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Groupon wants you to live off deals for one year and win $100K, but it won’t be easy

Want to win $100,000? You’ll have to go 365 days without cash to do it.

Groupon.com, a group-buying Web site we featured a few months ago, is looking for a resourceful candidate for its Live Off Groupon! Challenge. It explains itself really; the challenge is to live off Groupon’s “eat, see and buy” deals – deals on food, entertainment, travel, luxury services – for one year.

And, though Groupon will supply you with the means to enjoy a pilates session and sushi in Los Angeles, it’s not going to let you bring your toothbrush. Or take clothes. Or keep your apartment.

Groupon has a “few things up [its] sleeves” to get the participant off the ground, of course, including a year’s supply of Groupon deals (let’s hope a few of them allow you to purchase underwear and shampoo).

The cheesiest part of the whole promotion is you start the challenge wearing a suit made of Groupon deals. So, if participating in the Live Off Groupon! Challenge, using Groupons daily, and blogging and Tweeting about Groupon hour-by-hour didn’t hammer it into your skull: this is a Groupon promotion.

Outside of the suit, it’s a clever idea. My colleagues and I have, throughout the day, discussed potential flaws in the promotion (LiveOffGroupon.com and a Groupon rep quickly answered most of our questions), so, in that sense the promotion is already effective; people are talking.

The gist is this: You give up everything – your apartment, your car, your credit cards – you close your bank account, and you leave your family and friends behind to live off Groupon’s deals for one year. You’ll start with the suit (ugh!) and a one-year-supply of Groupon deals. You’ll have unlimited access to Groupon deals in all of Groupon’s nearly 40 markets, and you’ll be given a GPS, a camera and a computer to document the experience.

Outside of that, it’s creativity and resourcefulness that will win the participant the $100,000 at the end of 365 cash-less days, said Groupon’s director of public relations, Julie Mossler.

“There are going to be people who think it’s insane and there are going to be people who think ‘I was born to do that,’” she said.

A few things: You’ll have very basic needs met (keep reading) and you can pay to have health care for the year. Groupon will also work with businesses – like hotels – to get special deals for the participant, so he’s not sleeping on park benches (unless, of course, he chooses to, in which case Groupon isn’t liable).

Outside of the very basic needs – shelter, transportation and food – the person Groupon selects will have to be creative to acquire luxuries (ya’ know, like clothing, or a toothbrush).

Shelter will be provided in select Groupon markets, where deals on hotel stays are or have been advertised. If the person selected for the challenge wants to travel to a Groupon city where a hotel deal is not available, it’s up to him to figure out lodging.

The same goes with transportation; Groupon will provide transportation deals to get to cities where shelter is available – or the resourceful participant (or, hobo, depending you look at it) can devise a travel plan himself.

Dining deals on Groupon are in ample supply, so food is much less of a concern; the chosen participant will always have three meals a day, courtesy of Groupon deals.

So, with basic needs met, how will the person Groupon selects acquire toiletries and clothes? Well, some toiletries are available in hotels – and others will have to be bartered.

If you’re in San Antonio, for example, you can trade Six Jumbo Cupcakes at Cupcake Junction for, say, a loofah, or a hairbrush. Or, trade a microdermabrasion facial at BioAesthetics Skin Enhancement & Rejuvenation in Denver for a tube of toothpaste.

The challenge’s organizers are also hoping the participant’s blog and Twitter feed get Groupon list-serv members involved. So, for example, if the participant is at a Los Angeles restaurant, and can’t use cash for tax and tip (Groupon deals don’t cover tax and tip), organizers hope Los Angeles “Groupies” follow the participant and help cover the cash cost – through some form of barter, of course.

There is a hard line no sale policy with the Groupons, so you can’t sell a skydiving session for $50 cash. That’s cheating – and it won’t win you $100K.

So far, not a bad idea – but, you’re thinking, what about student loan debt, and credit card payments, and car payments, and all of the bill collectors who will keep calling, even while you’re enjoying a SilkPeel Dermalinfusion treatment from The SkinSuite at The Few Institute for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Chicago?

Well, Groupon is willing to work with you on having your bills paid (a “mutually agreeable” deal, Mossler says) while you participate; all at the expense of the $100K bottom line. Your bill will be paid, but it’ll come out of the purse.

Still – not bad. But, if you’re someone who’s concerned with bill collectors (pft!), or daily hygiene (sha!) then you might not be the candidate Groupon seeks.

“We really are rooting for this person,” Mossler said. “We want to set this up so someone smart and resourceful can absolutely accomplish it.”

If not, even armed with a wallet full of Groupon deals on skydiving and nail salons and sushi, “If a person fails after two weeks, it’ll still be pretty entertaining to watch,” Mossler said.

For more information and a FAQ, visit LiveOffGroupon.com.