My teen and I have been travelling full time for over 2 years. We live on a really small budget, so have gotten pretty good at finding the best restaurant deals over the years. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m queen of low budget travel! We’re just getting started on our second 3 month road trip around the USA, so I’ve been hard at work finding deals to help us stretch our budget!
I’ve always been a fan of Groupon, but had NO idea how much better it is in the US until we got here from Canada. There are WAY more businesses offering deals, and SO many discount opportunities within Groupon itself. Groupon also just recently launched Groupon+, which is a program that offers cashback on purchases made with your linked card. So combine that program with the deals available for purchase, and you’re really looking at the best restaurant deals out there!
When grouponing (ya, I invented a new word. let’s just roll with it.), there are a few tricks that will help you make the most of your potential deals and get the best restaurant deals possible… I’ll share them with you here, along with some examples of how these tips have led to some great deals for us!
1. Research the business
I always check out the menu and social media accounts of the prospective purchase. Just because a Groupon offers a $25 credit for $10, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal. Maybe an entree is $18.. then I’m still having to fork over an extra $15 to pay for Seth’s meal.. so, not a good deal. And you all know I love my deals!
I’ve also encountered some deals that after researching and reading reviews, I’ve decided not to buy. Reviews are subjective, obviously, so some complaints may not matter to me. But if a business has multiple complaints about something that might bother you, it might not be worth buying the deal.
I’ve heard from some people that they’ve bought a Groupon, just to find out the business had shut down! Groupon will refund your purchase if this happens, but it’s still a pain to deal with. Often a quick google will tell you if this is a possibility.
2. Watch your email for coupons
Wait until you get a good offer from Groupon in your email. They’ll often have 20% off sales, and every now and then you’ll luck out and get a code for 50% off one deal, or $10 off an $11 purchase. Hint: this is why you keep a wishlist 😉
I received a $10 off code this week, so I opted to use it to buy a $20 credit from a restaurant, for just $1!
Another cool perk to staying on their email list is the ‘invite only’ deals that will come. Usually around once every 2 weeks, you’ll get an email offer for a gift card. We’ve gotten ones for CVS and Starbucks so far! Usually they are $10 or $20 cards for half price.
3. For the best restaurant deals, check if they offer deals on specific days
Check the restaurant website, Yelp, and TripAdvisor for any sign of specials or a happy hour menu. Many will offer a happy hour or daily or weekly special. While you likely can’t use your Groupon for happy hour or any specials (see #7), you may be able
to order and pay for those separately or in addition to what your Groupon covers. So, if your Groupon covers $20 of food, you may be able to get happy hour drinks and just pay for those, using your Groupon to cover regular priced items. Make sure to ask the restaurant if they allow this.. We have encountered it both ways!
4. Tip on the PRE discount bill
Don’t be cheap. Just because you got a great deal doesn’t mean your server/stylist/whatever should have to be shortchanged for it. They work just as hard, even if you got a great deal.
Disclaimer.. This article pertains mostly to the US, where the tipping culture is alive and kicking. I realize that many other countries don’t participate in tipping in the same manner, so use your judgement.
5. Keep a ‘wishlist’
If you’re not needing to buy something specific, stockpile your wishlist so that when you get a great discount emailed to you, you have a ready-to-buy list of stuff you’ve already vetted.
6. Share your Groupon referral code
Every Groupon account comes with a unique referral code for you to share. Each time a new user buys a Groupon through your link, you earn $10! This appears as a credit in your account, and can be used towards your future Groupon purchases.
7. Read the fine print
Many Groupons have fine print that specify what days or times it can be redeemed- like no using it during happy hour or in combination with any other special.
Often when the Groupon offers multiple vouchers for one price you can only use one voucher per visit, so be prepared to make multiple trips to the one location if you buy this style of offer.
When I bought one for a haircut in Phoenix the fine print specified that it could not be used with 3 specific stylists. So be sure you can comply with the fine print, so that you aren’t surprised when you try to redeem!
8. Have more than one account
Because not every promotion is sent to every registered email, it can pay to have more than one account open to receiving emails. Namely the offers for a half price giftcard, the $10 off discount and the 50% off codes. Often those only get sent to select accounts. So if you’re a deal hunter like me, more than one account increases your chances of receiving these deals!
9. Get a free Swagbucks account to collect cashback from each purchase
This won’t make you rich, but every cent adds up! When you sign up to swagbucks, you’ll be prompted to add the icon to your browser toolbar. If you do this, you will get a prompt to activate a coupon each time you go to buy a Groupon. The points this will accumulate can be cashed out for giftcards and cashcards at certain levels- giving you an even bigger discount overall!
10. Before paying any entrance fees or admissions, search to see if they have a Groupon online!
We’ve lucked out many times and saved anything from a few dollars to 50% just by doing a quick google before paying!
Shopping for restaurant deals with Groupon is a pretty straightforward process, but there ARE some secrets that can help you make the most out of your account! I hope the ones I’ve shared help you to find some of the best restaurant deals in your area. If you have any other tips that I haven’t covered, let me know in the comments! I’m always looking to improve my game!