There are a lot of deals out there that look like they are saving us money. The Grige and I have a hot debate open on the Groupon/Living Social deals, and whether or not they are actually saving us money. To be fair – I've only used either service for meal-related deals, though I'm trying to score one of the escapes/getaways for our anniversary weekend. I'll report back on that if it works out.
The Grige thinks that, while nice, these deals are actually costing us more money than they are saving us. While I have a strict "it must be in our neighborhood" rule about the deals I purchase, most of the restaurants are not places we go regularly. He argues that since we wouldn't normally go there, spending any amount of money for a meal there is excess spending. In addition, these deals usually come in increments of $50.00. Since we are good citizens and tip 20% on the full amount when the service is decent, this means we're out at least whatever we paid for the deal + $10.00. Finally, when we know we have $50.00 to spend on a meal, we have a tendency to go a little nuts and order nicer entrees than we normally would, drinks and maybe even an appetizer or dessert. The end result is usually a bill that is well over our deal-allotted $50.00 and we end up shelling out as much as $100.00 for a meal that was supposed to be a "deal".
I usually put our experiences in the context of spending $100.00 for a $125.00 dollar meal. Money saved is money saved, period. I also like to try a new place every once and a while, and saving $25 dollars is a great way to do it. Letting deal availability drive my restaurant choices also simplifies my life by eliminating decisions. Simply put, I am a fan.
At the end of the day, I think we're both right. The Grige's suggestions highlight the crux of the issue: the real problem with misusing deals is personal judgment. We can't blame deal drivers like Groupon and Living Social for our spending habits. They are giving us a discount, while sending us to try new places, which is a good thing. It's our fault that we decided to go bananas and spring for the bottle of wine and dessert, and we need to hold ourselves accountable for that money.
So the next time we're out for a meal with a deal, we're going to stick to that $50.00 limit (or at least close to it, this is D.C.) and not let the allure of "free money" lead us down the wine list. We'll save the "special" meals for actual special occasions, because a coupon is not an occasion.