Celebrating your birthday in 2020 is, to say the least, interesting. I contemplated having a Zoom birthday, but frankly - I'm tired of talking to people through screens, and figured that would just make me further compare things to the beforetimes and make me more sad.
Thus, I present to you, an alternate self-indulging birthday extravaganza - the Birthday Freebie Crawl.
NOTE: I've purposefully left a few well-known birthday deals off this list (eg Boston Pizza, Red Lobster, Benihana, Wish, etc.) namely ones that require you to spend a bunch of money in order to take advantage of the deal.
24hr diner chain, Denny's will serve you a Grand Slam Breakfast on your birthday. No need to sign up for anything in advance - just make sure you have your ID on you.
If you sign up for KFC's VIP rewards program, they'll send you a coupon for free popcorn chicken, valid for up to 4 weeks after the big day.
Sign up for Pita Pit's rewards program at least 3 days before your birthday, and they'll add enough rewards points to your account for a free meal.
South St. Burger's Birthday Club rewards your revolution around the sun with a Buy-One-Get-One Free burger coupon, valid for two weeks.
Sign up for the Burger with Benefits newsletter at The Works, and they'll give you with a free starter with the purchase of a burger - valid for all of 90 days after your date of birth.
I sure hope you like bubble tea, because Chatime is one of three shops offering birthday celebrators a free bubble tea. Sign up for their rewards program in-store, and the offer will be texted to you the week before your birthday. It's valid up to a week afterward.
Jet Fuel Coffee will gift you with a a celebratory cuppa joe in your honour.
Bubble Tea #2! OneZo, purveyors of, in my opinion, the best tapioca in the city, has a free bubble tea waiting for you on your birthday if you download their app, and sign up for their loyalty program. Valid the week before, til the week after, your birthday. (Apple/Android)
SNACKs + Sweets
Baskin Robbins will gift you with BOGO on their ice cream scoops - so either bring a friend, befriend a stranger... or, best idea: indulge in a double scoop - you deserve it, it's your birthday... besides, there aren't nearly enough free instances of junk food for you to celebrate with. Sign up for Club 31, and they'll email you the coupon two days before the big day.
Sign up for their newsletter, and the fine folks at Cob's Bread will give you a giant (and I mean GIANT) cinnamon bun for free in celebration.
Canadian fast food chain, Harvey's, will give you a free pie on your birthday if you sign up for their newsletter! Confession - prior to this freebie, I had never tried, nor desired to try, their pie. I'm not sure if it's because I was exhausted from running around the city collecting freebies, but my quasi-famished self thought their apple pie was crazy delicious when she finally dug in!
Opt in for the email list at Hotel Gelato at least 48 hours before your birthday, and they'll send you a coupon for some free gelato.
Everyone's favourite gothy Toronto ice cream establishment, iHalo Krunch, will give you a free cone of ice cream on your birthday. A heads up though - they are closed on Mondays (a fact my Monday birthday-ed self was very, very sad to discover).
Panera Bread's version of birthday celebrations involves baked goods. Join the myPanera email list, and they'll send you a coupon, valid for up to a week.
You can never go wrong with a pantry well-stocked with bagels. What A Bagel offers birthday babes a B6G6 deal - so you're getting your dozen rounds of dough for half price.
Pamper yourself with the gift of KNOWLEDGE! If you sign up for Indigo's plum rewards program, they'll give you 20% off your purchase during your birthday month.
Sign up for Kiehl's rewards loyalty program, and get a free gift in-store. I received a mango lipbalm tube that a few of my friends swear by, but if you're higher up on their rewards tier (aka, have spent more money), you'll get a free travel kit. Perfect for all those exotic travel destinations you'll be hitting up later this year, right?
Last but certainly not least - Sephora's birthday gift of deluxe samples is always a keeper. Make sure you sign up for their free Beauty Insider program, and you'll get an email reminding you to pick up your gift two weeks before/two weeks after your birthday/the month of the big day.
A few reminders...
Give yourself a head start. Sign up for the necessary newsletters and loyalty programs two weeks beforehand. Most programs will require you to sign up a few days in advance. Two weeks is a safe amount of time.
Call in advance. Some coupons/offers are only available at certain store locations. Check in advance so you're not wasting your, or their time!
Make sure you bring your ID! Many places will ask for proof that it's actually your big day.
Wash yo' hands. The pandemic doesn't care that it's your birthday. If anything, the fact that you're now older just means that you're THAT much more susceptible to its wiles. Bring hand sanitizer with you, wear that mask, and please be a decent human being.
Pace yourself! Most of these freebies are valid for a week, or more, after your birthday. Taking it slow has multiple upsides. One: you won't crash from sugar/fat induced shock and sink into the dark hole that is the realization you are old and can't digest deliciously processed foods like you used to. Two: you get to celebrate your birthday for A WHOLE WEEK+!
And most importantly... DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE! Yes, as grateful as humanity is for your continued existence, don't start off your brand new year with assholery. Bring along some change so you can easily tip your waiters/cashiers. When you arrive at an establishment, ask staff if your coupon/offer is valid BEFORE making the order so as to avoid any awkward confrontations. If they say no, show them the emails/coupons/website documentation you have, but don't push the issue. Especially during these tough economic times, restaurants may change or nullify their programs, and they have every right to do so! Be kind, be courteous, and be grateful for your bounty of free stuff.
As a bit of inspiration: here's some footage from the Birthday Freebie Crawl I gifted myself on November 9th!
One Last Thing!
Is this too much freebie awesomeness for you to process in paragraph form? Are you like me, and just really, really, really like spreadsheets? Look no further than this Excel document here: