I was introduced to my first fascination with coupons on March 27, when I clicked on an advert on some website or another for DoubleTakeDeals. I probably should have known better, except words that were magic to my eyes popped up. David's Natural Market in Columbia was offering $30 worth of groceries for the remarkable price of 15 bucks.

Half-price, man. Yeah, I can do that, while that little piece living on the left side of my brain was confirming yet again that sometimes you have to spend money to save money. But if I'm going to spend anyway, I might as well shop local.

I got roped into DTD when I saw I had to sign up to make the purchase. But, hey, I could always unsubscribe, right? Um, for sure, except that DTD started emailing me deals I could relate to, and the next thing I knew I had bought five — count them, five — coupons for my choice of an hour-long Swedish massage or an hour-and-a-half-long facial, for $35 each, which is half of Paradise Day Spa's regular $70 price. I got three for me and two as gifts, which cost considerably less than the spa I actually belong to.

I can handle this, I'm thinking. Discretionary spending of $190 in a couple of days is peanuts for anyone living in The Hamptons. What? I'm on a budget? Just say no to the next deal that comes along.


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Oh, shoot. How did I get involved with LivingSocial deals? What's this I've bought now? My three vouchers to The Still Point in Clarksville are ready to print? Half price at $40 each for a therapeutic massage, two of which are gifts? Now that's nice.

So what's up with me and online coupons? I've never been a cutter, never fancied them and rarely used them. While I know others who relish advertising inserts, they are the first things I pitch from both my Sunday papers, despite the fact that I know they are what keep the papers viable. Hubby actually took a coupon to the grocery store once. He gave his coupon to the clerk who told him, "You have to buy two boxes of detergent in order to use this." That was the end of his coupon life. "Hon, you gave up easily," I said. "Hon, we didn't need two boxes of detergent," he said.

Anyhow, I can't believe the businesses on DTD, Living Social, Groupon and a host of others are actually making a profit on giving us, the consumers, these great deals. On the other hand, a website featuring John Amato, chief exec of MarketSharing, which is a business-to-business deals promoter, says these ecommerce companies are here to stay.

"They have low overhead, no inventory, an enormous amount of consumer appeal and rock-solid concepts. When the daily deal model is properly executed, it serves everyone: businesses, consumers and, obviously, the daily deal sites themselves," says Amato.

But my question is, how loyal will I be to these companies I'm trying? Well, that's part of the risk they take, isn't it? I am a consumer, I am not wealthy and I like the idea of businesses I am not familiar with introducing themselves to me and the community. Most consumers want a deal. However, if they decide otherwise, they don't have to click the "buy" button.

For my daughter's birthday last week, Hubby and I treated her, her husband and family to an Inner Harbor dinner cruise aboard the Spirit. Through Travelzoo, it was a spectacular $40 venture which normally would have cost $80 each. Will I do that again at full price? More than likely.

And through Groupon, Hubby and I will stay at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City for two nights, including dinner and spa for $149. I can't beat that.