Do Good. Dine Out. Save Money.

The NoKidHungry program is partnering with restaurants around the country this month to help feed underprivileged kids. You donate a little bit of money, making you feel good about yourself, and you get a little bit of savings. Win-win!

  • If you have a Corner Bakery near you, from now until September 28th, if you go in and donate $5 to NoKidHungry, you’ll get a book of coupons that will save you over $25 in the cafe. If you donate $1, you get a free Whoopie Pie.
  • Donate $1 or more at Togos, and get a free 20 oz. fountain drink.
  • Macaroni Grill will give you $10 off your bill if you donate $5 or $5 off if you donate $2.
  • Like seafood? Joe’s Crab Shack is offering a $20 off coupon (bill must be at least $40) for a $10 donation or $10 off (bill must be at least $20) for a $5 donation. Buy it online because the coupon isn’t good until October 1, 2014 but it doesn’t expire until December 22, 2014. If you’re going to Happy Hour, this is a very good deal.

You can search for participating restaurants in your area here.

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Go shawty! It’s ya birthday!

My birthday was last week and because I’m cheap and I like free things, I enjoy pulling the birthday card at restaurants. Who doesn’t want a free dessert?!?!  I’m signed up with all of the loyalty clubs & mobile apps at the local and chain restaurants that I frequent.  They love to send you a freebie for your big day.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been enjoying for the last couple weeks (maybe even multiple times…)

  • Baja Fresh – Coupon for a free burrito
  • Rubios – Free meal (up to $7)
  • Corner Bakery – Free baked good of my choice (I chose the blueberry hand pie. Sooooo good)
  • McCormick & Schmick/Landry’s – $25 account credit towards food purchase (alcohol is excluded) (Side note: You pay $25 to “join” this club, but you are issued a $25 “Reward” once the card is registered. Totally worth it)
  • PinkBerry – A free small yogurt with toppings
  • Benihana – $30 birthday certificate (Has some time & day restrictions and an additional adult meal must be purchased. But still a great deal.)
  • ZPizza – A free small pizza with purchase of equal or greater value.
  • Pasta Pomodoro – One free entree
  • Starbucks – ANY free drink on my birthday.
  • Daphne’s Greek – Free meal (Up to $5)

These are places I go to fairly regularly. I appreciate the kind birthday wishes.  Even Virgin Airlines is in on the birthday gifting. They sent me a promo code for 10% off a flight. Too bad I’m not planning any trips.

 

Cheapotle

I love Mexican food and all things pretending to be Mexican food. I also (usually) try to eat healthy. I LOVE Chipotle. I can buy a veggie bowl at lunch for $6.25 and make it into lunch AND dinner. Their portions are huge.

Chipotle has a whole “secret menu” where you can substitute items or ask for extras, at no charge. As far as I know, they only charge extra for extra meat.

  • Substitute chips for rice in a burrito bowl to make loaded nachos at no extra charge
  • Ask for both of the varieties of beans instead of one at no extra charge
  • Ask for more than one salsa at no extra charge
  • Ask for the fajita veggies with your entree at no extra charge
  • Ask for the included guacamole on the side if you’re ordering a meatless entree. (Chipotle’s guacamole is #1 on my list. I’ve never had a nasty tasting bite of guac there. Ever.)

Syncing has its privileges

Because I’m an avid Costco shopper, I’m also an American Express cardholder. It’s the only credit card Costco takes. I rarely use the card anywhere else because their cashback earning level is a joke.

In an attempt to lure my card out of Costco, AmEx has introduced the AmExSync program.  AmExSync lets me add special statement credit deals to my card via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor. The deals change frequently and I have to log in and choose the ones I want to use. Right now I’ll get a $5 statement credit if I spend $15 at Panera and a $25 statement credit if I spend $100 at J. Crew. The deals they offer are usually 25% back or more. Not too shabby.

OpenTable

I love free things. And I hate waiting. I’m cheap AND impatient. It’s an awesome combo.

For these reasons, I’ve been a member of the free restaurant reservation website OpenTable for years. OpenTable lets me make restaurant reservations all over the world for free and I earn dining checks just for showing up! Each reservation earns 100 points (some restaurants even offer 1,000 points for slower time periods). At 2,000 points, I can redeem for a $20 dining check! I can use the dining check at any restaurant in the OpenTable system and I always make a reservation for the redemption meal (thereby earning another 100 points). I use the site when I travel, too. I’ve made reservations from Alaska, to Hawaii, to Florida.

OpenTable also lets me make reservations for other people. Everyone in my family is on my account. They call me when they want a reservation and I earn the points. When I was an assistant, I made reservations for my boss and anyone else who asked. I racked up points and dining checks like crazy. If you are an assistant, you need to get an OpenTable account. If you just like to eat and you like free stuff, you too should get an account.

California Eatin’

It’s January and that means it’s California Restaurant Month!  You can enjoy special pricing, prix-fixe menus, special wine pairings, and special events at tons of great restaurants across the state. It’s a great chance to check out that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.

Check to see if the restaurant is on OpenTable so you can earn your dining checks. Also, it’s 5% bonus cashback quarter at restaurants (and movie theaters) on your Discover card if you’ve added the deal to your card.

Check out the Life In California page for links to other cities and areas.

Cheap Eats

Restaurants like to boost their sales in the final month of the year.  To entice you to buy their gift cards, they usually offer a “bonus” gift card for use at a later date.  This can be a pretty decent savings if you are a regular at a restaurant offering these bonus cards.  You’re going to eat there anyway. Why not get some savings? Nobody said that you actually had to give the cards as gifts.

  • PF Chang’s is currently offering a $20 bonus card, when you buy $100 in gift cards. Adding to that deal, if you’re a Bank of America customer, BankAmeriDeals is offering 10% cash back on PF Chang’s purchases. My net payout on $120 in gift cards would cost me $90. That’s pretty much an entire free meal for two.
  • California Pizza Kitchen is also giving out a $20 bonus card with the purchase of $100 in gift cards. And just like PF Chang’s, if you’re a Bank of America customer, BankAmeriDeals is offering 10% cash back on your spending in CPK.
  • Roy’s is offering a $25 bonus card when you buy $100 in gift cards.  If you’re going to Hawaii in the next couple months and can use the bonus card, you can have an extra good meal.
  • The Cheesecake Factory’s offer is pretty weak, but if you eat there regularly, you might as well take the free slice of cheesecake they’re offering for each $25 gift card that you purchase. (Side note: I went in to buy a $25 gift card last night. My receipt included a survey code that netted me a $10 eGiftCard. A free $10 gift card AND a slice of cheesecake. Score!!!)
  • Yard House will give you a $10 bonus card for each $50 gift card that you buy.
  • Panera jumped on the bandwagon, too with a $10 bonus gift card when you buy $100 or more in gift cards.  That’s a free meal.
  • Chili’s is offering a $10 bonus card when you buy $50 in gift cards.
  • Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation will treat you to a free meal pass for every $50 in gift cards that you buy.
  • BJ’s offer is damn near offensive. Don’t waste your money. Who the hell wants some stupid glass?

Always check out the gift card bonuses offered at your favorite restaurants. And make sure to check out the fine print on the bonus gift cards before you buy. They usually are not valid until January 1 and they tend to expire shortly thereafter.