Monday, January 23, 2012

Freedom and Group Coupons

Quite the bargain price!
If you're interested in saving money via frugal means, this desire is probably motivated by a desire for freedom. Whether that is freedom from credit cards or other forms of debt, or whether that is the freedom to do whatever you want each and every day of your life, you realize that getting a handle on your money is vital to your desire.

Because of this desire for freedom, we may look for the best deals on goods and services in an effort to find freedom that much sooner.  However, I'd like to suggest that certain deals actually bind you more than they set you free.

In my opinion, these deals come from social coupon sites like Groupon and Living Social.

I've soured on these sites a little bit lately.  I haven't had any particularly bad experiences, but several of my Groupons are getting close to expiring*, I'm finding myself running around town trying to cash them in before it's too late.

While the value of the Groupons is good, I feel that they're causing me less personal freedom because I feel compelled to redeem them before it's too late.  If I'm engaging in a money-saving activity that causes me to feel less free, then I am kind of subverting the purpose of saving money in the first place.  And that's not a good thing for me.

Here are a couple of other reasons why the deals these sites offer do not necessarily make your life easier.

1)  What's being advertised may not necessarily something that you'd buy anyway - A primary ingredient to the frugal lifestyle is not simply to save money on every transaction, but to limit the total number of transactions you purchase.  Sure, it might seem fun to go to a six hour lesson on how to become a rodeo clown, but in what ways does going to that class help you achieve your other monetary goals?  If the deal offered is not something that you know you will buy in the next few weeks, don't buy it.

2)  You're making your money less liquid - If you have a crisp $20 bill in your pocket, you are basically free to spend that money wherever you want.  However, if you have a crisp Groupon in your pocket for which you paid $20, your buying options are pretty much limited to whatever that Groupon is for.  This is how gift cards work too; you are giving a company money today for the privilege of maybe doing business with them some time in the future.  In general, this isn't a great idea for you, the consumer (though it's pretty awesome for the company who gets to keep both your money and their product).

3)  You might not get what you expect - In some cases, merchants get in over their heads.  If this is the case, these merchants have been known to turn down customers who purchased the coupons.  You then have the headache of trying to claim a refund.  Again, this isn't making your life easier.

What do you think?  Have you ever purchased from a site like Living Social or Groupon and had a good experience?  Let me know in the comments.

*In California, where I live, Groupons don't expire, per se, they just become worth what you paid.  As an example, if you bought a Groupon for $25 worth of cupcakes for $10, when the Groupon expires, you can only get $10 worth of cupcakes for your Groupon.  I'm not sure if this is the case for all states, or just for California.

Photo by sylvar.


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter said...

We actually use these sites all of the time but we only buy things we will actually use. I know people who end buying coupons that end up going to waste. We don't do this. We actually watch them to see if there is somewhere we frequently go that is giving a deal.

Bryan said...

I absolutely agree; it's the best practice to only buy Groupons that you know that you'll use. I guess I'm learning on that lesson after the fact. :)