I have trouble saying no to a great deal that I think I might use. But a deal isn’t actually a deal when you don’t need it in the first place.
Every morning, I wake up to an inbox clogged with deals from Groupon, Living Social, Buy With Me, Localiter, Eversave and other social deal sites. I usually succumb when I see a deal for a restaurant I love, or a service I’ve been wanting (such as a massage or oil change). Sometimes it works out perfectly and they are put to great use. I have happily redeemed many of these deals since they came into the picture. Other times, I realize too late that I have wasted money. Maybe it’s because the deal was for $25 of food, but it’s at a restaurant where you can’t leave without spending at least $50. Maybe it’s exercise classes that sound cool at the time, but it’s inconvenient.
It got to the point where I lost track of which coupons were with which site. I knew I had bought a VistaPrint voucher so I could get new business cards on the cheap, but couldn’t for the life of me remember which of the 18 deal sites it was with. This recently led me to create a spreadsheet to keep track of my purchases and expiration dates so that I could keep up with where I bought it and how much longer I had to use it. It was a little scary to realize how many outstanding ones I had that I had forgotten about.
After surveying the damage, I’ve forced myself to stop before I buy one and do a real self-check to see if it’s something I will use and save money on. I have also had to remind myself that there’s a reason I unsubscribed from all of the similar fashion flash sale site emails last year — I don’t need the temptation. My inbox also gets flooded with emails from all of the travel flash sale sites, though those are far less of a temptation since they are much more expensive and require planning. A $15 Groupon for an hour long wine tasting class, on the other hand, is easier to swallow — even if you never end up remembering to use it.
One thing that’s so darn convenient — and horrible — is that they store your credit card information and let you check out in so few steps. If you see a deal you like and you’re logged in, it takes only seconds to purchase the deal. It’s not quite as fast as Amazon’s “One-Click” option, but close enough to remove the window of time that one would need to reach into a purse, open a wallet, get out the card and type in the information. Sometimes that small process is enough to make one rethink a purchase. Instead, a desire for instant gratification and a concern that the deal will expire or sell out compel us to click before thinking through the decision. The deals are also often in small enough denominations that people don’t think too much about it; they just don’t realize how many they have purchased and how fast it adds up.
I’d like you to keep reading for my top 10 favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week, many of which have advice about breaking bad financial habits and saving money. Is it a deal?
1. When money is tight, fashion may be the last thing on your mind. Wisebread intervenes with 10 steps to update your wardrobe if you’re on a tight budget.
2. Boomer & Echo discuss whether it’s wiser to pay off debt or invest when interest rates are low.
3. My Personal Finance Journey provides similar advice about how to prioritize your financial obligations, particularly for those who have long-term debt.
4. As someone who was just there for the first time, I loved this guest post on Well Heeled Blog about five ways to save money in Seattle, whether you are visiting or live there.
5. Money Musings reveals the findings of an annual CareerBuilder report that shows how many people live paycheck to paycheck and what things people absolutely won’t live without.
6. Frugal Confessions discusses her experience with social deal sites and lists several she uses, in addition to a great tip for what to do if you miss out on some of the deals.
7. PT Money lays out four steps you can take to change your bad financial habits.
8. The Family CEO shares how much money she is saving (and could have saved prior) from simply calling the cable company the other day and asking for better rates.
9. Broke Professionals shows numerous ways you may be losing money or missing out on great savings and benefits due to laziness.
10. Life and My Finances shares a list of 10 ways you may be ruining your credit rating without even knowing it.