Making Daily Deal Sites Work for You (LivingSocial, Groupon, etc.)

My husband and I are taking an overnight trip!  No flights, no long drives - just a reservation at a beautiful "mansion" hotel downtown, complete with a parking pass, two drink tickets upon arrival, breakfast for two in the morning and two souvineer mugs included.  Over 50% off thanks to LivingSocial!  How's that for Classy Not Pricey?

Daily deal sites are everywhere.  I've done a good deal of hunting on them myself for great opportunities to sneak in the finer indulgences at a discount (my personal favorite is Groupon).  You probably have too at some point.  And while many of the deals are great ones, being savvy about your choices is important, or your 50% off can potentially turn into wasted cash.

Here is my honest disclosure of how successful, or wasteful, even a "deal snagger" like me can end up if not mindful about my purchases.  In some cases I ended up in the lap of luxury at a non-luxury price, and in others I walked away in the red without that amazing massage to make me feel better about my loss.

Successful (aka redeemed and enjoyed) purchases!
  • Teeth whitening
  • Haircut at the Antonio Prieto Salon in NYC
  • Skin-brightening facial
  • Photo safari/Photography class
  • Bike rental 
  • Restaurant coupon for $40 worth of food
A few never-redeemed purchases:
  • 9 holes of golf and time at the driving range (for two)
  • Aromatic massage
  • Acupuncture facial
  • Air Salt Room Treatment...two of them (Really?  What was I thinking?  It must have been the taxi fumes in the city.)
The purchases I redeemed and enjoyed were GREAT!  I now have "white" teeth, a great haircut, a bright face, can take better pictures, ride a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge without harming myself (or others - that's a big deal if you've ever tried), and take all that good stuff out with me to a nice meal.  Win!

To make the most of the deal site and avoid potential missteps (like mine), keep these important items in mind:
  1. Pay close attention to expiration dates and terms - Three of the four never-redeemed purchases expired before I had a chance to use them.  Some expire in a short time, while others have such long durations that it's easy to put them off or forget about them.
  2. Be realistic about the likelihood of use - Buying deals that are related to "pipe dreams" are a little dangerous.  For example, I was dying to take a photography class but really had to work to make sure I fit the coupon into my schedule.  Buying the deal with a friend can help hold you accountable to scheduling a time to use the deal.
  3. Aim for buys that are more "needs" versus "wants" or are things that you already planned to fit into your budget.  I tried to use it for haircuts, much needed massages, and bike rentals that I planned to do anyway.
  4. Look for deal sites that don't ask you to pay the money up front and still provide great deals and discounts.  ScoutMob, for example, is fantastic growing site that focuses on local deals and provides limited-time offers (around 50% off) for bars, coffee shops or other unique businesses to check out.  
Another deals site tip: I also use Restaurant.com when I want the flexibility to choose a restaurant last minute and still find a deal.  While I do pay a small part up front, I immediately redeem it for dinner that night. (Note: If you buy a certificate on Restaurant.com between now and January 10th, use the code FUN and pay only $4 as compared to the typical $10).

I am off to enjoy my daily deals LivingSocial find!  Comment with other daily deals you've snagged and used that are Classy Not Pricey!
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