How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Groupon

With the plethora of deal sites out there clogging up the internet (and your inbox), there are less and less reasons to pay full price for anything. The social deal bandwagon is standing room only at this point, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re missing out on a great way to save a ton of money. It works like this: local companies offer their goods or services at ridiculously discounted prices with the promise of selling a huge number of products and attracting new customers.

The idea of using the internet to leverage collective bargaining and get killer deals is a fairly new concept, but it’s growing exponentially; there were 66 such sites a year ago and around 322 today. Here is your guide to the biggest and the best.

A few tips before we get started:

50% – 75% Off Isn’t Quite Enough?
Always check RetailMeNot for coupon codes that can be used for many of the sites below to get extra discounts at checkout. In fact, use RetailMeNot whenever you buy something online to see if you can get a percentage off or free shipping.

I Don’t Like Spam!
Many of these sites encourage (or force) you to sign up using your e-mail address and will send deals to your inbox every day. Make a new e-mail account just for deals and check it periodically for any deals you might want.

Groupon This is the grandaddy of them all; it’s the group buying site that started the craze. As such, they offer the more deals in more cities than any other site and, because of their popularity, deals almost always reach the minimum number of buyers to become active. Groupon now has an app for your smartphone which allows you to find and buy deals around you with no voucher printing required. Just show your phone to the vendor and get your discount.

LivingSocial Another group deal website that works just like Groupon save for one killer feature that sets it apart from the pack: the incentive that’s provided by LivingSocial to tempt its users to share the daily deal offerings with their friends. That is, if three people buy the deal using the link you’re provided upon signing up, then you receive the deal for free. Unfortunately, LivingSocial is only available in a handful of major U.S. cities at this time.

Scoutmob Scoutmob is an up and comer with a lot of potential. Now in 13 major cities (and expanding to 7 more in the coming months), Scoutmob takes a hipster approach by specializing in more bohemian offerings like discounts to chic little boutiques, vegan bistros, and trendy restaurants with one word names like Salt, Ink, and Choice. It’s completely app driven which means you don’t buy any voucher. Just open the app on your smart phone and show it at the business to get your discount. The downside is you have to have the aforementioned smart phone for which there is sadly no group discount.

HalfOffDepot This one works the same way as the others: buy a voucher and bring it with you to get your discount. They have a surprising amount of really great deals to a wide variety of attractions and services, from liposuction to white water rafting and everything in between. Use the retailmenot trick to get even more off the price. A website that specializes in meal offers and features 1,000s of restaurants looking to bring new people in. Here you can buy gift certificates for eateries at severely discounted prices, but there are limitations. For instance, a $25 voucher sells for $10 but can only be used at dinner and your bill must be $35 or more with a 18% gratuity built in. Using the retailmenot trick will get you another 70% to 80% off your voucher, netting you a $25 gift certificate for $2 to $3.

Dealster Like Groupon, Dealster offers discounts on a whole bunch of stuff.  You know the drill: buy the voucher, get the discount.

PlumDistrict A website by moms and for moms. In pretty pink, it offers deals geared toward women: chocolate, pilates, skin care, salons, etc.

The Best of the Rest
For the adventurous, here are a bunch of other deal sites. I haven’t tried any of them, so I’d love to get your feedback if you find a cool one.


Missed a cool deal?
If you just missed an awesome deal or want to sell a voucher you won’t be able to use, check out where people buy and sell past deals from group coupon sites.

Use Caution
While these sites are a great way to have fun and stay within your budget at the same time, be judicious in picking your deals. More than once, I’ve lapsed into a coupon euphoria haze and woken up later in a pile of printed vouchers for bikini waxes. It wasn’t pretty.


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