photo credit: alamosbasement
Groupon, Living Social, Crowd Cut, Moolala, Plum District – it seems that every day there is a new group purchase site popping up.
These deals can be great – a great way to do something fun for less, to try a new place for less, to find and support local vendors, to pay for something you already use for less. The caveat is that if you are not careful, you will spend more. More time and more energy than you want or need to, and more money than you want.
For a while there, I was overdosing on coupon site deals. Although I do still buy some, I would love to share some hard won tips that you can use to purchase wisely:
On the rare occasion I have had to cancel a purchase or the supplier backed out, I have had great customer service from these sites. Still, everyone is better off if you purchase carefully and avoid having to cancel your purchase. Make sure you read the fine print – does the voucher cover shipping? tax? Is there a limit? Is it in store only (and not online), or vice versa? Is it only a certain location or locations – that could make it inconvenient for you to use the voucher. When does it expire? Can you reasonably use it by that date? Are there any deal breakers for you?
Some deals are for an initial service, but the remaining services are not at a discount – things like photography fees (disc or photos are full price), laser hair removal, tattoo removal, etc. Research the entire cost before you pay for just the first part. Also, don’t forget that it is only fair to tip on the balance of your bill before any discounts, so make sure you can afford your experience before you make your purchase. You will enjoy it much more when you don’t have to stress over unforeseen costs that bust your budget.
Do a test run before you purchase.
Sure, that deal to spend $50 on diaper bags for only $20 sounds great. Until you go to the website to make your purchase and realize that the least expensive diaper bag is $75 (and the only one you even like is $100) – and you would never pay more than $20 on one in the first place. Now you are spending at least $45 on a diaper bag – plus shipping and tax potentially – and your great deal is not so great. There is always a link to the website in these deal offers. Click on it and verify that you see things that you would like to purchase and the prices work for you. Having this basic information can save you heartache and money.
Do you need it?
Of course, the best deals are for those items or services that you would purchase even without a deal. Coming across a deal for your favorite pet store or hair salon is a no brainer – read over the terms just to be sure, then savor your great deal. However, if you find yourself trying to talk yourself into buying something you don’t really need or was not planning to buy, it probably is better to pass. Do consider what upcoming gift purchases you might make, but if you don’t have a solid plan on when you will use the voucher, pass – even if it seems like a great deal.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
Last summer, I bought a lot of deal site vouchers for fun things for our family to do. I figured that we had all summer and it would make us get out and do some fun stuff. Then came August and we realized we only had a few weeks left before school started. We were racing to use each and every voucher before the expiration date and were just tired of running – especially as the last days of summer were clicking down – we wanted to just hang at the beach and relax. I swore then that I would only buy a small and manageable amount of vouchers at one time to avoid being “forced” to have “fun.”
A lot of sites will email you when your voucher is about to expire. You may need to sign up for this service; it is a handy reminder (go to your account and look for preferences). Alternatively, you can print your vouchers and post them where you will see them (and be reminded to use them) or add the expiration date to your calendar. Highlight the expiration date.
I have had three instances where I could not use the voucher by the expiration date. BEFORE the expiration date, I called the company and explained that I would have trouble using it, but could use it by xyz date, and would they please extend it for me? Two were happy to do so, as they were very busy trying to fill all the vouchers anyway and one could not (it was a franchise), but did offer me an alternative coupon that I could use instead at a later date. All three thanked me for calling before the expiration date. Again, not ideal, but worth a shot if you get stuck.
Think about trips.
We are driving from Minnesota to Florida for spring break. I have signed up to receive deal site offers from the part of Florida we will be visiting. I have the address of the condo we are renting saved, and I check to see how close we will be to the restaurant or fun thing to do. If it is very close and does not expire before our trip, then I will buy it. So far, I have one for a breakfast place 1 mile from our condo and one of the theme parks we are visiting. I am being very conservative on what I will buy, as we only have 7 days to use the voucher (while we are in Florida) and this past summer of running around is still fresh in my mind – I do not want to be running all over Florida trying to get my $20 worth and driving myself crazy just to save a few bucks. Vacation with four kids will be crazy enough!
I sincerely hope these buying tips will help you navigate the tempting world of group purchase deal sites!