$10 Off Gas… Not As Good A Deal As You Think

How much do you think this guy spends on gas?

Gas is obviously one of the PoP’s big monthly expenses these days.  Heck, you can see right on any of our monthly income statements that a decent chunk of change goes to gas every month due to our commutes.  So, when our local grocery store, Publix (which is an awesome grocery store, FWIW!) offers coupons for $10 off of a $50 gas gift card, it’s worth knowing if that’s actually a good deal.

 

What Do We Need To Consider

On the surface, $10 off a $50 gas card sounds pretty fabulous.  Heck, that’s 20% off!  But it’s not quite the deal that it initially looks like.  And that’s because there are actually a lot of factors to consider here, like:

  • Minimum grocery spend required for purchase, and how many cards can you buy
  • Current credit card rewards on gas and grocery categories
  • Locations of gas stations that have gift cards available
  • Differences in gas price between gas stations
  • Probability of gift card loss or forgetting to use it

Minimum Grocery Spend Required For Purchase

At Publix, most of the coupons require a minimum grocery purchase of $50 to use the coupon.  There’s also a limit of 1 card per $50 purchase, so unless it’s a big stock-up sale, it’s not like we could likely get enough to buy more than one of these during the few days the coupon is good.  As for the minimum spend, the PoPs usually have at least one $50 stop at Publix each week, but not always.  Adding items to the cart in order to get the gas card could seriously eat into any of that savings.

Current Credit Card Rewards On Gas And Groceries

We’re currently earning 5% back on gas this quarter on our Chase Freedom Card, and the maximum credit card reward that we have on groceries is 2% through our American Express Blue Everyday.  So we know right off the bat that we’re going to be missing out on 3% in rewards…

Locations of Gas Stations That Have Gift Cards

At our local Publix, there were only 3 brands of gas gift card available.  Maybe other stores have a wider selection, but this is what we had.  And among them is NOT the gas station that we frequent most often.  (The one nearest to home, of course!)  So I had to think about gas stations that are along our commutes and Google them to double check.  Turns out, one of the brands available is on my commute, but because I was paranoid I called to make sure they accepted gift cards before buying it.

Maybe I’m extreme in this, but I am NOT willing to go significantly out of my way to save a buck on gas.  When Costco started carrying gas when I was a kid, my mom would drive 5 miles out of the way to wait in line for 20 minutes at Costco to save $0.10/gallon.  Yes, she saved about $1.50 on her gas purchase that day.  But how much gas did she waste driving all the way out of the way and sitting in the car with the engine and AC running for 20 minutes while we waited?  Not to mention the time.  Don’t forget your time and gas costs if you’re driving out of your way to save a few cents/gallon.

Differences In Gas Prices Between Stations

On my sub-10 mile commute to work there are multiple gas stations.  And over the years I’ve been driving this route, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a pretty significant rent premium that gets passed on to the customers through higher gas prices at some of them.  What do I mean by rent premium?  Well, the gas station across from a hoity-toity development runs a good $0.25-0.30 higher (per gallon!) than the station nearest to our neighborhood.  Cross over the bridge onto the beach, and gas stations there charge more too!  All these things play a role, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t get a gas card for one of these stations as I could see that eating up A LOT of the savings.

 

So How Much Did I Actually Save?

Since my grocery bill was sufficiently high, we’ll assume we had no cost for unnecessary grocery items.  So I got my $50 gas gift card for a price of $40.  Using our Amex, I got 2% cash back for the “grocery” purchase, so the net bill was $39.20.  For that, I got a gas card at a station that is a “little” out of my way (it’s a left-hand turn in and out of the station instead of my preferable right-hand turns), but otherwise on my commute.  The price/gallon at this gas station was $3.839, so my $50 gas card bought 13.02 gallons of gas.

What About At My Normal Gas Station?

Gas at my normal station is $3.759/gallon, so to buy 13.02 gallons of gas would have cost $48.96.  But if I bought gas there, I would have used the card with 5% back, so I would have gotten $2.45 in rewards back, for a net price of $46.51.  So I managed to save $7.31 doing this… which equates to ~14.6%.  Not the 20% that it looks like in the beginning, but still a modest savings.  

What If I Had Bought The Card For the Hoity-Toity Station?

Gas at the hoity-toity station was $3.999 on the same day I noted the other prices (only $0.24 higher, surprisingly).  So I would have only gotten 12.50 gallons of gas out of the card.  It still would have had a net price of $39.20, but the net price at my normal station would have been $46.99 – $2.35 = $44.64, for a savings of $5.44.  Not nearly as impressive as the $10 you think you’re getting when you buy the gift card.

 

Bottom Line

Yes, even if I went to the expensive gas station, the coupons still show some savings.  But it’s small enough that I can’t see it being worth tossing another item in your cart to qualify for the coupon.  For me, when the coupons are available, I’ll look at see which cards are available, but I’m not going to go out of my way to pick one up, since I felt like I had to WORK to make sure I was filling up at the right station before I started to run low on gas.

Maybe this sounds silly, but the amount of thought that went into it felt like it was worth WAY more than the $7.31 it actually ended up saving us.  And this is why I’m not obsessive about coupons.

 

Am I being too lazy here?  What are some of the tactics that you use to save money on gas?  What coupons have you seen that weren’t as good as actually advertised?

45 comments to $10 Off Gas… Not As Good A Deal As You Think

  • Interesting.

    The Safeway here will hand you a cents-off coupon for gas — at one of Safeway’s stations — after you’ve spent 87 berjillion dollars on the red card. However, the nearest Safeway with a gas station is way up north, far off my beaten path. Traipsing up there would cost more in wasted gasoline than I’d save. I just hand the thing to the next guy in line.
    Funny about Money recently posted..What Makes Word Crash???My Profile

    • Sounds like exactly what I would do if I were in your boat. We don’t even have an equivalent grocery store with gas station since so many grocery stores are leaving the area…

      • Karen

        No, but Winn Dixie partners with Shell. So, if you shop WD with their reward cards and use it a Shell, you’ll get a discount. But I only shop at Publix.

        • I have seen the Winn Dixie card prompt at Shell, but after your comment I had to google it… the nearest Winn Dixie is over 20 miles from us in an area that we never go. I honestly didn’t think there was one around at all, so I’m surprised there was one even that close. It seems like most “normal” stores besides Publix are fleeing b/c they can’t compete.

          • Karen

            Wow, there’s 29 in a 10 mile radius of my zip. Including one by my Publix and one by work. (There’s at least 40 Publix)
            I just prefer Publix. When all I had was Kroger, I longed for Publix. A coworker from FL and I once reminisced about Publix and their subs lol
            Due to my location, I would have to go slightly out of my way to go to Shell.

          • ahhh, Publix subs. We ate so many of those when we were doing tons of work on our house when we first bought.

  • I feel you on this one. Often times the energy and time needed to save a few bucks is just not worth it. I typically go to the cheapest station that is convenient to my current location, I’m not going to drive WAY out of way for 10 cents a gallon savings. I recently bought a Honda that gets high 30’s MPG to replace my truck – by FAR the best move I ever made to save money on gas.
    Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted..Frugal Hack #5: Abandon Your Virtual Shopping Cart & Score a DealMy Profile

    • Yeah, we have definitely talked about replacing Mr. PoP’s car with a more fuel efficient one, but for now it’s a car that he knows how to do most of the work on, which is worth some amount of savings as well. And he really enjoys it, so the calculus on that is a bit complicated.

  • When you say it like that $7 doesn’t sound like too much, but I’d still do it if you happen to be spending that much at the grocery store.
    This got me thinking. Now that the POP family has some significant assets, do you value savings in the same way you used to? If I’m able to save $400/yr it’s about 1% of my net worth, but it’s a much smaller percent for you. How does that change your mentality?

    • Hmmm, well this savings is nowhere near $400/year. These coupons happen only every 2-3 months, so max I could do this 4-6x per year. So we’re talking max about $40 or so.

      But I definitely see where you’re coming from. I think we try and hold a line and make sure that our spending is meaningful… Just the other day I booked one more road race for $100 this racing season, because I REALLY want to hit a PR. That’s a major goal for me, so it feels worth spending a little extra on, but the $100 for the race (and the additional travel costs for the weekend away) were definitely something that I thought long and hard over before even asking Mr. PoP if he was okay with the extra spend.

  • Wow, Mrs. PoP, I never really thought about those gas saving coupons in that way before. Thanks for the great insight!
    Laurie @ The Frugal Farmer recently posted..Out on the Town: Good Reads for the Week Ending 1/25/13My Profile

    • It’s funny, I always ignored them thinking they weren’t worth it AT ALL… but then Mr. PoP’s parents (who go out of their way to get them – and sometimes buy lots of extra stuff to buy 2!) convinced Mr. PoP that we needed to give it a try. So I said I would, but that we had to keep track down to the penny what they actually cost =)

  • I am wistful for the US after reading this. I need to do a post on the $7/gallon gas here in Grenada. So expensive! Still, I am with you on not throwing something extra into the cart just to save a little money on gas. I never could get into coupons fully, but those stockpiles that they show on tv kind of creep me out and make me full of awe all at the same time!
    Cat@BudgetBlonde.com recently posted..The Truth About Side HustlingMy Profile

    • Oh yeah, I bet gas is insanely expensive there. But on the bright side, it’s a pretty small island, so even if you were to drive from one end to the other, that’s what a gallon of gas? =)

      Yeah, I never got crazy about coupons. I clip them, and if I’m already buying something I check for a coupon, but that’s about it. Nothing huge.

  • I don’t really have any tips of saving on gas, but we do use coupons regularly and save a ton using them. Because most of the drugstores I coupon shop at are within walking distance of our home/work I don’t have to figure in gas, just time. If we had to drive to get to them it would still be worth it, but I’d probably cut back on the number of trips I make.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..My Dog Has More Coats Than I DoMy Profile

  • Iforonwy

    Sometimes here we get a 10p off per litre coupon if the overall shop has been £40. This is quite worthwhile as you can only use the coupon at the gas station attached and owned by the supermarket so no hunting around for the best deal. The coupons are generally valid for 14 days. We usually know when we need to fill up the tank and when the deal wull be in operation so you can sycronise a shop and plan accordingly

    A little word on the cost of fuel. These are very rough figures and I hope my calculations are correct.

    1 US gallon = 3.785 UK litres of fuel (price is for diesel)
    1 UK litre costs £1.38
    Therefore 1 US gallon costs £5.22
    £1=$1.60 (or thereabouts)
    Therefore the equivalent cost would be $8.35 per US gallon of fuel.
    Do hope my calculation is correct!

    • The calculations look correct to me! Gas definitely is pricier in the UK, though on the bright side, the exchange rate is more favorable than the last time I was there and it was hovering near $2=£1. Well, I guess that’d be the bright side for people with dollars who want to go visit the Queen.

      If your car is diesel, did you ever look into a bio-diesel conversion? There are a couple of old diesel cars around here that have converted, and run around town smelling vaguely like french fries on occasion.

      • Iforonwy

        No we have not thought seriously about the conversion although it is quite popular in some areas. The car is about 8 years old and manages about 55mpg which seems very reasonable. We do not need to do the miles that we used to do. We have just the one small car. I don’t drive and as I have 2 good, if old, legs I walk or use the bus around the area.

        • 55mpg is more than reasonable. Heck, here that’s basically a hybrid. I don’t know why diesels aren’t as popular in the states as they are elsewhere.

  • eemusings

    Here all supermarket chains team up with one or two gas chains to offer discounts at any station of those particular chains. I shop at PNS I get a discount at BP; I shop at CD I get a discount at Shell/Gull. 4 c off a litre if you spend $40, sometimes more if you spend more. Not a lot but every bit counts esp. As I don’t need to do anything extra/different.
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  • Is seven dollars worth it? I don’t think so. Would it be worth it every week. $7 x 52 = $364 maybe. Seems a lot of work for that. Not worth it!
    Dave recently posted..Cheap Ways to Increase the Value of Your HomeMy Profile

  • Love how you did all the math on this! I’m with you, there is no way I’m going to drive out of my way to save money on gas, even if it’s a good or great deal. My time has a value to it, too!
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  • We have a store called Giant Eagle that gives you ten cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend at their stores. You have to use their gas stations, which are honestly pretty competitively priced, but the items in their grocery store aren’t. We use what we build up, but we don’t allow it to dictate where we shop. Whoever has the best sale on food gets our dollar as opposed to who has the best gas rewards program.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Wish My Black Thumb LuckMy Profile

    • Giant Iggle! I do know someone who has to pay out of pocket for all their Rx drugs (insurance reimburses them later), so they get their drugs at Giant Iggle, get reimbursed, and build up their gas credits that way.

  • CF

    I’m glad we don’t have to worry about gas – it seems like it can get stressful to chase prices! The car co-op we are part of pays for all gas costs, so we just need to use their card to fill up if the tank is low.
    CF recently posted..Updates: January 20 – 26My Profile

    • That’s not bad. Though I guess as part of the co-op you’re still footing the bill for the gas, though indirectly, so it feels different.

  • Jennifer

    I do the Publix gas card almost every time they offer it. I live in an area where I can get 10 cents off a gallon at Shell for shopping at Kroger. I buy the Shell gas cards and double dip with 10 cents off per gallon and the 20% discount on the gas card. However, my hobby is couponing and last time they did this deal I paid $41.76 for the gas card and $50 worth of groceries. If you have extra expenses out of pocket to reach the $50 it might not be worth it.

    • How did you get into couponing as a habit? What types of foods do you eat? So much of what we eat doesn’t have coupons in the paper, so I end up using them mostly for household goods.

  • miamigirl

    i think you overworked by overthinking.1) most of us know where the gas stations are on our normal drives and their prices. 2)- it is gift card not a promotional one like the ones from Winn dixie which some Shell stations here in Miami dont always accept. 3) if you are spending 40 dollars average a week it really is no problem to bump it up to 50 if you buy promotional items or on non persishable items. They don’t do this offer every week down here so no danger of overspending. i calculated that i save 8 or 9 dollars because yes, BP was a bit higher than some of their competitors but still a savings. I am bummed out that BP is no longer in the program here in Miami only Shell and Ractrack. not nearly as many as those around my neighborhood.

    • Well, it wouldn’t be the first time someone accused me of over thinking a situation. But I’d question your assumption that most people know the gas stations and prices on their normal drives. I think a lot of people don’t. They just pull over when the fuel light comes on and fill up at whatever is nearest because it’s not something they choose to devote any portion of their brain to.

  • Maddie

    For us it’s worth it. Our publix is less than 2 miles from our home, and the gas stations they offer are the cheap ones in our town. It seems like there’s one on every corner here. We are a large family that has to purchase diapers often so I can always get what I actually need and meet the minimum purchase requirement easily

  • Barb Young

    I look at this a whole different way than the author of the original blog. I always use Shell because I get reward points for Fuel Rewards network (Winn Dixie, local restaurants, online shopping, etc.). So I get the Shell Gas card for the deal and still pay $50 for $50 worth of gas (less any Fuel Rewards I have built up.) I then buy $50 worth of groceries but only have to pay $40 for them. So I have saved 20% on groceries. =)

  • Shayla

    Whether or not it is worth the savings really depends on the individual and how serious of a “couponer” you are. I am doing several orders for the gift card. For instance, one of my orders include 10 boxes of magnum ice cream bars and 10 boxes of snickers ice cream bars. The total before coupons will come to 49.95 and with tax, that will be the $50 minimum purchase. Now, my total in coupons for these items which include manufacturers and store/competitor coupons along with the 10 dollars off gas card totals $65. I will be getting overage on the magnums. So my total comes to 34.95 which includes the $50 gas card. On my second order which includes several more items, I will be paying 48.58 which includes another gift card. Seems worth the time and savings to me. I live less than a mile from gas station for which I purchase cards. However, I definitely would not see the benefit if you’re purchasing items just to spend 50 bucks for the gas card.

  • Matt Lake

    Fwiw, you can buy/refill mobile minutes at many stations now. For those that use prepaid cellular it is a free 20% off the cell bill.

  • shena

    As a frequent shopper at publix especially when they have the $50 gas card deal or $50 visa card deal I have to say it’s been WELL worth it for me!! The last $50 gas card deal I did I purchased 12 boxes of lucky charms, 8 bags of dog food (4.4lbs each), 4 paper towel rolls, 2 Maybelline mascara, 1 bag rice, 2 baby plum organics pouches AND the $50 gas gift card ALL for $44.27 (including tax) yes I used coupons! I got my gas card for a shell station. At another local grocery store I get money off per gallon of gas when I spend so much (I use coupons there too & my out of pocket is very low)…it adds up quickly! So when I go to a shell station where I can use my gas points from that grocery store I usually get gas at .10 per gallon. It allows up to 20 gallons at that price. Yukon fill up about $2-$3. Use my $50 gas card from Publix…it will last me a LONG time! PLUS I got all of those groceries free. So I think it’s all in the time you put into it to make it worth the value to you. :-) I don’t think just buying a $50 gas card for $40 is worth it that’s why I use coupons on everything else to lower my cost.

  • Siss

    I use Publix and it requires a $35 purchase (which I buy that many groceries anyway), then you can purchase the $50 gas card with $10 off.

    That makes the gas card face value of $50 of which I paid $40.

    So, say my sale at the pump is $25, that’s really $20 paid. I purchased gas this morning at $2.59 a gallon with 9.61 gallons put in the tank. 25 bucks total.

    $25 divided by 9.61 gallons is $2.60 a gallon. Of course I’m not calculating in the third decimal. So, $25 divided by 9.61 would be $2.60 a gallon.

    In my mind if my gas card is $50 of which I paid $40 this purchase of $25 would actually be $20 correct? So $20.00 divided by 9.61 gallons makes it $2.08 a gallon.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong in my calculations etc. If I’ve got it correct that’s a 50 cent discount per gallon.

    This can’t be accurate or true. I’d like to know what I’ve done wrong.

    • Rob

      Siss,

      You went the long way about it but your math is correct. Buying a $50 card for $40 means you got a 20% discount… here is the math:

      $50 x .80 = $40

      Therefore, you can use the same math on the current price per gallon. For example:

      $2.599 x .80 = $2.0792 (matches your $2.08 per gallon)

      Rob

  • Red Buttons

    I stumbled onto this blog while looking for other enthusiasts of this incredibly simple unusually generous “thank you” offer by Publix to its customers. I cannot for the life of me find a reason than makes any sense for the author to try to induce a “well, it depends” argument. This is a great deal for Publix customers who use gasoline. Period. No algebra or calculus required. 9th grade home economics would have saved all that are overthinking this a lot of energy that might have been put to use developing a better brownie or solving the world hunger problem. As for the the merits of this offer: 2+2-=4 and 20% off is 20% off.

  • Then don’t buy the card…pretty simple. For many of us we are saving about $500 per year….

  • Christopher F. Fleming

    I save up my groceries on the $10 off gas coupon weeks. I usually will get $200 of groceries and 4 $50.00 Race Track gas cards. The stations are all around me and have great rates, plus I am an Race Track awards member. This all adds up to great savings!

  • J D

    2016 bought over $1200 of Exxon/Mobil credit cards at publix at a 20% discount gas station next to publix (Exxon) every card worked perfect!