercier, Amika, or Tatcha mini set, or 250 bonus points.
I opted for an Amika mini set of dry shampoo, a "nourishing" hair mask, and an "instant shine" hair mask, which, according to one Reddit sleuth, is worth about $10.82.
Amika's birthday mini set is worth a little more than $10 for three hair-care products.
I love free beauty samples, and I'm also already an Ulta rewards member, so after work, I took the train to Midtown Manhattan to visit Ulta.
Sadly, when I asked an employee for my free birthday gift, she said they'd already sold out of them for the month.
I left the store empty-handed and pretty bummed, making Ulta the first flop of my experiment. Since you can grab your birthday gift as soon as they send you the coupon, I plan to score mine earlier in the month next year.
The employee suggested ordering the gift online, but I'd have to pay $7 worth of shipping and handling. I decided it wouldn't be worth it for a travel-sized mascara.
I ended the day with a visit to Times Square, home to one of the only Olive Gardens in New York City. I didn't love getting jostled about in the busy tourist destination, but I thought it was a fair price to pay for a freebie.
Olive Garden doesn't require you to sign up for any rewards memberships to get a complimentary dessert on your birthday, so I dragged my roommate to Times Square to get some fine Italian dining.
I told the waiter it was my birthday, and he returned with a fleet of employees who clapped, sang, and delivered a slice of cake worth $12.29. I was mostly delighted and only a little bit embarrassed.
Olive Garden's black tie mousse cake is valued at $12.29.
While not technically a freebie, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a seriously discounted tattoo. So the next day, I headed to Uplift, a tattoo studio in Soho that offers a 25% birthday discount.
Nothing's ever really free, is it? That was the case with this one: The tattoo wasn't free, but it was 25% off, which is a pretty good deal for body art in New York City.
The tattoo ended up being $75 off.
Mom, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. I know. My body is a temple.
When I got home that night, I was pleasantly surprised to see I had an email from Delta Air Lines. I wasn't planning on flying any time soon, but I was happy to add 500 free miles to my rewards account.
As a Delta SkyMiles member, the airline offered me a choice between three birthday gifts: 500 free miles (which is only worth about $5), a voucher for two free drinks, or $500 off a flight and hotel purchase of more than $6,000.
Because I'm not planning on spending $6,000 on flights anytime soon, I opted for the 500 miles, which were added to my account.
A few days later, on my actual birthday, Chipotle sent over a birthday coupon for a free bag of chips and a side, about a $6.15 value.
To get your free birthday guac or queso, you have to sign up for Chipotle rewards at least a week before your birthday.
Because it was raining in New York and I hadn't bought groceries for the week, I opted to treat myself to delivery. As a huge fan of Chipotle's chips, I loved that this freebie came to me.
I highly recommend using your promo code on a delivery order.
Four days after my birthday, I went to frozen-yogurt shop Pinkberry to score their birthday treat: a free small swirl with toppings.
Pinkberry rewards members can get the birthday swirl if they sign up for an account. I signed up a week before my birthday to make sure I'd be eligible.
I loaded up a small cup with $7.64-worth of mango frozen yogurt, fruit, and mochi. Considering the serious heat this summer, I was glad of the cold, sweet afternoon treat.
Finally, I wrapped up my birthday freebie experiment with a visit to Panera in New York City's Koreatown.
Panera offers rewards members a free pastry or dessert on their birthday and doesn't require you to make a purchase to qualify.
I picked out a flip-flop-shaped sugar cookie worth $3.19 for my birthday treat.
Not every store was a success. Some of the birthday "freebies" required a purchase I just wasn't willing to make, while others had rules that I wasn't aware of.
Milk Bar, a popular bakery with locations in New York City, offered me a free tin of cookies for my birthday treat. But there was a catch — to get the cookies, you had to buy one of their cakes, which start at $62.
Even though I'm a sucker for cake, and I'm sure it's as delicious as the rest of Milk Bar's sweets, I couldn't justify spending $62 on a cake to get a few extra cookies.
BareMinerals offers rewards members a birthday gift, but you have to buy something first. Because I didn't need any more beauty products than I already have, I opted not to go for this one.
The birthday gift from BareMinerals is only available to rewards members, who also must buy something online to qualify.
Starbucks offers rewards members a free birthday drink, but only if they've made a "star-eligible purchase" before the day of their birthday. I didn't realize this in time and missed out on my birthday freebie.
About two weeks before my birthday, I signed up for Starbucks' rewards program and downloaded their app, excited to receive a much-needed pick-me-up.
But I failed to read the fine print in time, which explained the whole "star-eligible purchase" thing, so I missed out on a free Starbucks drink.
Overall, this was a fun experience, and I'll do it again, though not to the same extent. Now that I've done much of the legwork, I plan to redeem a few birthday freebies at my leisure next year.
Overall, I thought Krispy Kreme and Olive Garden offered some of the best birthday deals.
Because of the number of donuts you get at Krispy Kreme, I'd definitely go back next year to get a box to share with friends.
The cake from Olive Garden was delicious, and it felt like a throwback to my childhood when the staff came out singing, so I think I could be convinced to return for another birthday treat.
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