I first posted about Groupon in July, 2010. At that point I had purchased one offer. Fast forward a year and a half, and I’m up to a whopping seven deals split between two sites. I’m not exactly a Groupon addict, that’s for sure! So, first my deals, then my tips on avoiding wasting money on them.

These are the deals I’ve bought:
Wine Insiders – I saved over 50% on twelve decent bottles of wine. That was my first steal, but it required some finagling.

Amazon – $20 for $10. I order from Amazon a lot, so of course I took this deal. Frankly, I don’t know why Amazon did it, but I suspect it was designed to put Living Social on the map and Amazon may not have paid a commission on the deal.

Whole Foods – $20 for $10. I shop at Whole Foods a lot, too. I spend at least $200 a year there. So, I snagged the deal. They even thanked me for coming. That was nice, but again, I’m not sure why WF felt the need to offer the deal. It seems like they’re pretty busy most of the time.

Yoga – $30 for 10 classes (normally $130). This was a really sweet deal. Then the business went the extra mile to make me a repeat customer. Shortly before the 10 classes expired, they sent me an exclusive offer for renewing Groupon customers – $99 for another 10 classes. Not as sweet a deal, but still cheap for yoga. So I renewed. They didn’t offer another deal after that, but I was a loyal customer by then and happily bought another package at full price. I think part of the reason Groupon’s work for yoga studios is that the class is held regardless of the number of students. I’ve had classes with 9 students, and classes with 2 students. Same teacher, same class. By offering the Groupon, the studio was introducing their classes to new students without incurring any additional cost.

Amoeba Music – $30 for $15. Amoeba is an amazing independent music store (used and new) in Los Angeles (and a few other cities). Again, I’m surprised they even offered a deal. I bought one for me and one for my husband. Amoeba is typically packed on the weekend, and the weekend we went was no exception. This offer was clever because it expired the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so customers couldn’t use it during the even busier holiday season. Maybe it helped boost sales during the pre-holiday lull. When I checked out, they gave me a special Groupon coupon for $5 off my next $30 purchase. Since Amoeba customers are fairly loyal (it’s not as if there are a lot of other physical record stores to compete with anymore), that’s just a nice thank you that doesn’t much hurt their bottom line. My husband and I both spent a little over $30, so we saved just under 50%, not a bad deal.

Garden Center – A garden center chain with a store near my house offered a $50 for $25 (I think) deal. I visit this garden center occasionally, most often for advice. It’s the sort of place where you can take a leaf and ask “What is wrong with it?” and they’ll actually know the answer. Not only that, but they have the product you need to fix it. Service is excellent. The prices are rather high, though. I ended up spending way more than the Groupon, probably around $70 because I lose all control in garden centers. But, I was able to stock up on fertilizers, plants, and tools and save a little bit, so I don’t regret the deal. I continue to go there with my plant problems, too.

Old Navy – $20 for $10. I love Old Navy. They have great deals already. When I read about this deal on a coupon site, I snagged it. I like to buy a few new tops each summer and winter, and I needed new jeans, so using it would be no problem. I also happened to have a $50 gift card that I needed to use. I tossed the gift card in my purse and just kept the Groupon expiration date in the back of my mind. This was the first time I used the Groupon app to use a deal. I didn’t have the printed version with me when I found myself needing to kill time near an Old Navy. But my smartphone came to the rescue. I ended up paying about $10 cash after the gift card and the Groupon.

To be honest, I don’t spend a ton of time looking at deal sites. I found out about the Amazon, Amoeba, and Whole Foods deals when friends posted about them on Facebook. I found out about the Wine Insider and Old Navy deals on a coupon blog. The Yoga deal I spotted myself because I was actively looking for a yoga deal at the time.  I happened to spot the Armstrong deal in my email because I shopped there already.

How to Avoid Wasting Money on Daily Deals
I’ve been satisfied with all my deal purchases, and haven’t let any of them expire without using them. Here are my tips for avoiding waste:

1. Know what sort of deals you’re looking for. I was looking for a yoga class when I found that deal. I’ve been looking for a decent facial deal for months, but I haven’t purchased one yet because I haven’t liked any of the offers. I’m not going to buy a spa deal just because it’s a good deal if the services don’t appeal to me.

2. Buy from businesses you already frequent. Four of the deals I bought were for places I already shopped. I knew the deal was good, because I knew how much I typically spent. I also knew where the business was and that cashing in the deal would be convenient.

3. Buy from businesses close to you. If you have to go out of your way to cash in the deal, you probably won’t, no matter how good it is. So wait for a deal from a place near your home or office. With a new deal every day, you may not have to wait that long.

4. Check schedules before you buy. This is key with service related deals. The yoga studio offered the type of class I wanted to take at a time I could attend, and it was close to my house. That made it impossible to pass up.

5. Think about it. Yes, you only have 24 hours, at most, to buy the deal. But you don’t have to buy it in the next five minutes. Take an hour or two to think about the deal. If you still want it, buy it. If you’ve forgotten about it, then you didn’t really want it.

I’ve watched a few episodes of that Extreme Couponing show, and I found it a bit horrifying. I can understand why a show like it would be on, but I don’t think it’s in any way realistic. I also wonder if that level of couponing is healthy or ethical.

Is Extreme Couponing the New Hoarding?
Who needs that much stuff? It’s entirely possible that the people depicted on the show donated their hoards right after the taping, in fact one episode focused on a man who was using his coupons to create care packages for our troops, but I doubt that’s the case for the majority of the people on the show. Many of them have built storage space for their stockpile. One family took out insurance on their stockpile! No matter how well it’s organized, a stockpile that big could easily be considered a hoard. One episode depicted a woman stockpiling diapers even though she doesn’t have a baby! Another woman amassed 25 years worth of toilet paper. Raise your hand if you think a roll of toilet paper will last 25 years in storage without disintegrating?

Several couponers expressed the high they get from couponing. Guess who else gets that high? Hoarders. Just because you got the item free, or have it well organized, that doesn’t mean you need it or should buy it.

Is Extreme Couponing Healthy?
Many of the couponers didn’t look very healthy. Most were overweight. I saw a lot of frozen dinners being dumped into those carts. I didn’t see a whole lot of produce. Maybe they use their savings to buy fresh foods and plan a healthy meal plan, but it doesn’t look that way. Just because you can get ten Stouffer’s frozen pizzas for free, doesn’t mean you should. Is saving money worth shaving a few years off the end of your life? What about the increased health costs you’ll face because you saved so much money on crappy food? Where is the balance?

Is Extreme Couponing Realistic?
Absolutely not. Many stores are tightening their coupon policies, sometimes as a direct result of this show. At the very least, most people don’t have several hours a week to devote to compiling coupons, which will make it difficult to save 95% on their groceries. I’ve saved 30% a few times, but even that took careful planning. It was around the holidays, so the store was having mega sales, and it was in the peak of the recession when really good coupons were available. I’m not seeing those coupons anymore.

Is Extreme Couponing Ethical?
In the case of the woman who allegedly committed coupon fraud, clearly the answer is no. For most people, it’s not unethical to coupon, however it’s not always polite. My local Ralph’s once ran a really great promotion on condensed milk. It was free when combined with a coupon. I happened to need condensed milk for a recipe, but I couldn’t get any, because the shopper before me had cleared the shelf. Who needs 20 cans of condensed milk? Is it fair to clear the shelf to build up your stockpile when other people might need just one or two of the item for a recipe that week? Why should they have to drive to several stores and spend more because you only had 19 in your stockpile and needed more?

I don’t fault people for saving money, but there has to be a line. Most of these couponers cross that line from frugal to obsessive. That’s not true of all couponers, but I don’t think you get on a show like Extreme Couponing if you’re simply frugal. What do you think of these shows? Are they borderline hoarders?

 

This morning, Money Saving Mom pointed me to an article on Yahoo Finance that provided eight reasons why you shouldn’t use coupons.

As you can imagine, I got as feisty as MSM did! This article is completely ridiculous. So here are six reasons you should use coupons.

Coupons Save Money on Must-Have Items
Yes, sometimes I do buy toilet paper on supersale without a coupon, but I can usually find a coupon that will save me big bucks when combined with a sale. It’s not like I could stop buying toilet paper, so I might as well save money on it.

Coupons Help You Try New Products
I have tried new products, or new brands of products I already use, because I had a great coupon. It tends to be for things like cleaning products, not for packaged food that I don’t really have a use for. For example, I got a coupon for a green cleaner that I wanted to try, and I needed an all-purpose cleaner. Coupon+sale=a chance to try something new without spending a lot of money.

Some Coupons Get You Free Goods!
I’ve received free orange juice, free shampoo, free toothpaste, and a variety of other products free by combining a coupon with a sale.

Coupons Help Manage Food Costs
If you’re trying to save money on food, but want to buy more fresh, whole foods, then coupons can help you manage the costs of any canned, frozen, and packaged goods you need to buy. That leaves more room in the budget for locally-grown produce and grass-fed meat.

Coupons Save Money on More than Groceries
In addition to the usually food, personal care, and paper products coupons, I’ve received coupons to clothing stores, restaurants, and local services. If you need to buy new clothes or want to go out to eat, a coupon is a great way to get what you need or want while still saving money.

Coupons Make Splurges More Affordable
If you want to buy something expensive, for example a pair of Droids and the new phone plan to go with them, using coupons to save money in other areas makes that manageable. One of the big reasons we still manage to save money after buying a house, and even avoided debt while my husband was on disability, is because we’ve found so many ways to cut costs. Coupons are one of those ways.

Yes, you have to take a few minutes to flip through the circular and clip the coupons, but it’s really not that much time. I file my coupons at the same time that I pull out the expired ones, which is also when I plan my menu and make my grocery list. Simply match coupons to list and you’re done planning your coupons. Is that really so hard?

If you have a Google reader RSS feed or spend any time online, you’ve probably seen the ads for Groupon (the one with the photo of those gorgeous cookies!) I finally signed up for it a few months ago and took advantage of my first groupon about three weeks ago.

How Groupon Works
Groupon makes a deal with a local store (or sometimes a national store/service) to present a coupon that is good for a certain amount of dollars off a purchase or service. Restaurants, bakeries, spas, and local stores are common Groupon offers. For example, a restaurant might offer a $20 Groupon that is good for $40 off a restaurant tab.  In order for anyone to get the deal, a certain number of people have to buy the Groupon. If that threshhold is met, the Groupon is activated the next day and typically good for 12 months, but they will state it clearly if there is an earlier expiration date. Most Groupons meet the threshhold and your card isn’t charged unless it is.

There is only one offer per day per city, although you will see a “side deal” on the site. You’ll only get one email with the primary deal, though.

If you want to be sure a deal will go through before you buy it, look at the box below the offer price on the left. It will tell you how many have been bought. If the minimum has been exceeded, it will say “The Deal Is On” and tell you what time the minimum was exceeded (and what it was.) If it hasn’t been exceeded, it will tell you how many more need to be bought to activate the deal. You can buy Groupons as gifts if it’s just a few away and you really want the deal! Just be warned that you can only use one of them for yourself. You really do have to give the others away.

Why Pay for a Coupon?
Most of these coupons are great deals. I’ve rarely seen one that was more than double the face value, so if you pay $20 to save $40, your total savings is $20. Yes, you did have to pay, but paying $20 is still cheaper than paying $40.

How to Sign Up
Signing up is easy. Simply choose your geographic area and then provide an email address. You’ll get an email with that day’s offer six days a week (no offers on Sunday.)

If an offer is something you want to buy, then you complete a full registration with billing details so they can charge you. You only have to do this once.

I subscribe to two deal emails – one for Los Angeles and one for the smaller area of Los Angeles where I live. Most cities only have one list, but Seattle, San Francisco and Washington D.C. all have two or three more. Other areas like New York have a different setup for their different lists. Frequently the deals will be the same across all of the areas in a metro, but occasionally there are different deals.

If you’re planning a trip, you might start checking that city’s deals for any restaurant, spa, or hotel deals that could be interesting.

Other Ways to Find Groupon Deals
Sometimes a national deal will only be advertised in a few cities, but anyone can buy it. This happened with the deal I bought. I also subscribe to a couple of coupon blogs. Frugal Coupon Living posts alerts when great national Groupons are available. In my case, it was an Indianapolis deal.

My Groupon Experience
As I said, I found out about a deal in another city on a blog. It was $25 for a $75 coupon from Wine Insiders. I did a little research and discovered that they had 12-packs of wine for as low as $108, with free shipping. I would have to pay tax, but the final cost would work out to $5.70 per bottle. That’s slightly less than I pay for a bottle at Trader Joe’s, so as long as a bottle was worth more than $5.99, it was a good deal.

I jumped on the deal, and the next day I received an email that it was active. I went to my account and printed the Groupon. Even though I had 12 months, I knew I would forget to use it, so I ordered my Mystery Mix 12-pack within two weeks. The wine arrived about four days later. I researched the bottles and found that the cheapest was $9.99 and the most expensive was $19.99. That’s an average savings of $4.45 a bottle.

I’ve only been tempted by a couple other offers, but have only purchased one. If you like to eat, shop, go to the spa, or try new exercise facilities, give Groupon a try. It’s just one email a day that could save you big bucks!

Note: I’ll get $10 if you use the link above to sign up and then later buy a deal.

Last week I started using a search engine called SwagBucks, and I’ve already earned enough points (swag bucks) to buy a $5 Amazon gift card. Are you in on the latest way to win free prizes?

How SwagBucks Works
SwagBucks is simple. Perform searches at their engine and occasionally you win points for those searches. However, they also offer other ways to earn points, and that’s where they really rack up. You can then use those points to buy prizes in the SwagBucks store. Most people opt for the $5 Amazon.com gift card, but they offer many other prizes, too.

How to Earn Extra SwagBucks
In addition to the random bucks awarded through searches, you can also earn points for various other tasks, such as:

  • Answering the daily poll question
  • Completing surveys
  • Completing special offers
  • Trading video games and other items
  • Turning in an old cell phone
  • Shopping
  • Participating on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media
  • Downloading the Toolbar
  • Promoting SwagBucks.

They also release Swagcodes on their blog, Twitter, Facebook, or toolbar, usually one a day, that earn additional points if you see the code and enter it before the deadline.

Search Results Accuracy
My first concern was that Swagbucks wouldn’t be as accurate as Google. The truth is, they’re not always, but I can usually find what I want on a search and if I can’t, I switch to Google. You’ll also notice that there are a lot of sponsored results mixed into their results. Some of these are helpful, some aren’t. However, they are always labeled as Sponsored in the URL, so you can weed them out.

Special Offers
Swagbucks has special offers you can complete, such as signing up for a credit card or joining the Netflix free trial. Some are as simple as watching a one-minute video, but the big rewards could cost you real money or require real effort. If you’re tempted by a big offer, you might find that those same offers earn better rewards through your credit card rewards program or one of the shopping rewards sites, so compare the rewards carefully before choosing.

For example, DirecTV is offering 9975 bucks for subscribing to the service. You could also earn $50 back from ShopatHome for the same thing. So, you have to decide which is worth more to you – the points or the cash. It appears that most rewards in the 9000SB range are worth about $50, so it could be a break-even.

Surveys
Surveys are a great way to rack up lots of points, but they can also be frustrating.

The surveys interface offers several surveys in a variety of categories. The system indicates how likely you are to get accepted for a survey. I tried to take one that said 90% acceptance, and I was rejected. I suspect that my income level, education level, or lack of children is excluding me from most of the surveys. I was able to take a financial service survey worth 75 bucks however. It took about 15 minutes.

The frustrating thing about the surveys is that you have to answer several questions before even being told if you qualify. Sometimes it takes as long as 5 minutes to get rejected. Do that six times and you’ve wasted half an hour.

In addition to surveys, you can complete profiles, which help them figure out which surveys are appropriate for you. You earn bucks for these profiles, and you may be able to cut some of those preliminary questions by completing the profiles, but I haven’t done them all yet.

If you want to earn prizes just for searching, or if you’re willing to take surveys, sign up for Swagbucks.  I earned 400 points my first week, and you only need 450 to get the $5 Amazon gift card.

Note: I will earn Swagbucks for referring you through the links above. If you’re not comfortable with that, go directly to Swagbucks.com without clicking the link.

I don’t usually have trouble with coupons for free items. Usually, manufacturers or stores send them on glossy paper or they are only good at a certain store, both of which make them hard to fake. This week, however, I had trouble with a freebie coupon that was poorly designed. I was persistent, however, and my persistence paid off.

The Tropicana Free Juice Coupon
As a promotion for its Juicy Rewards program, Tropicana gave away 50,000 coupons for a free carton of orange juice. In order to receive the coupon, I had to cash in five Juicy Rewards points, which I received for entering codes I found in the same blog post that informed me of the promotion.

A few days later, I received the coupon. It was formatted like an internet printable coupon, but was attached to a letter. I detached the letter and put it in the recycling, then tucked the coupon in my folder.

The Trouble with Free Coupons
Most stores have a policy against accepting internet printables for free items, due to fraud. It’s a shame, but I understand the policy. However, I didn’t know that when I want to use it, and I didn’t print it. It was mailed to me.

The first night I tried to use it, the evening manager absolutely refused to accept it. She sounded like she didn’t believe I had received it in the mail. She made all sorts of claims about it needing to be printed on special paper etc. I was in the express lane, so I removed the juice from my purchase and left.

When I got home, I examined the coupon. It was, in fact, printed on microdot paper with embedded security features on the back.

I went back to the store Friday morning and went directly to the manager’s station. I simply explained that although it looked like an internet printable, Tropicana had mailed it to me. He looked at it and explained their policy. I pointed out the security features, and he approved it. When I used the coupon at the register, I actually got 99 cents back because the juice was on sale!

Tips for Freebie Coupons
If you receive freebie coupons, here are a few tips:

  1. Use it at the designated merchant (if it’s store-issued), or use it at a store where you shop regularly.
  2. Keep the envelope and supporting letter with the coupon, especially if it looks like it might have been printed on your home computer.
  3. Don’t argue with the cashier. She doesn’t have the power to do anything. Instead, ask for the manager.
  4. Use a regular checkout, not an express lane. You don’t want to hold up the express lane if you have to get a manager.
  5. If you don’t get anywhere, ask for the general manager’s name and phone number. Call to ask for help, or return to the store when that manager or another high-level manager is available.
  6. Be polite. Don’t get into a heated argument or make accusations.
  7. Be persistent. If you don’t succeed on your first visit, go back until you do. If you strike out at that store, try another store.

My free juice coupon saved me $3.50. Actually, I guess it saved me $4.49. Even though it took a little extra effort, I think $4.49 is worth five minutes.

I mostly use Facebook to keep up with friends (I’m a lurker, not an updater.) Then I became a fan of a few of my favorite companies. I quickly discovered that many offer exclusive coupons or announce early sales on Facebook. So far I’ve saved $507 at Cost Plus World Market using Facebook coupons. Here’s how:

Fan Your Favorite Stores
The easiest way to get coupons and sale announcements is to simply become a fan of the store. Most stores don’t bombard you with status updates (unlike certain “Ville” applications.) Just keep an eye out for updates from those stores each time you check Facebook.

Search for Stores and Read Their Updates
Some stores don’t require you to become a fan in order to print a coupon. Simply search for the store in Facebook and then read their recent updates to see if they’ve announced Fan-only coupons or have publicly-available coupons listed.

Search for Coupons, then Become a Facebook Fan
It’s understandable that you might not want to Fan a bunch of stores. But there’s another trick, which is how I knew to become a Cost Plus Facebook fan in the first place: coupon code sites. I used top coupon sites to search for Cost Plus coupons. One of the sites mentioned that they announce coupons on Facebook. I joined and discovered the 25% coupon would be available for that weekend. This weekend I received a $10 off $30 coupon from Cost Plus, and a free tote bag I learned about through their Fan page.

Sign up for Newsletters
Occasionally a store will announce its newsletter specials on Facebook. Take the hint that you should sign up for their email newsletter and get even more coupons.

Check Coupon Blogs
Two of my favorite coupon blogs are Money Saving Mom and Frugal Coupon Living. They’ve both announced coupon specials for becoming a fan of different brands of butter, milk, etc. Simply add these blogs to your RSS feed and then check for Facebook coupons. Once you’ve joined the Facebook fan page and printed your coupon, unfan the page.

Of course, there are other ways to get coupons. I’m now a World Market rewards member, so I will also be notified of sales by email, but I never would have known about that program without Facebook. Use the power of Facebook wisely and you could save a lot of money without a lot of effort.

Recently, CNN challenged its iReporters to spend $10 and report back their results. Some were less than creative, for example, two $5 footlong subs. Most of us can do better than that, like the couple that bought 8 seed packets and projects they’ll get over $1700 worth of spinach. (I guess they really like spinach. I would have gotten a few different kinds of seeds.)

My Best $10 Purchases
Here are just a few of my favorite $10 and under purchases:

Toilet Paper
One of my best $10 deals was 40 rolls of toilet paper last November. Although, there was tax, so we’ll say I spent $10.97 total (I can’t remember if I had a coupon or not.) Those rolls of toilet paper lasted 24 weeks (we’re down to the last 3 rolls.) They would have lasted longer, but my husband has been home for the better part of three months. Still, six months worth of toilet paper isn’t bad for $10!

Tomatoes
Rather than seeds, I bought heirloom tomato seedlings. They were $4 each, so that brings my total to $8. If each plant produces 20 pounds of fruit, and organic tomatoes are $2 a pound at the local farmer’s market, then that’s $40 worth of tomatoes.

Microwave Cart
When I got my first solo apartment, the microwave my parents handed down to me wouldn’t fit on my 1950s countertops. I went to Goodwill and bought a sturdy, rolling, wooden cart for $10. Fifteen years later, I still have that cart. When I moved in with my husband, it became our bar/Christmas tree stand. It’s usually a bar in our new house, but at Thanksgiving we cleared it off and rolled it into the dining room to serve as a sideboard. I’ve never refinished it, repaired it, or done anything to it.

Art
I like to buy locally-produced art as a souvenir when I travel. I usually choose landscapes or something really emblematic of the area. Several times, I’ve found beautiful pieces for $10 which serve as a constant reminder of my trips.

Computer Game
There was that time I spent one cent on a computer game as a gift for my husband. He still plays it. I’m pretty sure the store had taken inventory and missed it in stock, so the system was updated with the lowest possible price. But that’s how it rang up and the clerk said she had to sell it to me at that price, so I took the deal.

Roasting Pan
Recently I scored a brand new, non-stick roasting pan for $6.46. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Do you look out for good deals? What are some of your best $10 and under scores?

This weekend I snagged on a good deal on a roasting pan. It was on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond for $20 with a $10 mail-in rebate. In addition, I was able to use one of their $5 of $15 coupons on the purchase. That will bring my total cost down to $6.46 (including tax) for an 18” roasting pan with rack. If you want one, the rebate goes through 12/31/2010. It was a fantastic deal, but I only jumped on it because I knew it was the right time.

When Is a Good Deal Worth It?
I don’t jump on every good deal that comes my way. For example, this week I’m snapping up deals on Coke, vegetable oil, peanut butter, and Tums. Last week it was tomato sauce and a roasting pan. However, I don’t jump every time I see a deal. For example, a few weeks ago Cost Plus had ceramic rectangular baking pan for $10. Not a bad price, but not worth buying because I already have a ceramic baking pan.

Here are my guidelines for jumping on a good deal:

Immediate necessity. I don’t actually need the pan this week, but I know I will need it soon. So, it passes the first test.

Repeated use potential. This is a roasting pan, so I know I will use it repeatedly. I see lots of good deals in Target ads that would be fun to have, but they might not be things I’d get a lot of use out of, so I don’t rush out to buy them.

Not duplicative. If I’d jumped on the ceramic baking pan deal, I would have been duplicating something I already had, in fact something I’d bought just two weeks earlier. While I already have a roasting pan, it’s not a good one. This year, my family came to my house for Thanksgiving and my mom had to bring her roasting pan with her. She inherited her pan from my grandmother, but obviously that’s not likely to happen in my case for another 20-30 years, too long to wait for a roasting pan that actually fits a turkey.

Will be used quickly. This one applies to food. I only buy enough of a good deal that I’ll be able to use it all before it expires. I use a lot of peanut butter, so I always snag those deals.

When Is a Good Deal Not Worth It?
The primary time when a good deal isn’t worth it is when it’s not really that good a deal. It might seem like a deal, but if you follow prices, you know it’s really not. For example, at Christmas, I got 40 rolls of toilet paper for $10. That was a good deal at my local stores. I’ve also seen deals where the toilet paper would have been $15 – not quite as good a deal because I know it will go lower.

If it’s something you don’t need and don’t have a use for, then it’s also not a good deal. The ceramic baking pan is an example. I needed one, so I bought one I liked at a good price. I didn’t need two, so I didn’t buy a second one.

There is also the issue of storage. When I lived in an apartment, it wouldn’t have been as easy to stock up on the toilet paper deal. I probably still would have, because I could stuff it into various crannies, but I probably would have held off on the roasting pan due to storage problems. If you don’t have room for the stuff you buy, then it’s not a good deal.

Finding Deals that Are Good for You
I carry a little notebook with my everywhere. One of the items in that notebook is a list of things I need to buy for my house or for myself. Then, every Sunday I check out the weekly ads for the stores I know are likely to carry those items. I quickly scan for items on my lists. If I see a good deal, I add the store and the item to my weekly to do list. If there’s a coupon for the item, I put it in the pocket at the back of the notebook. By comparing my list to the ads, I’m less tempted to jump on deals that don’t really work for me.

Bargain hunting is a real fun. You won’t be able to save a fortune by collecting and using coupons but you will save a precious penny and what’s more important you’ll make a smarter shopper: by learning how to find and organize coupons you’ll broaden your outlook:

  • You get to know more places where you can buy anything you need;
  • You become aware of broader product range and less popular manufactures;
  • You learn to compare prices and estimate what the offer is really worth;
  • You make contacts with people who shop online and know a lot; etc.

There are plenty more benefits, however there are a few issues as well. The worst thing that may happen to you when hunting for freebies and bargains is getting scammed. The two things that may happen after that are:

  1. Your private information can be stolen (and used to send you spam for example);
  2. Your money may be stolen (which is actually worse).

This post looks at 3 effective ways to research any product or deal reviews to keep your privacy and money safe:

Twitter search

Twitter is a widely popular site where people come to share opinions on anything, including shopping. Using Twitter search you can find conversations about any product or special offer you want to research. One trick that always comes in handy is using sentiment search to find negative reviews or bad experience shared:

! Use a smiling icon in your search that reflects negative emotion :(

Example: [:( amazon]


Trusted sources

The best advice I have ever got regarding online shopping was that I only need to use trusted sources of deals and freebies to keep myself safe from scam. I know there are quite a few but here’s what I am personally using (and tested by experience):

Buxr.com is an online community where shoppers meet to exchange deals and freebies they came across and had some luck with. The resource have three huge advantages:

  • Deals are submitted by real shoppers who also review each others’ submissions;
  • Submissions are pre-moderated (administrators check deals before publishing them);
  • Members rate deals, so you can easily identify most useful and trusted ones:

ListFreeSamples: you won’t find actually reviews at this site but I had to mention this one for one reason that it only uses official sources of freebies and deals; so if you are serious about your privacy, this resource should be in your list:

Specialized forums

There are a few useful specialized forums which will help you check if the merchant you are considering has ever been involved into scam.

Scam.com is one of those places (and actually one of the best of them). It is very active and has a huge database of scammers in a number of categories (MLM / Pyramid scams, Internet scams, etc). The forum has a robust search feature for you to quickly look through the mentions of the offer or seller’s name:

And how do you try to keep your privacy safe when shopping online? Please share your thoughts!

The guest post was provided by Ann Smarty, a search blogger and online shopper. If you are looking for guest posts, create your profile at Ann’s forum called My Blog Guest – the place where bloggers and guest posters can meet to exchange posts and help each other.

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