I've purchased a handful of discounted experiences and product gift cards from group buying sites - with mixed success.
The first was a 10 pass boot camp for $20. I attended two classes. The second was a $25 Running Room gift card with a value of $50. I ended up spending close to $200 in the store. The third was for a yoga studio 45 minutes from my house by transit and the post-yoga travel time did little to keep my Zen state.
My point here is that daily discount sites might seem like a deal but can actually set you back financially. Sales can lure you to spend, even if you don't need the discounted item.
By putting a few checks in place before you hit the buy button, you can make sure you're really getting a great deal. Below are my new group buying considerations.
Subscribe to the five mile rule You're more likely to use your coupon if it's for a location close to your home or work and therefore convenient to get to. If it's more than five miles from my home, I am not buying.
Most sites give you the option to filter deals. Instead of scouring the general Groupon deals, for example, opt to use Groupon Now! where you can tell the site exactly what you're looking for and it will pull up immediate local deals that match. If you're in Toronto or Vancouver, Yipit is a useful site. It scours hundreds of deal sites and only sends you the ones you're interested in.
Check the spending plan You're scrolling through your daily deals and one pops up for a flying lesson. You've always wanted to get your pilots license and love to fly so this is a great deal, right? Wrong. "I've always wanted to..." shouldn't translate into "I should buy."
Sure, I've always wanted to take a discounted hot air balloon and eat 2-for-1 cupcakes, but just because they're on sale doesn't mean they are a good deal. With my Running Room gift card, I was still committing myself to spend $25, even though I was getting a value of $50. Deal or no deal, $25 is still coming out of my account.
Factor in the extra costs If it's a discount on a restaurant, for example, go online to review their food and drink prices (alcohol is sometimes not covered so check the fine print). Calculate how much your discounted meal will actually cost you with add-ons, alcohol, and a tip. You should be tipping on the total without applying the discount. If the discount is for a restaurant you've never tried, read some reviews. A site like Yelp or a quick google search will pull up reviews.
While factoring in extra costs, consider additional discounts. Ordering Groupon through a site like Ebates.com can earn you 3 per cent and more cash back on your purchases. You'll have to sign up for an account and shop through the Ebates Groupon link.
Avoid hitting the expiry date We get busy, we forget, but the bottom line is that when our coupons expire we have wasted money. As soon as you order a coupon, plug the expiry date into your calendar with reminders one to two months in advance. Or, check out a site like CityPockets.com. CityPockets syncs with most major sites and the site will send alerts informing you when your coupon is about to expire. If you're unable to use the coupon before expiry, you can sell it through their site. You can also resell your coupons on sites like DealsGoRound.com and CoupRecoup.com.
If you're in the market for a product or service, or a deal pops up to a grocery store or restaurant you regularly visit, buying a deal is a no-brainer. If you're traveling to a new city, or planning for upcoming birthday or holiday gifts, daily deal sites are smart for savings. If it's not on the list though, you probably don't need it.
Run through your personal checklist and ask yourself if you really need a hot air balloon ride, even if it is 40 per cent off. The answer, most likely, is no.