According the book “Contemporary Marketing,” by Louis Boone and David Kurtz, published in 2007, 342 billion shopping discount coupons are offered in the United States every year.

Even though only 3.2 billion of those coupons are actually redeemed, that still works out to around 1,114 coupons being used by every man, woman and child in the country. Clearly, Americans love a bargain.

Helping us in our endless quest for the ultimate deal is the fairly recent Internet phenomenon known as the social buying website. Social buying websites combine the power of world-wide advertising with quantity discounting. As with most financial transactions, the more widgets you buy, the lower the price per widget. Social buying websites make deals with merchants saying that if they sell a certain number of widgets, then the price per widget drops dramatically.

When I say dramatically, I mean the price can be reduced 50 to 90%. Restaurant meals, golf course greens fees, candy, gifts, professional house cleaning, movie tickets, clothing and hair salon services are only a few of the deals available to savvy shoppers. I’ve taken advantage of some of these social shopping website deals and, yes, they are real.

I am on the email lists for what I consider to be the top five social buying websites active in our area. There are a few more sites available, but they have somewhat shady reputations and too many bad customer reviews for me to include in my favorites list. My top five are Groupon, LivingSocial, WimgoDeals, EverSave and DailyDealster. Tack “.com” on the end of each of those and you’ll be there.

Every week day I get an email from these sites describing their current daily deal. The deals usually have to be purchased quickly; some have to be purchased that day, some are available for two or three days. After the deal has been purchased, there is usually a one or two day waiting period before the deal can be redeemed. After that, the deals are usually good for at least three months, with many of them redeemable for up to a year.

The savings offered can be considerable. If you eat out a lot with that “special someone,” it’s easy to spend a lot of money at a nice restaurant.

Having a coupon that lets you buy $30 worth of food for only $15 is pretty cool. Half-price movie tickets are pretty cool, too. I’m not a golfer, but the deal I saw today offering three greens fees plus ten buy-one get-one-free greens fees for $30 seems pretty good to me. Whatever your thing is, there’s probably a half-price deal for it somewhere.

Be sure to read the fine print for your deals. I had to call customer service once to change movie ticket credits from Fandango to MovieTickets.com because Fandango doesn’t offer vouchers for the Warren Theatres in Moore; that was a deal-killer for me. Some restaurant vouchers require reservations and do not include alcoholic beverages. Some vouchers that require making appointments do not allow for rescheduling.

Another website worth looking at is Eatdrinkdeals.com. While not a social buying site per se, as you have to regularly check it yourself rather than having the latest deals emailed to you, this site has some pretty hot deals on restaurants. Two other websites, Tippr and BuyWithMe, may be worth looking at someday, but are not yet available in our area.

While the concept is still relatively new (Groupon is barely two years old), look for social buying sites to take off in a huge way. The competition is starting to heat up, which can only lead to more savings for the rest of us.

Dave Moore has been repairing computers in Norman since 1984, when he borrowed $1,200 to buy a Commodore 64 system. He can be reached at 919-9901 or at www.davemoorecomputers.com.

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