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Using discounting sites to save money on food, trips, events and merchandise

Groupon's Logo
Groupon's LogoPhoto by Scott Olson/Getty Images

First of all, this article is NOT an advertisement for third party goods or services. It is a way to save by providing you with real money saving offers from your local merchants.

That having been said, your arsenal of frugal ideas would not be complete without including discount deal websites such as Groupon or Living Social. They both work about the same. First, you establish an account with the site, tell them your preferences, and, most importantly, your geographic location. If you are a seasonal resident, you can change your locational preferences at will.

Once you are a member, you will begin getting emails from the site showing the deals in your local area. Simply click on any deal that interests you. The terms of the deals vary, but they all have one thing in common: The price of the deal and what you get for that price. Let’s look a typical deal:

A local restaurant offers to sell you a voucher for $30.00 worth of food and drink for two for $16.00 (restaurant discounts are usually around 50%). If you decide you want the deal, you click “buy” (Groupon) or “buy now” (Living Social) and authorize the transaction for $16.00. You will then be given a voucher to print that is good for $30.00 worth of food and drink. When you visit the restaurant, simply give your waitperson the voucher and $30.00 will be taken off your check. In this example, let’s say you and a friend eat at the restaurant and the check (pretax) comes to $35.00. You will be given a check for $5.00 instead. The total cost of your meal will be $21.00 (plus tax and tip) instead of $35.00 – the . Please remember to tip your server based on the amount without the discount.

Purchasing merchandise may work a little different. If your order will be processed through the merchants website, you may be given a voucher code instead. If so, be sure to include this code at checkout to get the discount.

Things to watch for before you buy a voucher: 1) Expiration date – In Groupon, it is in the “Fine Print” on the offer page, in Living Social, it is under the deal description. While you never lose the amount you paid, if the voucher has expired, you won’t get the discount. 2) Other conditions - Read the fine print or description for other terms and restrictions. Must there be two (or more) diners? Is it only good at lunch (or dinner)? Can it be used for take-out? 3) Location – make sure it isn’t too far to travel. You will sometimes be offered deals from nearby towns. If you are in Fort Myers, you might not find it convenient to buy a deal in Naples. 4) Reputation – If the voucher is for a restaurant (or hotel) that you aren’t familiar with, look on rating sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what other customers have said about it. An awful meal or flea-bag hotel is no bargain. It’s also a good time to look at the restaurant’s menu for pricing and content. 5) Comparison shop. – When you consider the discounted value of merchandise you want to buy, don’t take it at face value. The voucher should be just one option in your comparison shopping. There is nothing worse than ordering merchandise on Groupon just to find the exact same item at Walmart for $5.00 less!

Anyway, have fun with the sites. Enjoy the discounts, they will spark the frugal side of you.