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Frugal Hack #24: Save by Booking Directly with Airlines and Hotels…Again

April 2, 2015 by Kyle 3 comments   •   Filed Under

There is no doubting the fact that online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and are convenient.  You can book all of your travel from one spot, and search through various companies to find a competitive rate. But to find the best deals these days, they’re not where you should be looking. By dealing directly with the airline, hotel, or rental car company you’re going to save significantly more.

United Airlines

Why? Well, these online travel agencies (OTAs) are charging a fee, often up to 15% to hotels, airlines, and car companies. Companies are sick and tired of it, and in many cases, would rather deal directly with the customers and pass the savings along to them in the form of lower rates, free upgrades, and free food & drink credits.

So think about it this way. If Embassy Suites is getting nailed by a 15% fee from, they’re very likely undercut them and offer you a 10% discount for booking directly. So in effective you’ll get a rate 10% lower than what any OTA can give.

The methods of reaching hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies directly is as simple as calling the front desk of a hotel, the corporate phone number of a rental car agency, or the customer service number of the airline. Also, keep in mind, that most of their websites now have “Live Chat” operators standing by who can offer you a good deal as well.

I recently wrote about this on Lifehacker and some of the comments provided some great insight as well.

“Yeah, I was very annoyed last month when I thought a scored a great deal on the Doubletree via Hotwire, only to find out my friend got the exact same rate via Doubltree’s website (and got points for the stay where I did not).”

From a hotel manager, “If you want the best deal, go online and find what the OTA has listed for the price. Then call the hotel and speak to the front desk manager or general manager and tell them you found a $100 rate on Expedia, and will book directly with the hotel for $80.”

“Most hotel chains offer a lowest price guarantee if you book directly so if you find an advertised price cheaper for the same room they will meet or beat it. Plus you get rewards points for booking directly whereas you typically don’t get them if you book through a 3rd party.”

Ask the Reader: Have you booked directly with hotels or airlines recently? If so, tell me what kind of a deal you scored.

By Kyle James

Photo by Curi Media


Birthday Freebies: The Ultimate and Definitive List

March 4, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under ,

Having 3 kids running roughshod over my feet, crotch, and budget for years, I’m all about looking for ways where they can actually pay off financially. So a few years back I realized that I needed to start cashing in on their birthdays whenever possible. Whether it be a free burger or dessert at their favorite restaurant, or free tickets to the movies during the week of their birthday, the savings quickly starts to add up. I mean heck, if you’re going out to dine out on your birthday anyways you might as well get a freebie out of the deal, right?

It’s with this in mind that I have started this resource of restaurant, retail, and entertainment “birthday” freebies. These are good for kids and adults alike. Hope it helps! Please leave a comment below if you have one that I missed and I’ll verify it and get it added.

Birthday Freebies

Birthday Freebies at Restaurants:


Simply sign-up with Applebee’s and receive a free birthday dessert with at least one entree purchase.


Score a free 12 ounce milkshake on the day of your birth. Sweet!


Get a free root beer float on your birthday when you join the Mug Club. (Sign-up on the bottom of the page)

Baskin Robbins

Sign up for the Baskin Robbins birthday club and get a free 2.5 ounce ice cream scoop on your birthday.


Sign up for The Chef’s Table and get a $30 gift certificate to use on your birthday at Benihana.

Black Angus

Quickly sign-up for the Black Angus Prime Club and get a birthday coupon for buy 1 steak dinner, get 1 for free.

BJ’s Restaurant

Score a free dessert at your local BJ’s, just show your ID to your server.

Boston Market

Get a free dessert on your birthday when you purchase a full meal. Join VIP Club first.

Buca di Beppo

Join the eClub which will get you a coupon for a free small pasta on your birthday.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Another free dessert s headed your way when you show your photo ID at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Caribou Coffee

CLICK HERE for a printable coupon that will get you a free drink on your birthday.


Free dessert for the asking.

Chevy’s Fresh Mex

Free entree when you purchase one of equal or gretaer value.


Free brownie sundae if you’re willing to have them sing happy birthday to you.


Free Cinnabon Minibon on your birthday when you sign up for their eClub.

Coldstone Creamery

Score a coupon good for buy 1, get 1 free on all Coldstone Creations.


Get a free 1 scoop ice cream sundae on your birthday.

Dairy Queen

Sign up to get a coupon good for a free treat on your birthday at Dairy Queen.

Del Taco

Score a free milkshake on your birthday at Del Taco.


Show your photo ID on your birthday and score a free Grand Slam breakfast at your local Denny’s.

Dippin Dots

Be sure to ask for your free small Dippin Dots treat on your birthday.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Create a free Perks account and get a coupon good for a free medium beverage on the day of your birth.

El Torito

Get a free entree on your birthday at El Torito.

Famous Dave’s BBQ

Join their Email Club and get a coupon good for a free dessert with your entree purchase.


Free burger when you purchase another burger. Show valid photo ID.

Gordon Biersch

Free beer! Oh, how I wish. Actually all you’ll get is a free appetizer when you order one at regular price.

Hometown Buffet

Free kids meal on their birthday when you sign-up for the Birthday Kids Club.

Honeybaked Hams

Get a free ham sandwich when you sign up. Boy, is this post making me REALLY hungry.


According to a buddy of mine you’ll get a dozen free wings when you flash your photo ID.


Sign up for the Pancake Revolution and get a  FREE full stack of Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity Pancakes on your birthday.

Jamba Juice

Score a 16 oz smoothie for only 2 bucks on your birthday.

Joe’s Crab Shack

Get a free appetizer when you show a valid photo ID to your server.

Johnny Rockets

Free burger when you order another entree and a drink.

Krispy Kreme

Join their eClub and get a free doughnut and cup of coffee on your birthday.

Mimi’s Cafe

Free $10 off coupon to use the week of your birthday.

Orange Julius

Free 20 ounce drink on your birthday.

Panera Bread

Get something tasty for free when you use your Panera Loyalty Card on your birthday.

Papa Murphy’s

Order a pizza and get free cookie dough on your birthday. Sign up here.

Red Robin

Sign up for their Loyalty Card and get an email good for a free burger on the week of your b-day. Also score a free ice cream sundae, just tell your server and they’ll sing to you as well. My kids have been doing this for years!


Score a free meal on your birthday, up to $8 in value. Sign up here.

Ruby Tuesday

Join their birthday club and get a free burger on the week of your birthday.

Sonic Drive-in

Sign up and get a free drink or tater tot on your birthday.


Free signature drink on your birthday when you join the Starbucks rewards programs.


Get a free small size of frozen yogurt on your birthday.

TGI Fridays

Score a free dessert when you purchase any regular entree.

Tony Roma’s Rib House

Get a free entree valued up to $14.99 on your birthday.

Waffle House

Like free waffles? Who doesn’t! Sign up here and get a free waffle on your birthday.


Sign up and get birthday coupons for free corn dogs and hot dogs. Yum.

Birthday Freebies at Retail Stores:

American Eagle Outfitters

Sign up for the AEO Rewards card and get a 15% off coupon from American Eagle to use during the month of your birthday.

Barnes & Noble

Join the B&N Kids Club and get a free cupcake from the cafe on your birthday at participating Barnes & Noble locations.

Children’s Place

Join the Children’s Place Birthday Club and get a special treat to use during the month of your birthday. I have heard of 15% and 25% off coupons.

Cost Plus World Market

Sign-up and get 10% off all food and drink (non-alcoholic) at Cost Plus.

CVS Drugstore

Score a coupon good for $3 off your purchase. Sign-up here.

Hot Topic

Get a $5 off coupon to use during the month of your birthday by signing up here.

Old Navy

Flash your photo ID and get 10% off at the register at participating Old Navy locations.

Payless Shoes

Sign-up for the Birthday Club and get a 20% coupon to use at Payless Shoes on your birthday.

“Go Have Fun” Birthday Freebies:

AMF Bowlings

Simply sign-up for The Pinsiders Loyalty Club and receive a free bowling game to use on your birthday.

Cinemark Theaters

According to their website, “Enter your date of birth and we’ll send a special birthday coupon during your birthday week.” Guessing free popcorn or matinee ticket.

Dave & Buster’s

You’ll get various money saving coupons emailed to you prior to your birthday when you sign-up for their Rewards Program.

Medieval Times

Free admission ticket on your birthday! Sign up here.

Ask the Reader: Have any birthday freebies to add to my list? Let me know in the comments below and I will get it added, thanks!

By Kyle James


What to Expect If Your Bank or Credit Union Fails

February 25, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under

I have personal finance on my mind these days, and a list of questions I want answers to. So I figured why not use my blog to start answering some of these finance questions rattling around in my brain. The first one I am going to tackle is what happens when your bank or credit union goes belly up. I always wondered how the heck that worked and how FDIC insurance works. I hope [...] Continue Reading…


March Buying Guide: Where To Find the Best Deals (and Worst Deals Too!)

February 23, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under ,

Let’s be clear, as we near March it means I have college basketball on my brain. I love a good Cinderella story who ends up shattering everyone’s bracket. I also love figuring out where to find the best shopping deals this month based on consumer trends, what coupons we are given at, along with March data from years gone by. I have also done the research on stuff that is a terrible purchase [...] Continue Reading…


7 Spring Break Travel Hacks That’ll Save You BIG Money

February 19, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under , ,

As a big chunk of the country is frozen solid, I’ve got warm, sunny, weather on my mind. I know I’m not alone in this thought as many Americans are starting to think about, or book, spring travel plans. Whether you’re a college student traveling on a shoestring budget, or a family looking to plan a Spring getaway, I have some easy to implement tips to help you maximize your travel dollars.

Fly Out on [...] Continue Reading…


What would you say if I told you that you could call Verizon Wireless, Dish Network, and AT&T today and save $708 per year by negotiating a lower bill? In recent months I have done exactly that and it took me about 2 hours in total. $354 per hour ain’t too shabby, right? So I figured it was time to document how I did it so you can make it happen as well. I [...] Continue Reading…


23 Popular Retailers that Hand out Coupons via Facebook Messenger

January 29, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under ,

Being a total coupon nerd, I am always on the hunt for new and unique ways to score a discount. Some of my favorites include using live chat, abandoning your virtual cart, and using social media. So last month when I was looking for a coupon for to finish my Christmas shopping, I decided on a whim to hit them up via Facebook Messenger to see if they would give me a coupon [...] Continue Reading…


5 Genius Ways to Use Social Media to Save Money in 2015

January 22, 2015 by Kyle No comments   •   Filed Under ,

As we quickly head toward the end of January, I figured it was finally time to put fingers to keys and write an article about the best way, and hottest trend, to save money shopping in 2015. Put simply, it is social media. The main players in 2015 are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. By using all 3 on a regular basis you can almost guarantee you’ll never pay full price. In many cases, you’ll [...] Continue Reading…


Valentine’s Day: Make It Affordably Awesome This Year!

January 16, 2015 by Kyle 2 comments   •   Filed Under ,

Last year, according to the National Retail Federation, the average person spent just under $135 on Valentine’s Day, with total spending over 17 billion bucks. Wow, those are some BIG numbers. The interesting thing is that most guys wait until the day before V-Day to buy gifts or make dinner plans. The result is spending WAY more money than you should on flowers, dinner, and popular gifts like jewelry, candy, and personalized gadgets.

I’ll admit [...] Continue Reading…


Which Stores Allow you to Return Items Without a Receipt?

January 9, 2015 by Kyle 5 comments   •   Filed Under

Have you ever been stuck with something that is brand spanking new that you know you’ll NEVER need or use? Since it’s just a couple short weeks after Christmas I am guessing that darn near everyone reading this can relate in one way or another. Whether it be that Duck Dynasty t-shirt and Christmas DVD your Mom gave you, or that 2nd crock pot from the in-laws, there is always something you wish you [...] Continue Reading…