Did Someone Say "Free"?

Now, as some of you may already know, there is almost nothing that Eric and I enjoy better than a good deal. Some might call us cheap; we prefer to be called “frugal.” It comes from being raised by moms who are garage sale fanatics, raised children on minimal incomes, and would go to great lengths to make the dollar stretch just a bit further. We have somehow inherited those cheap (erm, frugal) genes and revel in spending less than $10 a month on clothing, and keeping our house at 55 degrees all winter to lower the heating bill, and saving $60 on our $90 grocery bill last month (we were so proud of the receipt that we hung it on our fridge).

Next week marks one of the biggest jackpots of good deals (the best deals of which are free), my BIRTHDAY. I’m past the point of getting lots of gifts from family and friends—the reason that my birthday has become such a jackpot is that last year I discovered that there are many businesses and restaurants that give away FREE STUFF on your birthday! And that if you work hard to plan it all out, you can get enough food and free meals to last the next week. For example, I signed up for a few different birthday clubs last year via email. The companies send pesky emails all year long but they just get filtered to my junk mail box and I never bother with them. Then, a week before my birthday, I start carefully checking my junk mail and voila! Free ice cream from Cold Stone, free entrees from Noodles & Co and bd’s Mongolian BBQ, and a free appetizer from Macaroni Grill. I’m still waiting for my free Caribou Coffee coupon. Plus, I can get ½ dozen bagels for free at Zingerman’s Deli, a very famous (and very expensive) deli in Ann Arbor, and a free movie rental at Hollywood Video, and….well, I can hardly contain myself. You get the picture. The only problem is finding enough time to go to all these places to pick up the loot (and then finding time to eat it all).

On a side note, I was listening to NPR the other day while I was driving somewhere and they had a fascinating talk by a researcher on the psychology of “free stuff.” He actually experimented on kids using Halloween candy. What he found was that most people recognize a good deal when they see it, and are willing to pay a small amount of money for a very good deal. But when offered a really good deal for a small amount of money, and an OK deal for free, people almost always go for the free deal, which in the end is a “not as good” deal. HE cited thing like waiting in line for 3 hours for a free ice cream cone. Would that be worth it? I used to say yes, but say the ice cream costs $3, and as a resident physician I make the whopping sum of $10/hr (no, for real, I do). Shouldn’t my time be worth more than $1/hr? Of course. Perhaps I am sometimes blinded by the lure of free things. But once a year, maybe it’s OK to cash in.


Teresa said...

This is a fantastic idea; I feel completely inspired. I also heard that NPR story, and it did not de-rail any frugal part of me. Way to go! And happy birthday.

Ellen said...

You know we love freebies as much as you do... although we must admit that you've beat us hands down for the number of spots hit on a single day. : ) Now as one freebie lover to another, do you know of any b-day deals in Minneapolis? Will's birthday is coming up soon and we've got the feelers out, but so far no luck. Some of the establishments I called to see if they had any birthday specials gave me the most lame answer - "sure we have birthday specials. IF you order dessert after the meal, we'll bring a sparkler on it"!!!