How to Make the Most Out of Groupon and Daily Deal Sites

Getting a good deal is one thing; being a "shopping fool" who gets scammed is another. Here's how to play it smart

(Image: Thinkstock)

Daily deal sites are a bargain-hunter’s dream come true. You can subscribe to online websites and score deals ranging from 10% to 90% off practically anything from food and clothing to travel and electronics and more.

That’s why sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and other daily deal sites have captured the attention of many savvy shoppers—as well as some shopping fools too!

To avoid falling into the latter category, it’s important to avoid getting caught up in a shopping frenzy if you get an email about a “daily deal.” No matter how tempting the offer, you should still exercise some basic smarts when using daily deal sites.

One big caveat: you need to make absolutely sure that you’re actually going to use your deal before it expires. According to a Yipit study, people who buy these coupons and deals only redeem them about 80% to 90% of the time.

Since “daily” deals typically only last about 24 hours, you need to make a fast decision to buy—or not buy.

Use these tips to make the most out of Groupon and other daily deal sites:

READ THE FINE PRINT

Every daily deal site has to list the terms and conditions of the deal clearly. The fine print is usually listed right below the deal’s description and will explain exactly what the limitations and terms of use of your deal will be.

This can include anything from dates and times the coupon is valid, if you can buy and use more than one at a time, and how you might end up forfeiting the deal. Review the fine print of any offer carefully so you are confident you’ll actually end up using it and won’t forfeit the deal.

CONSIDER THE ACTUAL VALUE OF THE DEAL

If you’re purchasing a $10 off coupon for a $20 meal at a local restaurant—but the average price of a meal is really in the $30 to $40 range—you could end up spending much more than you usually do overall on the entire meal. By the same token, what good is it to get “half” off a restaurant dinner if it’s way overpriced in the first place?

So ask yourself if you would normally spend a certain amount at the restaurant. Take a look at menu prices to estimate the average cost of a meal. If you’re only going in there to redeem your daily deal coupon, it’s probably not as great a bargain as you think, and you may spend much more than you’re comfortable with.

GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are a magnet for impulsive shoppers. The deals are only offered for a very short period of time, so you’re under pressure to snag the deal before it’s too late. Just remember that you usually have about 12 hours to make the purchase.

Really think through whether you will be able to use the coupon and get something out of it. If it’s a bit of a stretch, don’t do it. These deals are non-refundable and non-negotiable, so you could end up losing money if you buy on a whim and then decide—for whatever reason—not to redeem your coupon or discount lot. This is just one reason why I advise online and offline shopaholics to give themselves a 24-hour cooling off period before buying on impulse.

Admittedly, though, this 24-hour cooling off strategy is much tougher with a daily deals site, since waiting the full 24 hours may mean you’ll “miss” the deal. This isn’t always the case though. For instance, Groupon is currently running a deal in Northern Jersey—where I live—for $40 worth of vitamins, supplements or health products from GNC for just $19. As of this writing, there’s still two full days left to advantage of this promotion.

DOUBLE UP WHEN YOU CAN

Some daily deal sites will allow you to purchase more than one deal at a time, but may have restrictions on when you can redeem them. If you’re already a frequent customer of the business, this can be a great way to save extra money on purchases you already make.
Daily deal sites can be a great way to scoop up a great deal in your neighborhood and save some money—if you had already budgeted or planned to make certain purchases anyway.

If you’re buying just to get a “two for one” deal or if you have to go out of your way to cash in on a deal, it’s likely that you’ll end up spending much more than you hoped. Really consider the value of the deal before you push the “buy” button.

And remember, if you can’t afford something or simply don’t need it—no matter how low the price is—it’s not a bargain at any price.

ACROSS THE WEB