Here at MFA we love a good deal as much as the next guy, and we have used daily deals to save money on restaurants, movies, deli lunches, kitchen tools and an occasional mani/pedi. We have used offers from Groupon, Living Social, BuyWithMe, Google, Amazon, GiltGroup, RueLala and several local NYC deal companies. Most deals we have tried have been for relatively inexpensive items, but we are watching with interest some new companies that are getting in the deal business with bigger things. For example, a new company, Deal Decor, launching in San Francisco this week, is introducing group buying for furniture and offering a $949 sectional at a first-apartment-friendlier $399.
If you are smart about your deals, you can really stretch out your budget, but it’s easy to get carried away and end up with a bum deal. So, how do you pick out the deals that are genuinely worth the price? Here are some lessons we have learned (mostly the hard way!) from using the deals:
1.) Only buy deals for items or services you’d buy anyway. Movie ticket deals are great, six fat reducing treatments maybe not. That $25 dry cleaning coupon for $50 worth of cleaning may be from a super expensive place that you would never use and ends up costing you more than your regular corner cleaner.
2.) Read the fine print. It’s so obvious it’s often missed. Most restaurant deal specify that you can only use one deal per table, so no double dating on the cheap. Or that massage deal may be limited to times when you cannot use it. Or the photographer deal may not include the head shots that you wanted for your LinkedIn profile (yes, failed to notice that one!)
3.) Beware of restaurant deals that offer a special “deal only” menu. Do you usually dine out on 6-course tasting menus? Did not think so. The best restaurant deals are when you can order from the regular menu, without restrictions. Again, read the fine print.
4.) Remember to add the tip to the deal cost, based on the original price not the deal price. That fancy hair salon’s $150 cut, that you snatched for $50. Not such a bargain when you add a suggested $30 tip.
5.) Check out the location of the deal. If the deal is far from you regular haunts you are more likely to miss using it. If the deal is for a place you pass by daily, not only do you know that the deal is legit, but chances are it gets used quickly.
6.) Keep track of your deals and use them quickly. Print out the coupons immediately and file by expiration dates or save to a separate folder on your computer. Also mark a reminder on your calendar a few days before each deal expires. According to some research close to 22% of deals go unused. Try to use your deals quickly, because the vendor may go out of business, and even though you may get your money back it’s a hassle you don’t need.
7.) Ignore Rule # 1 once in a while. Daily deals are a great way to try something new. Tango lessons for $25, why not? Neighborhood gym offers a deal on trying spinning or Pilates, test it out.
We’d love to hear about your daily deal triumphs and misses in the comments.