This year I have decided to decrease my spending on online deal sites. I am mainly referring to Groupon, but also Living Social, TravelZoo Deals, and other coupon/deal website.

I have been thinking about doing this for awhile for several reasons.

First off, purchasing deals has become way too easy. With the Groupon iPhone application (disabled that), and my credit card information conveniently stored in my online account, I click “buy” and it’s done. I was also getting up to twenty emails advertising various deals per day. I decided to unsubscribe from those emails. It is much easier for me to impulse buy with all of the above temptations. I’ve purchased several deals which I really don’t need.

This leads me to my next points of waste and expiration dates. Between L, myself, and my parents, it is easy to lose track of all our purchased deals. My mom has given us a number of Groupons as gifts. Last year, we received a one night stay at a luxury San Diego resort off a deal site as part of L’s birthday gift, and we forgot about it and it expired. F*ck. We called the resort, and were told we could get the equivalent of the original price paid for the deal, which was the cost of a discounted room. However, the extra amenities that were part of the package such as wine and a picnic basket lunch expired along with the deal. We felt terrible, and have yet to use our room credit.

Then there’s good old procrastination. Most of our online deal purchases are from restaurants. Really awesome deals from places like Gap, Whole Foods, or Nordstrom Rack are the unicorns of the online deal world. Yet, there are tons of restaurant deals. If you’ve actually been to the featured restaurant before and know it’s good, then buying an online coupon is probably a great idea. However, trying out new places on a deal can be tricky, especially if you procrastinate. Our experiences have gone a little like this.

I get reeled into buying $20 for $40 worth of food at a New-to-Us Restaurant. I look at the expiration date, and see that we have seven months to use it. “No biggie,” I think to myself, “We will surely use this within SEVEN months!” Seven months go by, and we realize the deal is set to expire within days. We arrive at the restaurant, coupon in hand, and get stuck on a forced date with a shitload of other procrastinating deal junkies. The restaurant, which hasn’t seen this much business since 1998, is swamped, and consequently the service is most likely less stellar than it would be on a normal business day. We get the bill, and are excited that it’s $17 not including tip. Score! Except, if I was more astute, I would realize that we just spent well over $40 for a mediocre experience. 

This has happened to us on a handful of occasions. I take some responsibility for our procrastination, but still, we are paying out money for this.

Conversely, there are some definite upsides to deal sites. We have a beautiful canvas print of one of our favorite wedding pictures. We have gotten discounts on museum memberships, movie tickets, and massages.  When we treat ourselves to deals that we really want or need, we have a much higher level of satisfaction.

On average we purchase one to three deals per month; it varies depending on the offerings that month. I’d like to limit this to “must haves” (like Whole Foods), and deals where we make concrete plans to use it. For example, we recently found a discount on Cirque du Soleil tickets. L has never seen a show, so we decided we will go as a Valentine’s treat. I feel good about this type of purchase.

In addition, I am trying to be more vigilant about checking up on new restaurants and businesses before purchasing a deal from them. I check Yelp, and read restaurant and small business reviews religiously. Last week, I was within an inch of purchasing what looked like a great deal for a pedicure and massage. Then I did a little online research and wasn’t thrilled with the spa’s reviews and comments. I decided to pass on it.

How has your experience been with online deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc.? Have you ever gotten carried away with purchasing deals?

January 30, 2012



  1. Reply

    Our Wired Lives

    January 28, 2012

    I know what you mean. I've also noticed that the deals in the last 6 months are not as good as they were before then. The sites are so popular now. Hubs and I always end up spending way more than we had if we never had a coupon. We've slowed our roll on purchasing too. I'm not a fan of other people purchasing us "discounts". If the discount is for the "whole thing" than that makes more sense.

  2. Reply


    January 29, 2012

    I use Groupons. When I first got to WA, it was a great way to try new places. But there were many I didn't get to use because I didn't realize how far away they were from my new hometown (EVERYTHING is about 30 minutes one way! And that's a LONG way to drive for ice cream, so it's no longer a "deal"). Another hang up we ran into is the expiration date thing – with Sean's ever changing Navy schedule, we'd buy a "2 for 1" and wouldn't be able to use it due to his work schedule. Now is a great example – he's on his 15th straight day of work, and another week will go by before he "might" get 1 day off. He's working nights now, so going out to dinner is impossible. We could go out to lunch, but he's just so tired because his shifts either end at midnight, or at 3am. So going out for breakfast means he's working off of 4 or less hours of sleep for a very LONG day.

    Another hitch we ran into were "reservations". Groupon usually states that you should make a reservation first. But many companies who know they are going under will say they don't have any openings (or they are at crazy times) for folks with Groupons. Afterall – they don't care if you USE the groupon. They already have your $$$. It's like buying a giftcard for a company that goes out of business.

    I haven't found anything in LivingSocial that is less than an hour away. Expedia offers short term access to Entertainment book coupons, and those are GREAT! You pay $10 (and if you go through Ebates, you get $1 of that back, and you can earn Expedia loyalty rewards) for access to the online Entertainment book. Coupons are good for 14 days from the day you print them, and you can look through the book for different cities and get deals while traveling too. That one actually made sense for me, since I could control printing out the coupon until I KNEW my sailor's schedule. (well, in theory that would work, but I'll save that for another blog…)

    Way to cut down your discressionary spending! We found that by splitting when we go out (even glasses of wine) we save a TON and get to taste a few different things. Feels like a me intimate experience.

  3. Reply

    Geek in Heels

    January 29, 2012

    We don't purchase much of these deals because we're trying to cut back financially as a whole, but the ones we have purchased were worth it. However, BECAUSE we are so discriminate about what we purchase, we only go for the really good ones and/or ones we know we'll be using in the near future.

    That being said, I too have been put off by many of these sites because of the crazy number of emails, in addition to the fact that many small businesses that participate in these deals have come forth to confess that the deals do not help bring in new clientele, and that they have actually hurt them financially.

  4. Reply

    ruthy ann

    January 30, 2012

    im actually a sales rep for livingsocial in tacoma wa. when i started the job 14 months ago i bought almost every deal i sold. I'm down to usually one or two purchases per month. Being in the industry, we're not the right fit for every business, but the majority of merchants end up using us multiple times per year because it was such a good experience for them.

  5. Reply


    January 30, 2012

    I personally am a fan of Groupon…but I don't end up buying too many of the deals! Some of our favorite spots pop up on occasion, so we take advantage of those kinds of deals. Also – our local meat market does a $15 for $30 of food deal every few months (actually, it just came up again TODAY!)…and you better believe I end up buying those!

    We have, however, bought a few for restaurants we haven't tried before…and I agree: it is harder to get in to use those when it's an unknown/untested location! But, if there are good reviews, we go for it!

  6. Reply

    TwoWishes Tara

    February 1, 2012

    I've been reaching exactly the same conclusion, for exactly the same reasons. One of my bigger problems is that I spread the love among FAR too many sites, and then can never even remember what I bought from whom, much less the expiration dates. But it's a hard addiction to break!