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Do Daily Deals Really Save You Money?

Written by Nickel - 9 Comments

Over the past year or so, “deal-of-the-day” websites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and a number of smaller competitors have really taken off. While I originally resisted the temptation to sign up for any of these services, I eventually caved in when I saw a 50% off deal at the local running store where I often buy shoes.

In general terms, these sites offer a series of time-limited deals on an ongoing basis. If you provide them with your e-mail address, they’ll send a different offer to you every day. There’s usually a minimum required buy-in before the deal goes live, but as long as enough people sign up for it, you’ll get something like a 50% discount at a restaurant, spa, store, etc.

While these services can be a great money saving tool, they can also be a huge drain on your budget. For example, I recently ran across a “$10 for $20 worth of food” offer for a local restaurant. This is a restaurant that we’ve been to on a couple of occasions and, while it was okay, it was nothing to write home about.

Honestly, I’d probably choose a sandwich on the couch over going back, but… As soon as that offer hit my inbox, I was sorely tempted. After all, they were offering me 50% OFF. That’s $10 worth of “free” food – who can turn that down???

Of course, if you don’t really want/need it, then it’s not a good deal at any price. Nonetheless, my brain was temporarily blinded by that huge percentage off. In the end, cooler heads prevailed and I simply deleted the offer – but I came close to wasting ten bucks on a deal that I didn’t really want.

This isn’t to say that all of the offers are a bad idea. For starters, there was the deal at the running store that I mentioned above. Another winner was “$10 for $20 worth of food” at a restaurant that we do frequent. And yet another was the “$10 for $20 at Barnes & Noble” deal that I used to pick up some books for my son’s birthday.

Other gotchas are that the deals are often time-limited, such that your “$X for $Y” worth of products or services often falls back to being worth just $X if you don’t use it by a certain date. And you also need to be on the lookout for price gouging. For example, FTD and Groupon wound up with egg on their faces when it was revealed that FTD charged Groupon customers higher “regular” prices than non-Groupon customers.

The bottom line for me is that, while there are some great deals to be had, you really need to be disciplined and think twice before pulling the trigger on these sorts of deals. Yes, you can save a ton of money but, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up draining your savings account on a bunch of stuff that you neither want nor need.

Published on March 14th, 2011 - 9 Comments
Filed under: Frugality, Online

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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9 Responses to “Do Daily Deals Really Save You Money?”

  1. 1
    Brent Says:

    So true. I bought my first groupon deal this weekend. It was for a restaurant that my wife and I always wanted to try out and so getting $15 off seemed like a good deal. But at the end of the day, we are still spending more going out than we would having a nice dinner at home. So I just have to remember to be selective and only order deals for things I am going to purchase anyway.

    People need to remember that when something is half off, you still have to come up with the other half which can be substantial.

  2. 2
    Steve Says:

    I have finally realized (learning by my own mistakes) that a 50% off deal is not enough to make eating out cheaper than eating at home. Especially by the time you add up the cost of the coupon, any extra you go over the coupon, and tax and tip. Even the “free” pancakes we got from IHOP on national pancake day ended up costing us almost a dollar a pancake by the time we made the “suggested” donation and a tip. I could have made cheaper pancakes at home, they would have been better, and it wouldn’t have taken me any extra time than it did to drive over there, wait to be served, etc.

  3. 3
    Ginger Says:

    These deals can be very helpful in stretching your budget but can also kill your budget. Same as deals at the grocery store, coupons and cc. Things can be helpful or harmful depending on how we use them.

  4. 4
    Rob D Says:

    You should only get a deal that you really can use. My wife and I are tempted often but rest when we ask ourselves will we really use this. And sometimes they are you used to bring you to the store and spend more. I did get a great deal and few weeks ago, the only one have purchased so far (4 Clipper tickets and a jersey for $100). Couldn’t pass that up my kids wanted to go to a NBA game. This is the only way I could afford to go at a reasonable price.

  5. 5
    Chris Says:

    There are some deals to be had if you’re careful. I bought 4 tickets to our local auto show for my sister-in-law through Groupon for $6 with a special $10 promo. They norally would have cost $32. I also got an offer for $12 for 4 movie tickets, 2 large popcorns and 4 sodas at our local “cheap theatre”. With this deal the kids will think we’re living high on the hog as we only go to a movie theatre about 1-2 times a year and generally bring our own snacks. I have been tempted to make some bad choices, however. Between Groupon, some local offerings, and restaurant.com (particularly when you can get a $25 restaurant.com certificate for $2, and just need to spend $35). There are some deals, but there are definitely many budget busters also.

  6. 6
    Aryn Says:

    I almost think that the sheer number of deals I’m now offered makes me LESS likely to take any of them. In addition to Groupon and LivingSocial, I get offers from Angie’s List, OpenTable, and other services that I’ve used. There are so many that I skim then headline and then move on. I’m tempted to buy one maybe once a month, but then I get distracted by the next one and forget. To date, I’ve purchased only three in the last year, and they were all for things I would have bought anyway.

  7. 7
    Michael Harr @ Living TodayForward Says:

    Nice post, Nickel. I was cracking up when reading, “my brain was temporarily blinded by that huge percentage off.” Marketers aren’t dummies…they know the consumers’ brain better than anyone and a big discount is always a great hook.

  8. 8
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter Says:

    These deals only work if they are items you usually pay for. We turn down the daily deals most times but the odd time we get a coupon for something we would buy anyways and we jump on it. You’re right…we need self control when it comes to daily deals.

  9. 9
    kh Says:

    If you can be disciplined and buy things that you really would normally use and not be swayed by “OMG 50% off” they can really be a good deal.

    A recent example for me is going to the movies. Going out to the movies is one of my occasional splurge items. I recently bought 2 tickets on Groupon for $6 each .. which means I actually get to go to the movie with my sweetie on a date night for the price of a matinee. We saved $7 on a movie we’d have gone to see anyway and paid full price for.

    But if you’re the type of person who’ll impulse buy just because it’s on sale, then registering for Groupon or Living Social or places like that might not be for you!

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