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It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday, I’m goin’ (not) spend my money

By Vidya Ramesh

Wednesday 31 May 2017 Food

Hurrah, happy birthday to me, three days before my first exam. With most of my friends having either started theirs already, or commencing imminently, I was resigned to the fact of celebrating alone.

Yet spending money on treating myself felt facetious, at a time when it would be more appropriate to threaten myself with the possibility of failing my exams if I didn’t tear myself away from the gym (yes, fitness-addict here) and into the library.

But everyone needs a treat, every so often, and this was the one time of the year where I would be silently pitied for not treating myself.

For a cash-strapped student like myself, I searched high and low for the best birthday bargains, and ended up saving over thirty pounds on food over one lonely (and much prolonged) birthday lunch-break in the process.

For the benefit of anyone else with a birthday slap-bang in the middle of exams, here’s how I did it:

1. Free coffee, tea or hot chocolate at Pret (and possibly Eat)
Here’s the key: ask for the drink, confirm that it’s free and then order the extra large mocha with chocolate sprinkles and a hazelnut shot; you don’t want to be lumped with a bill of nearly four quid for a glorified cup of liquid chocolate and caffeine

2. Itsu
Itsu and Pret both purportedly have a “goodwill scheme”, where employees can give free coffee or food to customers who rub them up the right way. I managed to nab a free noodle soup from Itsu with a chocolate dessert, but I was lucky because the manager was on duty that day. Other service staff might not be feeling confident enough to risk it

3. Crepeaffaire
This lovely little hide-out isn’t on every university campus, but its franchise base is expanding: from Leeds and London to Birmingham and Cardiff. I got a complimentary Eggs Florentine crepe, but mentioned that I loved smoked salmon, which the server was kind enough to replace the cheese with, even though as an individual topping it was dearer in price.

This is not to mention the free smoothie from Boost, the free cupcake from Patisserie Valerie, and a free chocolate bar from Thorntons.

Yet ultimately birthdays are about celebrating the joyous times of your life thus far with friends, and I look forward to doing so with my friends after exams are over, infinitely more than I salivated over the prospect of getting free food last night.



Hi there, my name is Vidya and I’m an undergraduate student reading History at the University of Cambridge. I grew up in Manchester, the birthplace of the Guardian and Suffragette movement; it was impossible not be continually aware of the power of activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. On campus I try to channel these incredibly charged ideas into practical action, particularly in regards to the welfare of students who identify as women. As a director for a student-run think-tank, The Wilberforce Society, I have overseen events on raising the participation of women in public policy, while also co-authoring a policy paper on sexual assault policies within higher education institutions. As a campaign manager for my University’s Women’s Campaign I am also organising a programme of activities to help female students tackle anxiety. In my spare time I enjoy powerlifting (still at a novice level, sadly), as well as living ethically to the best of my ability, such as by following a vegan lifestyle (#vegangainz). As an NUS Journalist I hope to raise awareness of the events taking place on campus that centre around the three concepts I mentioned before: activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. Whether in the form of an intersectional feminist reading group, to a disabilities rally outside the students’ union, you will be sure to hear it hot-off-the-press from me!