As an above average deal-finder and coupon user, I have admitted before that it is a conscious goal of mine not to let money saving become an obsession. (The fact that I’m blogging about deal-finding again is arguable proof that I’m not fully succeeding at this goal.) But I’d like to say for the record, that obsession, for me, is a far milder term than it is for so many others, when it comes to the grocery budget. I’d say comparatively, I’m not nearly as psychotic as the so-called extreme couponers around me, who’s visible-to-the-public-obsession manifests itself in the following ways: (1) spending hours clipping and organizing coupons into what looks like one of those baseball card display binders, then walking up and down every single aisle of the grocery store attempting to match sale prices with an available coupon; (2) purchasing dozens of Sunday newspapers, or worse, stealing the coupon inserts out of the Sunday papers at Walmart; (3) anger at the cashier when a coupon doesn’t scan correctly or when the price on the register doesn’t match the price they planned to pay, resulting in entire carts full of products left at the front of the store for a bag boy to put away (I swear I’ve never done this but I’ve seen it more times than you can imagine); (4) stockpiling Windex and BBQ sauce whenever it is free (which, by the way, is about every 6 weeks) as if either one of these items will be the most helpful in the event of an apocalypse. *Sidenote: does anyone ever get to the very bottom of a bottle of Windex? It is like the Loaves and Fishes of cleaning products. I think I’m still using the bottle we purchased in Greensboro six years ago.*
Lord, no. I am not this bad. I’m actually a little humiliated to admit some of the things I haven’t caught myself doing in a while, which is to say, at one time in my life, I may have displayed one or more of the following behaviors: (1) refusal to purchase something I actually need with the knowledge that I can either find it cheaper somewhere else or have a coupon for it at home; (2) anger at my husband for buying something at Sam’s Club that seemed like a great deal to him, but was still more expensive than the price I can find it for on a regular basis elsewhere; (3) waking up in the wee hours of the morning, panicked at the thought that I’ve let one of my drug store rewards expire, and the subsequent inability to fall back asleep as a result.
In fact, number 3 above, is the reason my brother-in-law believes drug store rewards are a scam. His explanation is that they are lying to you when they advertise something as “Free, after…” and they force you to come back into the store within a couple of weeks and buy something you probably don’t need, just to spend the “reward” they gave you for the item you purchased guilt-free two weeks ago, believing it was free. To some extent, I would agree with this. In fact, I hope more people are treating the system this way than the way I am treating the system. Because if everyone was able to roll-over drug store rewards in the way that I have done this year, the system would cease to work. Drug stores would go out of business. And so would my source of joy. In life.
So I was doing a little mental math in the car this morning on the way home from Lowe’s Foods.
The subject of my number crunching: gas rewards.
Lowe’s Foods, a local NC grocery store that is on the high end for prices (similar to Rosauers in Spokane or Ukrop’s in Virginia, but a notch below The Fresh Market and Whole Foods) has introduced this new Gas Rewards thing. I’ve actually been getting the print-outs all year, as my store was one of the pilot stores for trying out the program, and throwing them away. All these months, I’ve been looking at this little slip of paper and assumed it was telling me I could save five cents TOTAL on my next gas purchase. I kept filing them away assuming they’d build up over time and then forgetting about them. Now that it has been launched state-wide, there has been more explanation and advertisement for the way it works. Every time you spend $100 at Lowe’s you earn five cents off per gallon on your next fillup at certain gas stations. For a minute, I was kicking myself for all the times I let the reward expire.
But then it hit me.
Five cents off per gallon for every $100 of groceries purchased?
My car, when the gas light is on, only requires about twelve gallons to fill up. At five cents per gallon, I’m saving sixty cents.
Without going into the algebra lesson let me break this down quickly: this is less than 1% savings, people. I think the value of the dollar is depreciating at more rapid rate than I’m accumulating gas rewards.
This also brings me to my next point. I have admitted to my deal-finding obsession within the confines of grocery and drug store walls. But nobody has said anything about the gazillions of people who are willing to drive across town to save five cents a gallon on gas. Number crunching or not, if you were to add up the amount of time it takes to make it to another gas station, not to mention the ounces of gas burned to get there, you might be surprised to find out that your sixty cent savings was spent in the journey. Who’s the psycho now?