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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

There are plenty of great deals to be had online, but it's easy to lose money, too.

Get the most out of your Groupon


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Have an exit strategy

Sites like Groupon stipulate in their rules that the amount paid for the deal will never expire and consumers can still recoup goods and services from vendors to cover what they've already paid. But Woroch suggests sites like CoupRecoup to get rid of unwanted bargains. Don't forget to ask around – maybe a friend would be willing to buy you out.

Only peruse the deals you know you will use

"If I can buy $20 worth of Indian food at Taste of India for $10, which is a restaurant I love to frequent but cut back on because I'm being mindful of my spending, then I'm going to take advantage of their Groupon special," said Ryan. But the only real way to save is if you restrict yourself to buying deals for businesses you already patronize. It's easy to see a yoga deal and imagine yourself diving into a whole new fitness routine – but chances are, you'll only get your money's worth if you already loved yoga.

Do your homework

"I bought a Groupon for a massage in July and couldn't get an appointment because they were completely booked for a year and a half in advance," says Sasha Leykin of Milwaukee. "So my Groupon would expire before I could use it. It took me two months to get a refund, and all they could give me was a Groupon credit. I haven't been able to find anything to spend the credits on."

Before you buy, scope out the place of business and be sure that you will be able to redeem your coupon in a timely fashion. Furthermore, be sure that the coupon is actually worth what the website claims it is.

"When it comes to 'goods,' be sure to check the usual purchase price of the items and figure in shipping," says Tricia Meyer of Sunshine Rewards, a website that compiles different daily deals to afford users cash-back rebates. "For example, a wine bottle holder was advertised as a daily deal at a price higher than what you could buy it on Amazon. Do not go only on what they say the 'retail price' is. Check it out through other retailers."

And don't let the prospect of big savings cloud your judgment. "Always read consumer reviews for spa and restaurants to ensure you are purchasing a certificate for an establishment that offers the service and product you expect," says Woroch.

Resist temptation

Once you sign up for a site, you get inundated every day with emails about new deals. This can be dangerous, says Woroch, especially for the shopaholics out there who are easily tempted.

"Sign up for just one of your favorite sites and ignore the rest – check out Dealery.com, a site that aggregates all the daily dales into one website for easy browsing," she says. "You also might want to create a separate email address so you can discern deals from spiels."

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