Come November, once again I play the annual ‘how much free stuff can I rake in’ game! Every year I have friends asking how I manage to pull in so much for my birthday, so I’m sharing what I got this year and how I got it. A lot of these are through either email lists or phone apps, so the trade off is extra apps on your phone or lots of email throughout the year (or in my case, both). But it can be worth it! Some of these only really send something good at your birthday, others send good stuff year round – I’ve tried to note which ones are really worth signing up for.

This post is in chronological order of when I received the emails (I’m using my inbox to write this up). The list is naturally a little Chicago-centric, because that’s where I live, so there may be some chains not found in your area, or the offer might be different. Also, these offers can change year to year – I forgot to make a blog post last year (2017) but you can view my 2016 list and see how some of the offers have changed. I’ve noticed over the last few years a lot of what used to be a straight up free entree or dessert has changed to a buy-one-get-one-free (such as Flat Top or Cold Stone Creamery). Some of those don’t bother me too much – it’s not as much fun to get Flat Top alone, so I’d be going with a friend anyway.

So without further adieu – the 2018 birthday haul!

Hollywood Blvd Cinema http://www.hollywoodblvdcinema.com/ Hollywood Blvd is a unique dinner movie theatre in Woodridge, IL. There’s other similar places now, but when they opened the idea of waiters bringing food to you in your movie was new. They still stand out for their decorated auditoriums and their birthday offer – which is still 8 free movie tickets good the entire month of your birthday (except Fri/Sat). Their sister theatre, Hollywood Palms (formerly owned by the same people but now under different management) has cut back to only 4 free tickets. You still need to at least order a drink, but it’s still a great offer! To get it sign up on their birthday list, either with the paper slip they leave at your table in the theatre or on their website.

Hollywood Palms Cinema https://www.hollywoodpalmscinema.com/ As mentioned above, Palms and Blvd were formerly owned by the same people (Palms opened several years after Blvd), but a few years ago both moved under different management. This year Palms only sent 4 free tickets, but they are still good all month except for Fri and Sat. Sign up at the theatre or on their website to get this.

Medieval Times https://www.medievaltimes.com/ I’ve never gotten a chance to redeem this one but their offer hasn’t changed – free admission for the birthday person as long as you pay for one adult admission. One of these days… I will say, this place is best with a big enthusiastic group. I went last year for a holiday party with one of the conventions I staff and we were the loud, obnoxious cheering section for our knight and it was a blast! Sign up on their website to get this offer.

Superdawg Drive In http://www.superdawg.com/ A Chicago institution and worth visiting if you’ve never been! Sign up on their mailing list and you get a free Supersandwich and large soft drink (valid 30 days from birthday month). Plus if you give an anniversary date when signing up you get a treat then too (I believe a free dessert).

TGIFridays https://www.tgifridays.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and not only is it pretty easy to earn free food, for your birthday they do a free dessert! Good til a little over 2 weeks past the date (at least for me it is).

Red Robin https://www.redrobin.com/ Sign up for Royalty Rewards and get a free birthday burger, good all month! Plus other rewards – their program is pretty good and they send out good offers at times (like free appetizer this day or a free shake another day) plus every 11th burger is free.

Krispy Kreme https://www.krispykreme.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free donut and drink for your birthday, good all month. Plus they will periodically send out offers for rewards members like a free donut or a deal on a dozen.

Auntie Anne’s https://www.auntieannes.com/ Join their rewards program by downloading the app and get a free pretzel for your birthday, good the entire month. The freebie is only good on the classics – cinnamon or salted or just plain. You can also get a free pretzel for signing up and free pretzels or other offers on a regular basis.

AMC Theatres https://www.amctheatres.com/ Join their AMC Stubs program and get a free large popcorn, good the entire month of your birthday. Sign up on their website.

World Market https://www.worldmarket.com/ Join their reward program in store and get a 15% off your purchase coupon, good the entire month. They also send out other good coupons on a regular basis to reward members.

Hot Topic https://www.hottopic.com/ Join their rewards program and get a $5 birthday reward, good the entire month.

Walgreens Balance Rewards https://www.walgreens.com/ Sign up for Balance Rewards and for the month of your birthday, get 10X points (so 100 points per $1 spent). Great way to quickly reach a reward level – it’s good the entire month! Be sure to link your Health app to the Walgreens app, you’ll get points for the steps you walk too.

California Pizza Kitchen http://www.cpk.com/ Join their rewards program and get a free dessert, good anytime during your birthday month.

Torrid https://www.torrid.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a $10 reward, good anytime during your birthday month. They also will send pretty good coupons at times too!

Nintendo https://www.nintendo.com/ If you have a Nintendo account (like for a 3DS or Switch), they’ll send an email with a link to downloadable birthday wallpapers along with 30% off certain titles (it’s very limited – there’s like 12 games for 3DS and 5 for WiiU, none for Switch, but it is a pretty good deal if you are interested in any of the offered games)

Dippin’ Dots https://www.dippindots.com/home.html Sign up for their mailing list and get a coupon for a free small cup of Dippin’ Dots, good the entire month. A small cup is usually plenty for me so this is a good offer!

Kampai Steakhouse and Sushi Bar http://www.kampaisteakandsushi.com This is a teppanyaki style restaurant in Mt Prospect, IL and they send a $15 certificate, which is good for up to 3 months from your birthday month. Their food is great, and their prices are decent (about average for that style of restaurant). Another that is very local but if you are anywhere close enough to the place, it’s worth it.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt https://www.menchies.com/ Sign up for their My Smileage reward program and get a birthday reward worth $5, good the entire month. They will also send occasional offers throughout the year. Considering my cup usually rings up at around $6-7 (and I get a lot of toppings including a few heavy cherries), this is not a bad reward!

Pizza Hut https://www.pizzahut.com/ Sign up for their Hut Rewards program and get an offer for a free cinnamon sticks, good the entire month. They also send out good coupons regularly.

Buffalo Wild Wings https://www.buffalowildwings.com/ Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards and get a free snack size (7 pieces) wings for your birthday, good the entire month.

Buca di Beppo https://www.bucadibeppo.com/ One of my favorite restaurants! Sign up on their mailing list and get a free colossal brownie sundae for your birthday – this is a 4-person sundae! If you aren’t familiar with Buca, it’s Italian family style dining. You don’t order individual entrees, everything is meant for 3-4 people or more. So you pick your appetizer, entrees, sides, etc. and get enough for your whole table (small is for 3-4 people, large is like 7-8). Come hungry – the portions are MASSIVE, but absolutely delicious!

Melting Pot https://www.meltingpot.com/ Sign up for the mailing list and get a certificate for free chocolate covered strawberries, good for about a month past your birthday month. Their strawberries are delicious, definitely worth getting!

Flat Top Grill http://www.flattopgrill.com/ Sign up for their mailing list and get a coupon for buy one stir fry get one free for your birthday, good all month. This used to be just straight up a free meal but they changed to the BOGO a few years ago. Not a big deal, since I usually went with a friend anyway.

Olive Garden https://www.olivegarden.com/home Sign up on their mailing list and get a free dessert for your birthday, good for about two weeks before until one week after your birthday.

Tokyo Otaku Mode https://otakumode.com/shop Sign up on their mailing list and get a $5 off coupon for your birthday. This is one of the (many) sites I order Japanese toys & merchandise from.

Dairy Queen https://www.dairyqueen.com/ Sign up for their reward program (it’s now through their app) and get a buy one Blizzard get one free for your birthday, as well as $3 off an ice cream cake, good one week before to one week after your birthday. The app is well worth downloading anyway if you go there, because there’s like 4-5 coupons every week (usually buy one get one free, with some good discounts). They also are planning to add mobile ordering to the app at some point, and with it, the way to earn points with orders (presumably to then earn more freebies, on top of the coupons & freebies already on offer).

Corner Bakery https://www.cornerbakerycafe.com/ Sign up on their mailing list, get a free sweet (good until a week past your birthday). It’s only good on select items, but no other purchase seems to be required.

Golden Corral https://www.goldencorral.com/ Sign up on their mailing list and get a buy-one-buffet-get-one-free birthday offer. Yum!

Denny’s https://www.dennys.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and on your birthday get a free build-your-own Grand Slam. It’s only good on the actual day of your birthday but hey, good way to start the day right? They also send out periodic coupons, usually 20% off your bill, which is not bad.

Au Bon Pain http://www.aubonpain.com/ Sign up for their mailing list, and for your birthday get a free pastry & drink. You can also get a free travel mug which grants cheap coffee just for signing up, which is pretty worth it!

Arby’s https://arbys.com/ Sign up on their mailing list, get a free signature sandwich with drink purchase for your birthday. It’s good for a week from the email send, for me it expires on my birthday. Their new gyros sandwich is fantastic, just sayin’! (it’s also good for reuben, brisket, or loaded Italian)

Steak & Shake https://www.steaknshake.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free specialty milkshake with purchase, good for one week past your birthday.

Miller’s Ale House https://millersalehouse.com/ Sign up on their mailing list and get a coupon for a free dessert OR free Zinger’s (chicken tenders), good for up to one week past your birthday.

Cold Stone Creamery https://www.coldstonecreamery.com/ Sign up for their email club and get a Buy-One-Get-One-Free offer for your birthday, good for up to a week past. It’s good for any size with one mix-in, as long as both are the same size (and seriously, the Love It is plenty – I don’t think I could manage to finish a Gotta Have It size!)

Lou Malnati’s https://www.loumalnatis.com/ My favorite Chicago pizza! Sign up on their email list, get a free dessert with $10 minimum purchase. Good for 14 days from email send (I got mine a week before my birthday so basically a week before and a week after).

Wingstop http://www.wingstop.com/ Sign up for their email list and get a coupon for a free order of fries (no purchase necessary) for your birthday. Good for a week past your birthday. I love their fries, almost more than their wings, so this is one of my favorites! I actually made a lunch of my Wingstop fries & Auntie Anne’s pretzel one afternoon. 🙂

Red Lobster https://www.redlobster.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a birthday reward, which is good a couple weeks past your birthday. I’m not sure if the reward is the same for everyone – I noticed when I’ve gotten other rewards from the program, the choices change. But for my birthday I had the option of free dessert, free lobster & shrimp roll, or free langostino pizza appetizer (we went with the pizza).

Gameworks https://www.gameworks.com/ Sign up on their email list and get $10 of free game play for your birthday, good for a few days past the day.

Halal Guys https://thehalalguys.com/en/ Sign up for their reward program (this is through an app), and get a free platter for your birthday. Good for a little over 3 weeks past the day. They also regularly send decent offers (free fries, free sides, etc) throughout the year.

Einstein Bros Bagels https://www.einsteinbros.com/ Sign up for their reward program and get a free birthday egg sandwich with purchase, good for 14 days from email send date (for me it expires just a little over a week past my birthday)

Baskin Robbins https://www.baskinrobbins.com/ Sign up for their email list and get a free ice cream (either a kids size scoop or a 3 oz soft serve swirl), good for a few days past your birthday. They also send out coupons periodically throughout the year.

Longhorn Steakhouse https://www.longhornsteakhouse.com/home Sign up for their email list and get a free dessert with adult entree purchase, good for about 10 days past your birthday.

Sprinkles Cupcakes http://sprinkles.com/ Home of the cupcake ATM machine, sign up for their Sprinkles Perks reward program and get a free cupcake for your birthday. It’s good for about three weeks past your birthday. Their cupcakes are AMAZING and honestly, I think it’s a good thing they’re a bit of a hike from my workplace (they’re all the way up by the Water Tower and I’m by Millennium Park). If they were closer I would be buying way too many cupcakes from them!

Old Country Buffet http://www.oldcountrybuffet.com/ Sign up for their email list, get a Buy-One-Get-One-Free buffet, good for 30 days from the email send (which I got a couple days ahead of my birthday).

Naf Naf https://nafnafgrill.com/ Sign up for their rewards program (it’s an app), and get a free entree for your birthday, good for 7 days past your birthday. Their rewards program is pretty good, with lots of freebies or decent deals throughout the year.

Meatheads https://www.meatheadsburgers.com/ Sign up for their rewards program (through their app), and get a $7 credit to use. It’s good for 30 days from the email, which came a few days before my birthday.

Potbelly https://www.potbelly.com/ Sign up for their Potbelly Perks program (through their app) and get a free cookie for your birthday, good for 30 days from email send (which came a few days before my birthday). This is definitely a great program, they frequently add good coupons or freebies and if you spend enough (make sure to scan that QR code every transaction) you get extra perks. The highest perk level nets you free cookies every day at a certain time!

Benihana https://www.benihana.com/ Sign up for their email list and get a $30 certificate for your birthday. It’s good Mon-Thurs at dinner only, good for a couple weeks past your birthday, and requires a full price adult entree purchase. Still not a bad deal even with those restrictions – my other teppanyaki restaurants are usually only a $15 reward.

Starbucks https://www.starbucks.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free birthday drink, good on the day of your birthday only (it used to be longer, boo). That’s the time to try the wild expensive drink you’ve been curious about! While I’m a little sad the birthday drink is only good for one day now, it’s still a worthwhile reward program. I’m not even much of a coffee drinker (like, ristretto shots drowning in milk and mocha is all I can take) but I have been a gold member for years. They make it pretty easy to get stars and every 125 stars nets you a reward, which is good for one free drink or one free food item.

Godiva https://www.godiva.com/ Sign up for their mailing list and get a $10 off min $10 purchase, good for the month of your birthday.

IKEA https://www.ikea.com/us/en/ Sign up for their IKEA Family program (even if you don’t have a family!) and for your birthday they’ll mail a postcard with two coupons – a free meatball entree & dessert in the cafe, and $15 off your purchase. Both are good for the whole month. Make sure to scan your IKEA Family card in the kiosk in the store, too, it will enter you in a drawing for a gift card and there are sometimes exclusive coupons just for IKEA Family members.

Famous Dave’s https://www.famousdaves.com/ Sign up for their mailing list, and get a buy one entree, get one half off that’s good for 2 weeks from email date (which came the day before my birthday).

Cinnabon https://www.cinnabon.com/ Sign up on their email list and get a free iced coffee, good until the end of the month.

Fire Mountain Gems https://www.firemountaingems.com/ Sign up for their mailing list, and get a 10% off coupon that’s good for about a month and a half. This website is great if you make jewelry – especially their stacking discounts. Definitely save up and get a lot of different things at once (if you get 15 items or more, even if they’re different things, the discounts kick in).

Applebee’s https://www.applebees.com/en Sign up on their mailing list and get a free dessert with an entree purchase, good for about a month past your birthday.

Regal Crown Cinema https://www.regmovies.com/crown-club Sign up for their Crown Club and get a free small popcorn, good for a month past your birthday.

TomboyX https://tomboyx.com/ Sign up for an account and add your birthday in the profile, get 125 bonus points in the rewards program for your birthday. These are my new favorite underwear, super comfy, in my size, and the style I like! They will replace or refund your first pair if you don’t like them, so it doesn’t hurt to try.

Marcus Theatres http://www.marcustheatres.com/ Sign up for Magical Movie Rewards and get a free fountain drink, good for a month past your birthday. They have $5 tickets all day on Tuesday, which is a great way to see movies without breaking the bank.

Jersey Mike’s https://www.jerseymikes.com/ Sign up on their mailing list and get a free sub & drink for your birthday. This one has the best expiration date – it’s good until a day before your NEXT birthday! A whole year! Plus they’ll send out good coupons periodically.

Half Price Books https://www.hpb.com/ Sign up on their email list and get a 15% off your entire purchase coupon, good for a couple weeks past your birthday. They also will send out coupons periodically, including the occasional 40% or 50% off one item coupon.

Quiznos http://www.quiznos.com/home.aspx Sign up for their rewards program (this one is an app now) and get 10 bonus points for your birthday. They’ll also add rewards pretty frequently, discounts or freebies.

Culver’s https://www.culvers.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free small sundae for your birthday, good for a couple weeks past. You also get a freebie for signing up and occasional coupons via email.

Subway https://www.subway.com/en-US Sign up for their new rewards program (it’s an app) and get a free cookie on your birthday, good for about two weeks past. You can get a $2 reward once you earn enough points, which is not bad!

Panera Bread http://panerabread.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free birthday pastry, for about a week past the day. They also will add in coupons or freebies if you visit enough and make sure to give your info (so the visit gets logged). I love their Rapid Pickup option, especially now that there’s a location half mile from my house. I can order at home and it’s on the shelf by the time I get there.

Honeybaked Ham https://www.honeybaked.com/ Sign up for their mailing list and get a buy one get one free classic ham sandwich for your birthday, good for a week past.

Noodles & Co https://www.noodles.com/ Sign up for their rewards program and get a free birthday rice krispy treat, expiration uncertain. They used to do a free bowl, which I much preferred (I’m not a big fan of their rice krispies)

GameStop https://www.gamestop.com/ Sign up for their PowerUp Rewards program and get a coupon code good for 20% off one used game for your birthday, good until the end of the month. I like this because I can use it to get a higher priced used game – I picked up Mario Kart 8 for the Switch this year and knocked the price down to around $44 (not bad for a pretty new game).

Bath & Body Works http://www.bathandbodyworks.com/ Sign up for their rewards program (it’s an app now) and get a free product (up to $6 value) with purchase for your birthday, good for a couple weeks past. This one snuck in – I never got an email but I opened the app and saw it in there. This one is a pretty good reward program, if you spend enough you get a free product up to $16.50 value, and they’re always sending decent coupons. I’ve raked in a lot of freebies since the new reward program began.

That’s pretty much it for this year, other than a few birthday emails from forums and miscellaneous reward points. As always, rewards often change from year to year, but it doesn’t hurt to sign up for anything you might be interested in! You never know if rewards will change for the better (the IKEA free meal and discount are new this year, and I’ve been in their reward program for a couple years now). I get a lot of different ones, and I do not always redeem everything (especially this year, as I got a stomach bug right after Thanksgiving which curtailed going out for free food right as many offers were expiring). Plus everyone has different tastes – I especially love the free ice cream offers (Culver’s, Cold Stone, Dairy Queen) but I’m not a fan of popcorn so I don’t care about getting my freebies from Regal or AMC. Someone else may love popcorn but feel it’s too cold in November to get free ice cream. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for programs, especially the ones I highlighted that give great discounts and freebies throughout the year!