Groupon Proves Free Isn鈥檛 Really Free: How to Avoid Consumer Traps

Back when Groupon first launched its platform for daily deals, the idea was so new and enticing that it spread like wildfire. Several years later, the deluge of daily emails has decreased excitement for the deals 鈥 to the point where most people ignore or delete these emails right away. And now Groupon is gearing up for a change that could revive their business 鈥 and potentially cost you money.

Freebies 鈥 Are they Really Free?
Groupon鈥檚 new promotion, called 鈥淔reebies鈥, is essentially a new way to obtain coupons. Rather than clicking on daily deals in your inbox, you can search for deals with particular retailers you like, after which you can obtain a coupon code or go straight to checkout. These coupons are not much different than what you鈥檇 find when making a purchase at your retailer in person or online 鈥 such as a certain percent off your next purchase, or a certain dollar amount off if you spend a designated higher amount.
While these freebies are undoubtedly more cost-effective than daily deals 鈥 allowing you to stockpile free coupons for future purchases instead of making a current purchase for something you may or may not do in the future 鈥 they still aren鈥檛 necessary free. Why? Because they could lead you to spend money you wouldn鈥檛 have otherwise spent.
Let鈥檚 say you go onto the website in search for a freebie to help you save money on a gift or a purchase you know you need to make. While you browse, chances are you鈥檒l find several other coupon offers that you can鈥檛 help but click on. Then you either receive a coupon code or go directly to the retailer鈥檚 site. The point is, you鈥檙e no longer focusing on the purchase you had to make but planning for (or already making) a purchase you want. It鈥檚 just another way to bring tempation to your doorstep. It would take some stellar focus to get on the website, get what you need, and get off before you get distracted by another shiny object.

How to Keep Consumer Traps from Costing You
Freebies exist as a way to get you to spend money 鈥 but you can use practices that will prevent you from falling into a trap. Try these best practices to make sure your money savings tactics actually save you money:
Only Obtain Coupons for Previously Planned Purchases. The whole idea behind using Freebies, from the consumer鈥檚 perspective, is to save money. But if seeing a freebie for items that you want or for stores you like causes you to make an unplanned purchase, then you may have saved money on the purchase but you definitely cost money on your budget.
When searching for a freebie, make sure you only obtain a freebie for a planned purchase. Don鈥檛 rationalize ways you need to act on other freebies because it鈥檚 the deal of a lifetime or a limited time opportunity. Retailers will always offer new coupons so wait to act on a desirable coupon until that store鈥檚 items make their way to your planned purchase list. And don鈥檛 stockpile coupons for potential future use! They鈥檒l just sit in your inbox tempting you everyday.
Wait at Least 24 Hours Before Using Your Coupon. If you do obtain a coupon, even for a planned purchase, it would be a good best practice to wait 24 hours until you use the coupon. One, this prevents you from making impulse buys. Two, it gives you an opportunity to shop around 鈥 you may find an even better coupon tomorrow or a better deal somewhere else. The idea is to keep the 鈥減lanned鈥 in your planned purchases so you know for sure that you鈥檙e truly saving money.
Use a Checklist for Accountability. Finally, don鈥檛 even look at the Freebies until you have your budget and monthly planned purchases on paper in front of you. If you see a coupon that doesn鈥檛 help you obtain the planned purchases, don鈥檛 take the coupon. Again, retailers will always have new coupons later so you鈥檙e not going to miss out. Check every coupon against this planned purchase checklist as a final means of accountability.
Coupons, Freebies, and deals really can help you save money so you can obtain the things you want and need at a lower impact to your budget. But they鈥檙e also designed to make you to spend more to your plan. By sticking to your list and not falling prey to 鈥渓imited time鈥 offers, you鈥檒l be able to stay out of the consumer trap and get what you want.
Image credit: maximkostenko
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This post was published by Shannon, Community and Customer Support Manager for 禄聽ReadyForZero.
ReadyForZero is a company that helps people get out of debt on their own with a simple and free online tool that can automate and track your debt paydown.


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