My wife works at King Soopers. One of the fringe benefits for employees is 10% off of store brand. This alone would be enough to keep us shopping there instead of the other options in town such as Safeway, Albertsons, Walmart, Whole Foods, and a number of independent markets. Store brands can save a huge amount on your grocery bill, and to get an additional 10% off is one of the ways we are able to spend only $200 per month on groceries.
Of course, saving money also limits my other frugal supermarket friend, fuel points. King Soopers is part of the growing trend around the country to expand into offering fuel in addition to food. In addition, they reward grocery customers with points towards discounts and the fuel pump.
So, on the one side, I am pulled by wanting to limit my grocery bill with employee discounts, sales, coupons, and smart shopping. On the other side, I am drawn to spend more money at the supermarket to maximize my fuel points and save more on gas.
The downside of supermarket fuel points: Spending More than You Save
The big problem with this is that working to grow fuel points is a losing proposition. There are various promotions, but usually it works out to 1 point per dollar spent in the store. Then 100 points gets you a 10 cent per gallon discount at the pump. If you buy 10 gallons of gas, you saved a dollar. It’s easy to get caught up in that thought. “I saved a buck at the fuel pump!” When gas prices are always going up, it’s nice to see savings somewhere. But you have to remember that you spent $100 to save that $1.
When you are buying food to feed your family, it makes sense. $100 worth of rice, beans, pasta, produce, meat, etc. saves me money when filling my gas tank.
But it’s easy to lose sight. I’ve caught myself before spending $6 to reach the 100 point threshold. Wait. I just spent $6 to save $1? That’s not saving money, that’s spending money!
And that is exactly why supermarkets offer fuel points. They are hoping you will lose sight of the bigger picture and spend more money in their store.
This has implications past just the supermarket and gas station. The same lesson can be learned with credit card rewards, loyalty cards, and any other program that rewards spending with saving. So next time you are tempted to spend to save money, stop and first ask yourself, will this purchase save me more money than I am spending on it? Do I need this purchase? If the answer to these questions is no, then you should second guess the purchase.
Do you shop at a store with fuel points? Have you ever caught yourself spending more to save a little bit of money?