Mar 24

Stretch Your Entertainment Budget with Daily Deal Sites

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.35.31 AMDo you use the daily deal sites to snag good entertainment deals? I do! I love to use the deal sites to stretch our entertainment budget. From dining out and massages, to tasting tours and theater tickets, there are a bunch great deals if you’re dying to get out of the house, but want to stick to your budget.

I started browsing the daily deal sites shortly after I paid off my monster student loan debt. I wanted to go out to eat and indulge in little beauty treatments, but couldn’t bear the idea of spending my newly “found” money on the things I’d “cut out” of my budget for so long. I was obsessed with saving my money and didn’t want to splurge on anything that wasn’t a necessity. When I found the deal sites I was super excited because I could try out some of the local restaurants and salons without spending full price and feeling “guilty” (self-imposed guilt is the worst, and I’m so good a guilting myself).

But with good things in life, moderation is key. Living in a major city, there’s always a deal that appeals to me. So I’ve had to learn to be judicious with my deal purchases. Here are a few tips about staying within your budget when buying from the deals sites that I’ve learned the “hard way”– if you know what I mean-wink.

Avoiding the “Dangers” of the deal sites:

1. Buy with your budget in mind

I have to admit when I first found AmazonLocal, Groupon and Living Social I was so obsessed with the idea of “saving” I went a little overboard and spent more than I’d planned. The only way you can stretch your entertainment budget (and get more value for your money) is if you actually stick to your budget. A $50 voucher to a local restaurant for “only” $25 might seem like a good deal, but not if the average meal costs $100 per person and you’re trying to stay within a $50 dining out budget.

2. Pay Attention to the restrictions

There are sometimes restrictions on the days you can use the voucher, the items you can purchase and the number of vouchers you can buy. Sometimes substitutions are allowed, but a lot of the time they are not. Keep in mind, if you live in a big city, some locations of a particular chain store or restaurant might not be participating. My local Coldstone Creamery has a sign right on their front door that states they do no participate in any of the daily deal sites-bummer!

3. Make sure you buy in the right city

Sometimes I get so excited when I see a deal on one of the coupon blogs I rush to buy the voucher without paying attention to the city the voucher is good for (Dumb! I know!). This actually happened to me just a few months ago. I saw a great deal for a voucher at the Body Shop. I excitedly snagged 2 vouchers before I realized I’d bought them from the Living social Orlando site, oops.

4. Read the fine print

When I first “found” the deal sites, I bought a bunch of vouchers for local restaurants and services and only used about half of them before they expired. These days you keep at least the “paid value” of the voucher, but when I first started using Groupon many of the deals expired completely on a certain date (it said so in the very fine print at the bottom of the voucher). If you didn’t use the voucher by that date you lost your money (not very frugal!).

5. Think before you buy

Do you really need the item or service you’re buying? It’s easy to get excited about buying something when there are “only 500 left” or there are only 30 minutes left to buy (they do that on purpose of course). Carefully consider if you really need the item you’re purchasing before you click “buy”. Don’t let the group buying mentality suck you in.

Daily Deal Sites I Love:

Tip: Did you know you can use ebates to buy Living Social and Groupon vouches (to get a percentage of your purchase price back!)? Currently ebates is offering 4.6% cash back on Groupon purchases and 6% cash backon Living Social vouchers.

What are your favorite deal sites? How do you use them to stay on budget?

**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, if you sign up or buy from one of them, thank you!


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  1. Another PF blogger introduced me to Ebates and it’s great – I was able to get around $100 back when I purchased wedding stuff that I would have bought anyway. I use both Groupon and Living Social occasionally, mostly for steakhouse restaurants that I love and use it for special occasions like our birthdays. 🙂

      • KK on March 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm
      • Reply

      I just got $50 back from ebates for purchasing our Cancun vacation through Expedia, I was thrilled. Every little bit certainly helps. I really like being able to eat at some of the more pricy restaurants without paying the big bills.

  2. I used to use groupon a TON but then I went crazy and spent way too much money on things I really didn’t need or would use. Now I avoid them like the plague except for hotel deals. We actually used groupon’s getaway deals to book our honeymoon night hotel at a big discount!

      • KK on March 24, 2014 at 7:38 pm
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      It’s easy to get a little out of control (I did at first) with all the great “deals”. Once I got things in check and stuck to my budget I was much happier (and so was my wallet).

  3. I used to use them more, but the emails started getting on my nerves, so I unsubscribed to a lot of them, and when I get the itch I’ll just go to the website and look. I did find a great deal on a group trip to the big island of hawaii on living social so that was awesome!

      • KK on March 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm
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      I hear you. Those e-mails are insane (sometimes 3 a day!). I use a “junk” email account for mine so they don’t jam up my inbox. I’d love to do another trip this year. Hawaii sounds perfect, I’ll have to see if there are any deals.

  4. I love “How About We” in New York. They have lots of great inexpensive entertainment ideas. But I agree that you have to think about your budget before you look at them. I know a number of people who buy Groupon deals all the time and it is a waste of money if you weren’t planning on spending it in the first place.

      • KK on March 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm
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      My friend met a couple of guys through “how about we” a while back. I see that they now do couples date which is cool. I’ll have to look around the site a little more.

  5. I love these sites but I had to take a step back and slow down on my purchases. They had deals for so many cool things here that it was hard to say no to them.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:02 am
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      It can be hard to say “no” especially when the deals are so good. I’ve definitely slowed down with my voucher purchases too.

  6. I love me a daily deal, but I have canceled my subscription because it’s too tempting to get them in my inbox every morning. Instead, when I’m looking for a gift or cheap activity, I give them a scan.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:03 am
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      It’s hard when the come right to your inbox. I’ve definitely been tempted into buying something I don’t really need because the deal was so good.

    • Liz on March 24, 2014 at 10:42 pm
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    Reading the rules and fine print are key! I almost purchased a groupon ticket for an art exhibit I really want to see. Groupon had an amazing deal on the tickets. However, after reading the “fine print” the tickets were only good tuesday – thursday! Weeknights wont really work for us so the groupon ended up not being such a great deal. Glad I took the extra minute to read everything!

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:04 am
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      I almost did the same thing with a dining voucher. The exclusions were Friday and Saturday night, which is exactly when we’d want to use the voucher.

  7. I love groupon for when I want to go out. You do have to be careful of buying stuff just “because it’s on sale”. Also restrictions are key! Some nights are off limits, for example. I now try to just eat at home, but it’s nice once in a while.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am
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      Eating at home is probably a lot cheaper and healthier (and something we’re trying to do more). It’s easy to get sucked into the whole, “but it’s on sale” mentality.

  8. My wife and I have used GroupOn and Living Social. As you said, READ THE FINE PRINT! It’s also important to realize some companies are really crappy at managing their coupons. One hotel answered the phone and said they didn’t know what Living Social was. When we got a hold of someone who managed the coupon program they said you had to use it Friday or Saturday, but all the weekends were filled for the time frame you had to book. WTH? It did work out but sometimes I get frustrated when companies mismanage.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:07 am
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      Ugg, that’s so frustrating (and I’m sure it happens more then we’d think). I once bought a manicure voucher but couldn’t use it because all of their appointments were already booked for the last weekend it was valid. I called Groupon and they gave me my money back since the vendor wouldn’t allow me to use it past the expiration date (which was silly for a nail salon-in my opinion).

  9. I used to use Groupon, TeamBuy, and a few others to get good entertainment deals. I now live in such a small area that there aren’t buys around here. Which is fine… it’s less tempting. Especially since we try not to eat out too often, and these were always tempting.

    I also found I forgot about the upfront cost. For example “Get $20 for $10”. Well when I’d go to the restaurant it felt like I was saving $20 when really I was only saving $10. Mind tricks!

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:08 am
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      Hmm, never heard of teambuy, I’ll have to take a look. My parents live in a really rural area so it’s hard for them to find good deals (although the local news station does one on TV which is neat).

  10. Although we don’t buy real often, we love the daily deal sites. I’ve finally gotten myself under control and only buy now for what we really want. For instance, we wanted to visit a famous lighthouse here, and one day they had a coupon for the MN Historical Society, which owns the lighthouse, for nearly half off for a year membership. For $45 we’ll be able to see and do all sorts of fun things for the next year without an entry fee. Pretty good deal for a family of six. 🙂

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:09 am
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      Such a good point! Sometimes the “deal” isn’t as good as the “deal” you can get by going directly to the vendor (or the group overseeing the deal). If you take the time to ask around you might find out that the “deal” really isn’t that great.

  11. I unsubscribed from all those emails a few months ago. It was too tempting, especially during accelerated debt repayment! If I’m looking for something in particular, I’ll scan through the app but that rarely happens. It will be interesting to see if I let them back into my inbox once I’m debt free. Its been nice to have a clutter free email!

  12. My wife uses groupon for her yoga deals, but that’s the only thing we really do on the daily discount sites. But it definitely can be addicting.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:10 am
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      I’ve seen a bunch of great yoga and fitness deals lately (maybe everybody trying to get in shape before bathing suit weather) 🙂

  13. We usually use Groupon deals for restaurant deals and there are always a bunch of spa deals. I do have an expired deal that I was never able to use…snowtubing in NJ. It was too warm that winter! Imagine that! Now with a little baby, we won’t be using it anytime soon. That was a waste. I know you’re supposedly able to use expired deals for the value you paid so we’ll see…I don’t. P.S: I always buy groupon/living social deal using a shopping portal like ebates or shop discover to get some extra cash back.

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:11 am
      • Reply

      Bummer, snowtubing sounds like a lot of fun (I’m sure ther was plenty of snow for it this winter 🙂 ) I’ve never bothered to use the expired value of a groupon, but it’s something I need to check into. I paid that money so I may as well get some value from it.

  14. I’m a big fan of online shopping too, I used vouchers and some deals. Sometimes I take advantage for promos and discounted products, but before I purchased an item I make sure that it’s worth to buy,

      • KK on March 26, 2014 at 11:12 am
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      Good tips. Sometimes a “deal” isn’t as good as the deal you can get using a coupon code online.

  15. I LOVE 16 Handles. My husband saw a $16 for $32 worth of soft serve from 16 Handles that he bought me. Turns out, you have to use it all at once! Basically, it means we have to buy an ice cream cake or buy 6 people ice cream. So it looks like we’re getting a cake, lol. We’ll still enjoy the deal but yes, you gotta look out for these deals and read the fine print thoroughly!

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