Should You Just Donate to Charity Instead of Going to IHOP’s Free Pancake Day?


Better for charity than for your waistline!

“He who goes to bed hungry dreams of pancakes.”
–Proverb (probably attributed to Aunt Jemima)

March 3, 2015 is National Pancake Day from IHOP. You go, get free pancakes, and the cost is a donation of whatever you think is appropriate to give to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I love the notion and the intent and the charity that IHOP is showing.

However, from an individual perspective, should you go?

The answer, to me, is no.

Here are some reasons why.

  • You could donate the money directly to charity. Instead of driving to IHOP, which you, face it, probably wouldn’t have otherwise done, spending time in transit to and from IHOP, you could donate directly to the charity and get a tax deduction for the donation.
  • You’re drowning your body with unhealthy calories. Unless you eat pancakes every February 5th as opposed to some other form of breakfast (or, like me, you do intermittent fasting and never eat breakfast), you’re now bombing your body with useless calories. There is no useful nutritional value to be gained from gobbling down a short stack of pancakes. Subjecting your body to the sugar and caloric rush in the name of charity isn’t a particularly good excuse to spike your insulin through the roof.
  • You’re overvaluing the stack of pancakes because they’re now “free”. I don’t go to IHOP, so I don’t have the menu memorized, and they don’t publish prices, but according to one blogger, a short stack costs $5.49. So, you’re going out of your way to find an IHOP, probably contributing $5 to the charity, and bombing your body with crap just because it was free. Monkey Brain likes this plan!

You’re better off just mailing a check to your favorite charity or to the Children’s Miracle Health Network if you feel so inclined. IHOP is doing a very noble act, but they’re also taking advantage of our tendency to overvalue free, as documented by MIT’s Kristina Shampanier and others. Stay at home and cook a meal, use the saved time to work on your side gig, and donate the money you earn from it to charity.

Did you go to IHOP for the offer? What did you think? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.