Who doesn’t want to grab a great deal? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 3 years, you’re probably familiar with the concept of daily deal sites. In fact, you might have enjoyed 50% off on a restaurant meal, 90% off a Golf Lesson, a $3 movie, or some other amazing markdown thanks to a site like Groupon or Living Social. The thrill of discovering incredible bargains is what helped Groupon – the largest of the daily deal sites – sell over 170 million “Groupons” and gain over 33 million active customer. But despite the incredible discounts – the easy spending encouraged by the daily deals business model can actually end up costing you money – if you’re not careful with your shopping habits.

Daily Deal Sites Encourage Impulse Buying

If you’ve used a daily deal site, you’re probably familiar with the business model. You give the website your email address and in return they send you incredible local deals everyday. The deals are usually a smorgasbord of local business offerings, but they almost all have one thing in common – they encourage impulse spending. If you’re trying to reign in your discretionary spending, getting daily encouragement to spend unnecessarily on consumer products and entertainment is asking for trouble. It even comes with a built-in justification for spending your hard earned money – “but I’m getting a great deal!”

Deals Don’t Always Get Used

Unlike traditional coupon deals where you enjoy the discount and pay only once you actually buy the product/service, the deals on a site like Groupon force you to pay upfront for a product/service you’ll only use down the road. Perhaps you’re planning to go enjoy that 50% lunch Groupon deal next weekend, or you’re planning to use the 2 for 1 theatre tickets when you have a free evening – either way, you’re paying before you even get to the restaurant or the event

While the customer will usually cash in on the deal, occasionally they forget. In other cases, the deal may even expire. Unredeemed daily deals end up costing the consumer money – money they wouldn’t have wasted with a traditional coupon. Make sure you only take advantage of deals you’ll really use, or your addiction to daily deal sites may actually be costing you more than you save.

Neglecting Other Bargain Destinations

Even though social deal sites are the latest craze in bargain hunting, focusing too much on daily deal sites can cause you to miss out on other saving opportunities. Don’t neglect good old fashioned web coupons and deals when you’re bargain hunting. Even regular brochures and coupon books you find in the mail still hold valuable savings.

Want to go on an exotic vacation? You don’t have to wait for a cheap vacation package to show up in your inbox, just go look for Expedia coupons and deals online, or see travel specials offered directly from a travel agency. Looking for a place to stay and transportation? Sites like Hotwire.com always offer plenty of incredible deals on car rentals and hotels – and you don’t have to scroll through dozens of discount spa, restaurant, and cosmetics deals to find them. For the impulse shopper, hunting for specific deals rather than randomly browsing daily deal sites can help curb unwise spending.

Despite some of their drawbacks, daily deal sites are still a great place to find a bargain. The key is to visit when you’re actually looking to purchase something specific – rather than treating your Groupon App like a shopping mall you visit every day. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be missing out – there’s always another great deal just around the corner.

Nathalie is a freelance writer who is passionate about technology, personal finance and bargain hunting. She owns the website Hotdealsboard.com where she shares coupons, deals, and bargain hunting tips.

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