Friday, 11 October 2013

Fuel dockets are useful but don't get sucked in

This is a post for my Australian readers once more and will deal with fuel dockets which you get from Coles and Woolworths when you spend more than $30 (which typically reduce the cost of petrol at selected petrol stations by 4c / L).  We all know how they work and where we can use them and they are particularly handy, especially with fuel as expensive as it is (especially if you need to fill premium fuel in your car as I do).

Before you get totally sucked into this mindset...think about how much you are saving

The amount will differ for everyone but if we use my car as a typical example.  My car requires premium unleaded fuel (why I will never understand as it is just a standard Japanese made car) and has a 60 litre tank.  I am not the most efficient driver so I only get 10 km / L when I drive.  I typically only fill fuel when I need to and sometimes I leave it quite late so I am filling my whole tank up.

The maximum amount I can save is $2.40.  This does not vary when the price of fuel goes up and down which seems to be one of the strange mindsets that people get into.  I save 4c / L and I have a 60L tank...the maths is really easy.  Indeed because my tank is never completely empty I normally save far less than this.

Don't get sucked into buying something at the check out so you cross the $30 mark

I'm sure we've all done it - we are a few dollars below the $30 so we pick up one of the
packs of gum or other overpriced confectionery that is at the check out right before we leave. However even if this was less than the $2.40 you were saving on petrol it still reduces the amount you were going to save and you have probably bought something that you didn't want in the first place.

It is a common marketing tool that grocery stores are using to get you to spend more money in store than you would ordinarily spend.  If you spend more than the $2.40 than you would save on fuel just to get the docket then you have been really sucked in.

Don't drive too far to get to a petrol station where you can use the docket

Although the petrol stations where you can use the dockets are fairly common and easy to come by they are not everywhere and most people will typically shop at one particular grocery store.  They will then drive reasonably far to make sure that they have the cheaper fuel.

Once again you need to think about the amount you are spending on petrol to get to the place to get your $2.40 saving.  Travelling 5km out of your way (and trust me I have seen people do this) to get to your preferred fuel stop is sill because right there you are spending $0.70 (at a $1.40 / L fuel price) to get there...reducing your savings even more.

Also, fuel stations that do not take dockets often charge less than those that do.  You can't look at the discounted rate - look at the headline price.  Often they will be at least 1c cheaper so that they attract people that do not have the fuel dockets.  So you're not actually saving the $2.40 (less fuel) by driving to that special station because they are already more expensive.

Is it really worth it for that tiny saving?

The fact is that when you think about how much you are saving it is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.  Leaving your docket in the car is a smart idea because it costs you nothing in terms of time and effort if you happen to need fuel and are close to that station.  If you go out of your way to either get the dockets or go to those stations it is really not worth it!

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