One of my favorite sayings is, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Following this manta, I’m very cautious of coupons or offers that go beyond a reasonable discount. But when you’re living on a budget and trying to cut down on expenses, amazing deals can be difficult to pass up. They could present a chance to take a vacation you might not be able to afford otherwise or go to a nice restaurant without spending a week’s worth of your grocery budget. Fortunately there are a few rules to help you weed out “gotcha offers” from actual good deals.
Why is the product or service so cheap when it usually sells for a lot more? That’s an important question to ask. If you can’t get a good answer, be extremely cautious. Sometimes a resort might book a certain room cheaper because it’s the off season and they have a lot of empty rooms. Other times it’s because the room you’re booking is smaller, older, and has a dumpster view rather than an ocean view. Sometimes a restaurant will offer half price meals because they’re brand new and looking to attract customers. Other times it’s because they’ve lost business due to poor service or food quality. Sensing a pattern? Don’t get duped with a bad product.
Check the Fine Print.
Some websites or ads do a really good job of explaining any exclusions, time limits, or other requirements for a deal. If they’re not immediately visible, seek them out and make sure you understand them. The best deals are refundable, easy to redeem, have flexible timing, offer product or service specifics, and fully disclose any requirements or limitations. The worse deals offer no recourse if the product doesn’t meet your expectations, they make you jump through hoops to redeem the offer, and offer no disclosures until after they have your money.
Plan It Out.
Arguably one of the most difficult parts of really getting a deal is making sure it will work for you. This is especially important for travel deals. Don’t book a cruise with limited dates before clearing one of those dates with your employer. Don’t book an international flight without first having a passport. The same principal applies to other deals as well. Do you really want a 2-for-1 dining deal if you have to redeem it at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday? These deals are probably discounted because not a lot of people have the flexibility for them. Make sure you do before pulling out your wallet.
Do you have tips for finding good deals and enjoying luxuries for less? Share them in the comments section below.