Given the direction of the economy, your friends and loved ones might not be able to pick up the bill for a pricey birthday dinner.  But plan appropriately for your natal anniversary, and you might be able to enjoy up to two weeks of freebies and discounts!

The preparation should begin with arming yourself with a very important tool: the secondary e-mail address. 


Everyone should maintain a different e-mail address to use to register for newsletters, sign up for discounts and other activities that might create a spam snowball in your inbox. [ed note: really great point, Liz. -- DD]

Create a gmail or yahoo mail account for just this purpose.You don't have to check it every day, or even every month --- just when you're in the market for a discount that might be available.

After all, a reminder that your favorite big-box bookstore is offering a 20 percent off coupon might entice you to stop in on a whim and make an impulse purchase, whereas just checking for a coupon whenever you're truly in the market for a bestseller or a gift keeps the temptation at bay.

Secondly, be sure to double-check the offer for any caveats or exceptions. You never know --- you might have to print out a coupon, declare that it's your birthday at the beginning of a transaction or find out that the offer is only valid for the young'uns --- ages 13 or 16 and younger.

Don't forget to bring your ID, like Jenna Bush (second item) or Michael Phelps

And as the Dollar Duo at the Minneapolis Star Tribune advise, don't be shy about asking a favorite retailer if they have a birthday promotion. You won't lose anything by asking!  And businesses make up for the investment through sales to the rest of the people in your party and any other splurging you do in the course of your transaction --- spending on drinks, appetizers, desserts or other extras you might not otherwise indulge in.

Here's a list of a few of our readers' favorite deals, as well as other sources:


remembered correctly: Dining@Large readers confirm that the

: a round of drinks, by signing up for their club.

--- As Danielle noted, Cafe Hon offers free dinner on your birthday for signing up for its Repeat Rewards or "birfday club". 

--- Coldstone's not the only place to get a chilly treat. Sign up for Baskin Robbins' birthday club and get a coupon for 2.5 oz. of free ice cream, or Friendly's birthday club, as well.

--- Rent a free movie from

on your birthday, or on the birthdays of anyone on your membership account.


--- free movie rentals from hollywood video and safeway?

--- Get a free birthday entree at Austin Grill by signing up for their eClub, and a "big surprise" on your birthday from Qdoba Mexican Grill for signing up for theirs. Quizno's gives customers a free cookie on their birthday for signing up, and Famous Dave's BBQ and Damon's Grill also offer free birthday gifts as well.

--- Get a free something-something from Fuddruckers by signing up for the Fuddsclub. 

--- The Cheesecake Factory offers diners a free scoop of ice cream with a candle for meals.

--- And don't forget the birthday deals, discounts and specials I listed earlier this week!