Save 50% or More on Local Stuff with Groupon and Others
There has been an explosion of local deal-of-the-day sites in cities across the country, resulting in a windfall of 50% or more discounts on all kinds of goods and services.
For all of these sites — the most well known are Groupon and Living Social — the drill is basically the same: a local business offers a voucher or service package at a steep discount for one day, or for a limited time only. Common offers are spa visits, salon treatments, restaurants, and sporting events. Sometimes you'll get a retail offering too. My favorite deals offer something totally crazy that you didn't even know existed, like Demented Donuts.
In a moment, a list of daily deal sites available in major cities. But first a few tips for buying and using Groupons and other discounted vouchers:
Consider the location. If you live in a large metro area like I do (Chicago), many of the deals you see for your city will be a long drive from your home or work. I made the mistake of snapping up a massage package an hour's drive away. At $100 for three hour-long massages, I couldn't pass up the deal, but now the coupon is soon to expire and I've only managed to use one of the three massages.
Is it really an exceptional deal? The daily deal sites usually tell you up front the percent of the discount, but if you'll be going out of your way to patronize this business, you might want to check their Web site to see if they offer any similar deals on an everyday basis, or see how the one-day deal compares to specials available at the businesses you usually patronize.
How much more will you have to spend? I like deals that charge a flat fee for the whole service, but some offers sell you a discount, meaning that you'll still have to pay money beyond the coupon value. If so, check the price before buying the voucher — I recently saw an offer for $60 off hair coloring, which I thought would pay for the whole service. But when I checked the Web site, I saw that salon's coloring services started at $180. Saved from a deal-of-the-day misstep!
Is it better than Restaurant.com? I haven't gone for any restaurant deals because they usually offer a gift certificate or voucher for the restaurant at a 50% discount. I prefer to use a coupon code at Restaurant.com to pay $2 or $3 for a $25 certificate, a much better discount than paying $25 for a $50 voucher.
Don't forget to tip on the full amount. When visiting the restaurant, salon, or other business where tips are appropriate, you should tip 15-20% of the service's regular cost, not of your discounted cost.
The Daily Deals Sites
Groupon is now available in cities across the country and even in Vancouver. New York City, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Wichita, you name it. It has a twist: The deal is not officially available until enough people have signed up, but since it is so popular, the deal has been “on” every day I've looked. Groupon is a robust service that often has the companies offering the deal answer questions on the site, offers an iPhone app, and has regional meet-ups for fans. They're even paying a dude called the Groupawn to travel for a year living on nothing but an unlimited supply of Groupons.
Living Social lists 26 cities, including Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, LA and Washington, DC.
Tippr lists eight cities, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, DC, and San Francisco. Their twist is that the deal usually gets better after a certain number of people buy.
Angie's List Big Deal is currently in a handful of cities including Chicago, New York, San Francisco, DC, and Cleveland. Coming soon to many more.
You've Gotta Get It is just Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area
YouSwoop is Chicago-only.
There are more sites out there — more are popping up almost literally every day. But these are the bigger ones. I list all of those daily, plus a few Chicago-only sites, on my blog, Frugalista, every weekday.
Although I've made a few mistakes getting overly excited about daily deals, I've also snagged some great bargains. Using Groupon and Living Social, I've gotten my laundry washed and folded at 60% off, gotten a spa mani-pedi, and tried out pre-cooked gourmet meals.
I've also managed to get some free Groupons and made some cash by referring friends and readers to these sites. To refer friends to Groupon, follow the instructions here and you'll get a $10 credit when your referral makes his or her first purchase. Become a YouSwoop ambassador and you can get 10% of your referrals' purchases — in cash. Living Social will give you a $5 credit for each referral.
This post contains affiliate links to help me fulfill my goal of papering my bedroom in Groupons — or greenbacks.