If you know me, you know I am the queen of balling on a budget. I’ve been low income my whole life, and that hasn’t changed since I moved into my own place. Most students go through a point where money is tight, and those seasons definitely suck. Many people think that when money is tight, you can’t afford to treat yourself, even a little bit. Well, for the sake of my mental health (and my sweet tooth), I couldn’t let that be true. So, I have found ways to get points, rewards, and coupons for free snacks, sweets, and treats, and I’m here to share them with you!
- T Mobile Tuesdays: I just found out about this recently, and I am so glad that I did! If you have a phone line with T Mobile, they offer a program called T Mobile Tuesdays. You download the app, and every Tuesday, the app is updated with coupons, deals, prizes, and more, just for being a T Mobile customer! Often, they give freebies and coupons to some of my favorite spots, like Kung Fu Team Auntie Anne’s, and iHop. They also offer travel discounts on flights, hotels, and rental cars; if you’re looking for a quick getaway on a budget, it’s worth taking a look. It’s T Mobile’s best kept secret in my opinion, and it’s as easy as downloading the app. You don’t have to pay anything extra, it’s just a perk of being a T Mobile customer. (I bet other carriers have similar programs too, if you don’t have T Mobile).
- Dunkin Donuts: I have been a Dunkin girlie as long as I can remember. I used to go to the Dunkin in my hometown up to 3 times a day, which definitely started to add up. So I wanted to figure out how to reduce my Dunkin spending, without reducing my visits. The Dunkin app is a gold mine for deals, freebies, etc. If you order ahead through the app on Mondays, you get 100 bonus points on your order (for reference, once you reach 200 points, you get a free drink). They also have deals and promotions all the time on the app. They often have deals on new food and drink items, or deals around big sporting events or holidays. Sometimes you can find medium lattes for $3, when their menu price is around $4.50. You can also take their customer experience surveys and earn a free donut with your next drink purchase! Score!
- BJ’s Brewhouse: Ok, this is where things get a *little* shady, don’t judge me. If there is a BJ’s in your town, you really should sign up for their email rewards program. It’s completely free, and you earn a free pizookie upon sign up and for your birthday. If you don’t know what a pizookie is, you’re missing out. The pizookie is BJ’s signature sweet creation, made of a large cookie baked in a skillet, heaped with sweet toppings according to the one you order (strawberry shortcake, hot fudge, etc), and served with ice cream on top! It’s heavenly, and you will become addicted. Now, here’s where I get sneaky. If you keep creating emails, or using the “Hide my Email” feature through iCloud, you can pretty much get endless free pizookies. They also deliver them, which is super nice (you still have to pay $5 delivery). There have been many nights where I’ve had a rough day, so I made up an email and got a pizookie delivered to my door. Just don’t tell BJ’s that.
- Chick Fil A: This hack is pretty well known, but still worth mentioning. ORDER. KIDS. MEALS. The Chick Fil A kids meals are so plentiful and yummy. You can get nuggets or 2 chicken tenders, a side of fries or Mac and cheese, a drink, and ice cream (just make sure you ask for the ice cream instead of the toy). Now, you do get smaller portions of food with this meal, but you’ll be paying $7 instead of $15+ for the normal menu. And if you’re like me, you’ll be full after too. Whenever I finish a Chick fil A kids meal, I leave with a smile on my face.
- Starbucks: If you’re like me and you like lattes, this is for you! Starbucks lattes are expensive, but I don’t have to tell you that. Do this instead: order Iced Espresso (found under iced drinks in the app), with an EXTRA splash of your milk of choice, and with whatever syrups and customizations as you want. When I do this, I pay $3 for a grande instead of the $5+ for a latte at menu price and it’s pretty much the same thing. Starbucks knows people do this, but they also know they’ll lose a huge part of their customer base if they prohibit it, so take advantage of it! Every time I do this, the baristas make it so perfectly; I honestly have more success with this method than just ordering a latte off the menu.
We all deserve a treat every now and then, but sometimes, it can be hard to justify it when your wallet is feeling light. But, that doesn’t mean you have to stop getting coffee, sweets, and treats; it just means you have to find creative ways to do it. Big companies are going to nickel and dime you as much as they can, so do it right back to them! There is almost always a way to get the product you want for a significantly reduced price, whether it be with points, coupons, or alternative menu strategies. So next time you’re feeling down and you think you can’t justify that PSL, remind yourself you can. You just have to take a little more time to find the cheaper road. As we head into another stressful semester, please remember to treat yourself every now and then, and save a few bucks while doing it!