Looking for something free to do this Sunday?

Get free admission to The California Academy Of Science this Sunday! Go bright and early because it’s bound to be crowded. When you get in, go straight for the Planetarium ticket counter and get your show tickets. Then go get in line for the rainforest. It’s a fun place for kids and adults.

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Fun cheap stuff to do in San Francisco

You might be looking for something to do that is both fun and cheap.  This is the place to start. I don’t remember how I found this site, but I love it.

Their “About” page says it all:

“Going out and having fun in San Francisco is just too expensive. That’s why we started FunCheap – A free website where cheap bastards like ourselves get together to share tips and recommend free and affordable upcoming events to one another.”

Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll never have a boring weekend again. They also have giveaways most weeks! This cheap bitch loves these cheap bastards.

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.

The library. It’s more than just free books.

Every few months I get on a reading kick and read several books in a row. I only read a book once, so I rarely buy them. I borrow them from the library. My county library systems lets me put “Holds” on the books that I want to read. They e-mail me when they’re available and have them waiting for me on a special shelf. It’s like ordering takeout. You just walk in and pick them up. I’m in and out in less than 60 seconds.

I’m a “card holder” at two different county systems in my area (Contra Costa & Alameda Counties). Both offer the “Discover & Go” program. Each “card holder” gets free or discounted admission tickets to different museums, botanical gardens, and aquariums around the area.  The number of tickets is limited by how popular the attraction is and what day of the week you want to go.  But, it’s definitely worth looking into if you want to get out and do something free or cheap. You do have to do some planning ahead, as you have to log into the library’s link to reserve your admission and print your tickets. It’s not something where you just show up and flash your library card and get in.

It seems to be limited to the San Francisco Bay Area, but I would imagine/hope other libraries around the country offer similar programs. The Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, PeninsulaSan Jose, Redwood City, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Marin, Oakland and many other library systems offer the program.

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.

Goldstar

When I’m too lazy to search Stubhub or when I just need something fun and cheap, there’s Goldstar to lend a reduced-price hand. Discounted (and once in a while free (with a small service charge)) things to do in most metro areas. Cirque du Soleil shows, concerts, Disney On Ice, comedians, plays, tours, NFL/NHL/MLB/NBA games and lots of other attractions.

Events for less popular show times are sometimes heavily discounted.  Luckily I live near San Francisco so there’s always something going on in the area.  I’ve paid nearly half price for a few different Cirque du Soleil shows (on weekday evenings) and enjoyed every one of them.  Same show, half the price!