3 Tips for Using Discount Deals to Be the Hit of the Gift Swap

GrouponIf there are two things I absolutely hate giving for the holidays, they’re 1) gift cards and 2) money. Even if that’s what the person asked for, I still feel defeated sidling up to the ATM for a $20 bill or slapping some predetermined denomination onto a little plastic card. It’s so uninspired. 

I want to play with the possibilities of what the people on my list will like. I want to test how well I know their tastes. I want to see their faces light up when they open the bag or tear apart the gift wrap and see whatever fantastic piece of imaginative thoughtfulness I’ve come up with to make their season bright. 

Deal-of-the-day websites have made that holiday cheer-sharing easier. One might argue they’re not much better than a gift card or a wad of cash. But if you’re quick and a little creative, they’ll open up a whole new avenue in your gift-giving greatness. 


What I love most about the power of the discount deal is that they present gift ideas and savings all in one fell swoop. There are the standards like manis and pedis, massages, and laser hair removal (which I will one day be taking advantage of myself, now that I’ve hit 30 and renegade hairs have started popping up on my chin, and sideburns that were never quite sideburns are now doing their own best Elvis impersonation). 

But then there are the more random, interesting opportunities that I might not have ever thought about had Groupon or Homerun or Yipit or KGB Deals not offered them up at a reduced price. In this year alone, I’ve taken a painting class, rocked out a cooking course, looked foolish on a city tour via segway, cheered at a Georgetown basketball game, and sailed on a boat ride to George Washington’s mansion. Not to mention the restaurants I’ve supped at and the new foods I’ve tried.

All because these sites brought them up and, oh by the way, offered a discount on them. 

So for Christmas, I’m all about giving folks on my list the chance to create memories and have new experiences instead of forking over the standard bath and body lotions or gift candle sets.

The up side? My personal favorite, Living Social, refunds your money if the purchased discount isn’t used within a certain amount of time. So if your vision of sending your college roommate on a horseback riding adventure in wine country isn’t exactly what they were expecting — or, if it in fact makes them look at you like you’ve lost your bloomin’ good sense — you can rest easy that your not-so-perfect purchase won’t be a loss.

The downside? The excitement of a 50, 60, sometimes 70, 80, or even 90 percent discount can make folks (including me) buy on impulse. Go into your group discount shopping with a strategy. Matter of fact, it might help to streamline the gajillion deal announcements that’ll come through your email, especially since that can get overwhelming or overly exciting, making you want to buy every darn thing.

You can condense deals from over 100 daily deal sites in one handy, dandy personalized email at CakeDeals or DealSurf, which allows you to filter discounts by category, city, and price. Perhaps these tips will also help you, fellow discount seeker:

Buy local. Take the path of least resistance: the closer the deal is to your recipient’s home, the more likely they are to use it. If you know your Aunt Millie doesn’t drive farther than the suburban city limits, it’s probably not a good idea to stretch her, no matter how good the deal is.

Read the fine print. Be conscious of the conditions of the deal — especially the expiration date — to avoid friends’ and family’s disappointment when they’re ready to cash it in. You don’t want to put anyone under the hammer to use the deal by a certain date if that’s going to put them in a major inconvenience.

Do some digging. Extra legwork is never fun, but research to make whatever it is that’s caught your eye — massages, mani-pedis, skincare products, whatever — suits your giftee’s preferences. If you’re unsure about a deal, call the merchant for more details before buying. Nothing sucks more than getting a cool, thoughtful present… and not being able to use it.

Did you or do you plan to purchase a group discount deal as a gift this holiday season?

Image via diloz/Flickr

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