How to get the most out of daily deals sites
Daily deal sites can save you a bucketload – but only if you play the game right! Here's how to make these sites work for you, plus our pick of the best.
Credit: Derek Gavey - Flickr
There are masses of daily deals websites out there these days, punting savings on everything from spa breaks to Henry hoovers – as long as you grab 'em while they're hot (or, in this case, reduced).
Seeing all these crazy deals appear on your screen alongside a ticking countdown clock can lead to some rash decisions, so we're here to tell you to chill out, take your time and do your research before you part with your cash.
These sites certainly have their benefits, but there are a few things to watch out for when using them.
We'll tell you everything you need to know to reap the benefits from the daily deal universe, plus give you the lowdown on the best daily deals sites to try out.
What's in this guide?
It's worth knowing a bit more about how these sites actually work before you start throwing your money at them, right?
Right – here's the deal...
So what exactly are daily deal sites?
In case you need some clarification here – daily deal sites are exactly what they say on the tin: short term deals that offer big reductions, but generally only last for 24 hours (sometimes slightly longer).
Unlike typical voucher code sites, you'll also find that a lot of the deals are highly localised to your area and not necessarily involving big brand names.
Daily deal sites are able to offer really low prices for a limited time by relying on the power of bulk buying – as long as enough people are interested in the deal and pay up, the company will still be able to make some money back, meaning it's still worth their time.
When would they be useful?
For many students, daily deals can be a great way to keep an eye out for any slightly more expensive purchases you've been thinking about but can't quite afford at full price – laser teeth whitening, a spa weekend or a new TV, perhaps.
However, it's important to make sure you don't let the deals dictate what you buy, and only stick to purchases that are of interest to you! Don't be tempted by 80% off 100 Nespresso coffee capsules when you don't even have a Nespresso machine... or drink coffee, for that matter.
It's also worth noting that massively discounted items can still be quite expensive. For example, a blender priced at £49.99 isn't a bargain, even if it's reduced from £250 – it just means that it was overpriced in the first place!
Using these sites is pretty straight forward, but it is well worth taking a few things into consideration before you splash the cash.
The following tips will help you figure out if the deal you're getting is just very clever marketing, or really worth it!
Use a separate email address
All daily deal sites will ask you to enter your email address in order to view the deals on offer. This is because the 'point' of daily deals is that they email you every day with a list of the best deals on offer.
Of course, receiving these emails isn't everyone's cup of tea and can get annoying if you're getting constant notifications.
You can get around this by clicking "I'm already signed up" or "no thanks" on the homepage, or another great option is to always use an alias (deals) email address for daily deals and turn off all notifications for this address.
Always read the small print
Terms and conditions are officially as dull as dishwater, but that's no excuse not to read them, especially when it's your over-stretched wallet on the line.
This is particularly the case with daily deals, as often you'll find deals are really specific in how and when they can be redeemed.
For example, a restaurant deal might not be valid on weekends (really convenient), or the driving experience voucher you bought months in advance for your dad's birthday might expire within a couple of weeks. Don't get caught out!
Watch out for hidden costs
One common tactic of daily deals sites is to promote offers that appear extremely low, but actually have some additional costs involved.
For example, an offer like £1 paint balling sounds great, but when you arrive to find out that you have to fork out to hire the paintballs and other equipment at an extra cost it becomes clear that the deal was too good to be true.
Use a piece of paper to tot up the total cost after the added extras to see if it's still a good deal.
Always check out the seller
Remember that daily deal sites only host deals and aren't technically responsible for any issues you have with the companies offering them.
If the business behind the offer is running a deal that you feel is unfair, it can be difficult for the deals company to do much about it straight away, and the process of coming to a solution can take a long time. Therefore, just make sure you do your research first.
It takes less than five minutes to check out a retailers website and read some reviews, but this could save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.
Don't fall for the hype
Yes, an all-inclusive country spa break sounds great, but can you really afford it?
With emails landing in your inbox daily, it can be all too tempting to snap up anything that appeals, but try to focus on what you actually need.
Don't get caught out by marketing – make a list of stuff you're on the lookout for in advance and only snag offers that appear for those things.
The trick is to keep the ball in your court by making sure you're scouting out deals rather than taking up offers that have been advertised to you. That's how they get ya!
While the 80% off price tag can make it seem like you're saving a fortune on the RRP, make sure you do some scouting around first.
Some retailers have been known to inflate prices so that it looks like you're getting a mega deal, when in reality no retailer is selling the item at the RRP.
The internet is your friend here – get googling the item and see what pops up, or try using a comparison site to speed up the process.
Refer a friend
Most daily deal sites will offer some sort of incentive to get users to refer a friend to sign up to their site.
Normally this will involve being given a link to dish out to your mates, and if they sign up using the link you send them, both of you will earn cash (in the case of Groupon, this is £6 a pop!).
Look out for voucher codes
Believe it or not, on top of all these crazy reductions offered by daily deal sites, it's not that uncommon to find voucher codes for a further discount on your spend with a website.
For example, a site might offer a voucher code that will get you £5 off when you spend £25 with them, no matter what deal you go for.
These codes are definitely worth keeping an eye out for on our student deals page, as the overall saving involved with the two discounts combined can be really something!
If dining out, declare your deal
If you're using a voucher to dine out, it's best to let someone who works there know that you plan on using it before you take your seat.
This will avoid any embarrassing situations if they have to point out that the deal is only valid on Tuesdays when you're there on a Saturday night, and other such travesties. You'll be in for a nasty shock if they refuse your voucher!
This also applies to 'experiences' like beauty treatments and workshops, etc.
Don't watch the clock
... because that's exactly what they want you to do! Countdown tickers can play havoc with your ability to distinguish between needs and wants – don't give into the pressure of the clock!
Just ignore them. Despite what they want you to believe, chances are a very similar deal (if not the very same one) will crop up again soon enough.
To make sure you don't miss out on the best offers, we suggest signing up to all three of these sites using a secondary alias email address that you can check as and when you like.
Some of Groupon's best offers include those luxuries that aren't necessarily part of a student's typical expenses, such as spa treatments, overnight breaks and luxury dining experiences.
You can definitely find a gem from time to time, but there's no denying theres a lot of promotional emails involved.
LivingSocial has always been nipping away at the heels of market leader Groupon, and is increasingly providing some of the best value deals in order to gain market share.
Previous top offers include £50 worth of Tesco spend for just £20 and half price Starbucks.
Like most daily deals sites, each offer expires quickly so you need to move fast to bag the best ones. It's worth downloading the LivingSocial instant deal app which alerts you to the latest deals instantaneously so you don't miss out.
Intriguingly, this site also offers some more obscure deals such as tarot card reading and laser tattoo removals!
But what's really great is GoGroopie's travel offers. Don't get us wrong, other daily deals sites do holidays too, but GoGroopie's are definitely the best of the bunch.
Just a heads up, though – always check the flight times before you go ahead and book. The cheapest deals might involve some unsociable travel hours, but then again, when you're paying under £100 for flights and accommodation to a European city, it's a small price to pay (literally!).
So remember: only buy things you were after anyway, and don't get suckered in by an offer that sounds a lot better than it actually is! Stick by these two rules, and you won't go far wrong.
Got any more daily deal tips you think we've missed out? Let us know in the comments below!