How To Have a “Treat Yo Self” Birthday (and Pay Next to Nothing with Freebies)

published Jan 30, 2017
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(Image credit: Nacho Such)

If you’re a Parks & Recreation fan, you know all about the “treat yo self” movement—where you don’t tell yourself “no,” and you just do and buy all the things your heart desires (if you don’t, this clip from the show will clear things up… and while you’re at it, add it to your Netflix queue). Want a pair of expensive designer shoes? A lavish meal? A full spa day and a limo ride to bring you there? The answer always remains the same: treat yourself. You can have it all—the only problem is, in real life, it’ll cost you.

Watching Donna and Tom go on their annual spending spree always made me want to follow in their footsteps, but my—and most people’s—budget doesn’t exactly allow for Treat Yo Self levels of spending (trust me, if I could afford that spa day, I’d take it in a heartbeat). Right now my budget’s more like “You still have student loans to pay so you probably shouldn’t order Seamless again this week” levels.

But there’s one day of the year when you can experience a little bit of that treat yo self magic without maxing out your credit card, and it’s a day you should be taking advantage of it to the fullest: your birthday. So many stores and restaurants offer specials that, if you plan it out right (and sign up for a few email lists), you can have a full day of fun and indulgence and still hold onto your cash in the process.

Here’s how to go about your birthday the Treat Yo Self way…

9 AM: But First, Coffee

Whether you’re a Starbucks loyalist or the runs-on-Dunkin type, you’re in luck—both offer freebies on your birthday if you’re a rewards member. At Dunkin Donuts, you can get a free beverage, and at Starbucks, you can get either a beverage or a treat.

Since I live in New York City and they’re each on just about every other block, I’d go for the best of both worlds—a coffee at Dunkin Donuts, followed by some bakery goodness at Starbucks. (Alternately, if you’re not really the coffee and croissant type, you can stop at Jamba Juice for a free smoothie if you’re a rewards member.) But the point is, your birthday breakfast? Totally free.

10 AM: Go Get Glam

Beauty junkies know that the one thing you never pass up on your birthday is a trip to Sephora to get your free birthday gift—it changes every year, but it’s usually some sample-sized cosmetics or skin-care goodness that might just change your life, or at least become your new favorite. I’d head there next, grab my gift, and then make my way to my next beauty destination: the Benefit BrowBar.

At Benefit, you can get a free brow arch service the week of your birthday—and you don’t even have to be a rewards member, just have a valid photo ID. So, this way you can stop in and get a little pampered before the rest of your plans. That leaves you with new makeup, flawless brows, and not a penny spent.

12 PM: Lunch Break

How you spend lunch is totally up to you: Are you having a solo indulgence day? Are you meeting your partner, your mom or some friends? Whatever your plan is, most restaurants have some sort of birthday special. Your lunch likely won’t be entirely free, but you can get serious discounts and some freebies like free appetizers (to pick the perfect place for you, The Penny Hoarder has a list of 100 places to get birthday freebies, and most are restaurants).

2 PM: Choose Your Own Adventure

This part really depends on where you live and what you like to do. If you live near a Harkins movie theater (mostly in the Southwestern U.S.) you can get a free medium popcorn just by showing your ID at the box office—you’ll still have to pay for the movie ticket, though. Prefer bowling? AMF loyalty members get some free bowling on their birthday, or if arcade games are more your style, you can go to Dave & Buster’s and claim $10 of free gameplay. (Helpful Hint: You can also check with local attractions to see if they offer any special birthday discounts, and plan your afternoon around those.)

6 PM: Dessert for Dinner

Nothing says “treat yourself” like indulging your inner kid, skipping your vegetables and going right for dessert for dinner. And the good news is, you have so many options—you can head to Pinkberry for a free yogurt, Baskin-Robbins for a free scoop of ice cream, Sprinkles for a free cupcake, or Rita’s or Cinnabon for a free treat. You can also go full-on sweet tooth and make consecutive stops at a few of them… at least, that’s what I—and Tom and Donna—would do.