Deal-of-the-day sites have been around forever, but sites that offer deals on local restaurants, businesses, and stores have boomed in the last year. Most of the sites (Tippr being the exception) have one catch: A certain number of people have to purchase the deal before you can actually get it. For example, before I could get half off a meal at my favorite restaurant, 250 other people had to sign up for the same bargain. Offering such a fantastic price makes sense to local merchants only if they can get lots of new customers to try their wares.
With bigger deal sites such as Groupon.com, it usually isn't difficult to induce enough people to sign up for the offer. Within an hour of launch, over 250 people had purchased the deal on my favorite restaurant. On smaller sites, however, you might have to e-mail your friends and persuade them to take part. If you purchase a deal but not enough other users sign up for it, your credit card won't be charged.
After you get a coupon, make sure you know how to redeem it. If it is for goods that you can purchase online, you might receive a code to enter at checkout. If it is for a restaurant, on the other hand, you may receive a printable coupon via e-mail after you purchase the deal.
Pay attention to the fine print of the deal: The bargain might not be redeemable for the products or services you want. For instance, if you score a deal for half off goods at a local grocery store, make sure to check for restrictions on what you can purchase (recently I saw a deal from a natural-foods store for everything except vitamins and cosmetics).
Here are a few local deal-of-the-day sites to get you started.
By far the biggest and most popular of the regional deal sites, Groupon is available in just about every major U.S. city. The deals themselves are pretty random. I've been a Groupon subscriber for about a year now, and I've seen deals on everything from dental visits to "hiking yoga" classes.
Like Groupon, LivingSocial has a fairly wide reach over the United States and is available in most major cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. LivingSocial is a great resource for budget travelers; many of the deals posted, like guided city tours or wine-tasting excursions, are aimed at tourists.
HomeRun goes beyond simply offering up one deal per day. It features "Avalanche" deals, which get lower as more and more people purchase them.
The newest of the city-focused deal sites, Tippr is the brainchild of the geniuses behind Kashless.org (a site that rewards you for giving away your old junk for free). Tippr stands out from the others because it not only offers three deals per day but also ensures that the deals improve as more people purchase them. Tippr seems to be available only in Seattle right now, but keep an eye on further growth of this site.
Too many deal-of-the-day sites to keep track of? Check out Yipit. This service aggregates deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, HomeRun, and other sites, and recommends the best ones for you based on your preferences. Unfortunately, Yipit is a bit limited right now, as collects deals only for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. For the time being, you might be better off subscribing to one or two of the other sites listed above.