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How Deal Sites Might be Costing You More

by Miranda Marquit

One of the big trends lately is “social saving.” You sign up for a deal site like Groupon or Living Social, and pretty soon you receive offers in your email inbox every day. The deals are often really good: 40% of a visit to the salon, or 50% off at a restaurant.

While it is possible to save money with daily deals, you have to be careful. Sometimes, spending money is just spending money — no matter what sort of bargain you get. In fact, if you get too into the daily deal sites, it could actually cost you more than you expect. Yes, you want to save money. But make sure you are truly saving, and not just spending to spend.

Buying Things You Wouldn’t Normally Get

Save Money on Social Deals

Do you use deal sites like Groupon?

Whether you are clipping coupons or paying for a daily deal, the discount is only effective if you had planned on buying the item anyway. Otherwise, you are spending money that you hadn’t actually meant to spend. Consider: You might get 50% off at a nearby restaurant, but would you have eaten there anyway? Or are you going out an extra night just because it’s a good deal? If you are buying something because of the deal, you aren’t actually saving money. You’re spending money. It amounts to an impulse buy online. Too many of these impulse buys can start to add up and result in difficult financial circumstances.

Buying More than You Bargained For

Of course, these daily deal sites exist to sell things, and those offering deals do so in the hopes of bringing you in to spend more money on something else. You might get half off an entre at a restaurant in town, but the establishment is hoping that you’ll bring in a date and pay full price for his or her meal. Or that you’ll get drinks or dessert. Great deals on products and services are offered with the hopes that you will stick around, or come back, and buy something at full price. And that could become costly.

What If You Don’t Use the Deal?

Not too long ago, I bought a deal on Living Social. It was a special “space mission” experience for two at a museum two hours away. I thought it would be fun for my son and me to do at some point when he had a day off school (our summer was already jam-packed). I wasn’t paying attention, though. There was an expiration date. We used the deal, but not when I wanted to; in fact, we had to rush to make things work.

Many of these daily deals come with expirations dates of within a couple of months. If you don’t use the deal by the expiration date you lose out — and that includes the money you’ve already paid for the deal. That might be even worse than buying something on impulse and using it. Reports are that one in five daily deals aren’t used; are your daily deals among those?

Using Daily Deals to Your Advantage

I’ve only used two daily deals so far: The space mission with my son (he did have a good time) and a $20 Amazon gift card being offered for $10. If you are going to be effective with your daily deals, it is vital that you pick and choose. We buy from Amazon all the time, so that deal was a no-brainer. My son and I like to do activities, and this new one made sense at the time. We would have done something similar anyway. And that’s the key. Only get the deals for things that you would do anyway.

Photo credit: o5com.


Published or updated September 16, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents

I was sucked into a Groupon coupon for a restaurant I frequent, but another location. I forgot about it and it expired. I will never do that again.

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2 Ben

Its true.. you buy things you normally wouldn’t. Ive got sucked into the trap. You see something 50% off and you think “what a great deal” and since time is running out.. you buy it!

krantcents – I believe Groupon made a deal that if you don’t use the Groupon that you can get your money back. I did the same thing, but was out of town when my Groupon expired. That was before they said they would start refunding unused Groupons.

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3 Kyle

Great points. I would make the point that the daily deal sites are really great for Christmas gifts. You can buy throughout the year for the people on your list and save a lot of money in the process. My wife and I have been doing this for a few months.

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