Oil changes for $10. Royals tickets for $5 per person. How about a $100 dinner tab for $50? Sound too good to be true? Not if you’re a savvy shopper or surfer on the ever-expanding number of discount deal sites out there.
Ever since Groupon exploded onto the scene a few years ago, it seems every pop-up ad or “recommended” Facebook post is from one of these online deal brokers. And that’s a good thing, for the most part.
What I mean is that consumers can win — if they stick to reputable, legitimate sites, purchase only the things they need, and steer clear of scams.
First, I’ll share a sampling of super deal sites I’ve used to my advantage, or been referred to by people I trust. Then we’ll talk about how to avoid getting taken advantage of.
Where to Go
Why not start with fashion? Normorerack (www.normorerack.com) offers designer apparel and accessories at 50-80 percent off retail. Different day, different deal. Similar savings can be found on sites like 6 p.m. ( www.6pm.com) for clearance clothing items, shoes and accessories, and Zulily ( www.zulily.com
) for the same type of items, but geared specifically to moms, babies and kids.
Entertainment is another common offering. Groupon is still great here, as is dealsaver.com (http://kansascity.dealsaver.com/engine/splash.aspx
), both of which serve up daily offers for restaurants, performing arts, sports, movies, and on and on. Looking for a romantic getaway? How about a two-night stay at Lake of the Ozarks for $120?
Even consignment shop hunters can get in on the online deals. With Twice.com (www.liketwice.com
), you can tell them what you’re looking for and they’ll scour participating stores, alerting you to deals around the country. Ship them your stuff for store credit!
What to avoid
Some bargains seem too good to be true. Sadly, some (but surprisingly few) are scams. Here’s how to sniff them out:
1. Let experience guide you – Only use sites where you’ve had reliable transactions before, or know someone who has.
2. Do your due diligence – In less than five minutes, you should be able to get a sense of whether you’re dealing with a reputable company or a sham. Google them and see what comes up in terms of complaints, history, independent reviews, Better Business Bureau profile, etc.
3. Track your payment – Many sites issue vouchers that don’t include shipping, so you wind up paying hidden costs. It’s illegal for them to charge you prior to shipping your order, too, so beware if you see shipping charges on your bill before you receive shipment confirmation.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned maybe one percent of the daily deal sites you have come across. They all look great, and most can be incredible bargains. But no matter what comes your way, rule No. 1 is don’t buy if you don’t need. It’s too easy to “save” your way into financial troubles.
And take a few minutes to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable, reliable source. When you do, there’s no doubting the potentially positive impact on your budget.
Just be smart.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with
CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.