LUDLOW, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: In this photo illustration sales assistant Sandra Stewardson wraps gift boxes of chocolates in her shop giftsandchocolates.com in the rural town of Ludlow in Shropshire on December 8, 2011 in Ludlow, England. With a weak outlook at the start of the Christmas shopping boom, many retailers are slashing prices with the hopes of combating poor sales. (Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
As you certainly know, daily deals websites, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Woot, offer merchandise and services at greatly discounted prices. The deals and prices shift every day, which can add excitement to the shopping experience as you search for the perfect gift. By taking a few precautions and doing a little preparation, you may discover that daily deal sites can be your best shopping option -- for the holidays and for everyday items. Here's how.
1. Stay Organized Subscribe to the daily deal websites of your choice, and you will be able to shop from your inbox. Each email you receive will list deal details in the subject line. That way you don't need to open every email to determine whether you're interested in the offer, which is a convenient time-saver.
You can also use a daily deal aggregator, such as Yipit or The Dealmap, which collects special offers from a variety of daily deal websites and emails you the most relevant ones based on your interests and location.
2. Do Your Homework Be sure to research group-buying daily deals sites regarding shipping options, terms and conditions, and return policies, as they vary from site to site. Some daily deal websites have extremely limited return policies, or no return policy at all. LivingSocial, for example, only accepts a returned voucher within five days of its purchase, and the process is even more daunting with Groupon or Half Off Depot as the buyer must contact the customer-service department and explain why the voucher cannot be used.
Also, don't just take the website's word that the offer is indeed a good deal. If it's marked up by 70 percent, only to knock 50 percent off the inflated price, it's obviously not a bargain!
3. Stick to Your List Say "no" to impulse buys! Don't fall in love with an item just because you can buy it for a fantastic price. Make sure it's a great buy for someone on your holiday shopping list -- or for yourself.
4. Don't Fall for Phony Expiration Dates on Vouchers Although websites that sell vouchers, like Groupon and Half Off Depot, advertise their deals as being good for only 24 hours, you can often purchase the coupon as late as a day beyond the so-called expiration date.
On the other hand, merchandise websites, such as Woot, tend to be true to their "one-day only" qualifiers, though there have been instances where I've purchased items after the 24-hour window closed.
Ultimately, it's important to not feel pressured by any supposed time constraints. Take your time and be certain that you're receiving a great deal on a product you really want.
5. Avoid Shady Websites If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don't fall for a scam website! Always make sure that "https://" appears in the URL or that the site you purchase from has the appropriate security certificates displayed in your web browser
David Bakke runs an online reselling business and uses a variety of strategies to find the best deals on his favorite products. You can see David's writing on smart shopping and personal finance on Money Crashers.