The True Economics of Couponing, Part 1 – Calculate Your Gas Expenditure!

True Economics of Couponing - Gas Cost Tutorial

True Economics of Couponing - Gas Cost TutorialI gave up on couponing years ago because of all the processed food, but now I am going to revisit it once again with the food prices going up the way they are.  My first step is this – figuring out, and then addressing, the false economics of couponing.  So today I’ll show you how to make a gas map so you can see how much your trips to various stores actually COSTS.

The Gas Map.
This especially applies to anyone who lives in the sticks like me.  If it takes you LOTS OF GAS MONEY to drive to these stores, you must assess if the deal is actually worth taking advantage of!  So here is how you figure that out.  I’ve even created a handy little spreadsheet for you to use to calculate this (screenshot on the right, click the image to make it big).

  1. Download the spreadsheet here.
  2. Make a list of all the stores you shop at or would be willing to potentially shop at.
  3. Now, expand that list into “trips” by writing down all the potential trips you could make from one store to the next.  Here’s a picture of mine:
  4. True Economics of Couponing - Gas Cost Tutorial

  5. Now, go to Google Maps.  Find the first store in Google Maps, and then pretend to get directions from your house to that store.
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  7. Click “add destination” to add another store, and repeat until all your stores are added.  It may also ask you “Did you mean:” and ask you to select the store.  Go ahead and select whatever it says is the store.  In the image it asks about BECU – Bonney Lake Safeway.  I clicked that because BECU is the credit union inside Safeway, so it will give me the correct directions.
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  9. Once you have each store selected, if you scroll down a bit on the left side, you will see how it not only gives you directions but ALSO tells you how many miles are between each store.
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  11. Rearrange the stores by clicking and dragging them to new spots so you can get the mileage between each store – potential trip (referring to the list you made in step 3).  Write down all the mileages or notate them in the spreadsheet in the correct column. (sorry the screenshot didn’t capture this – my mouse cursor turned into a hand and I was able to drag the stores to reorder them… you get the idea!)
  12. True Economics of Couponing - Gas Cost Tutorial

  13. When you know exactly how many miles are between each store you could potentially go to, you just need to figure out what it costs.  If you happen to know your gas mileage, great.  I didn’t, so I went to and looked up my truck.  I’ll track my next tank of gas so I get a better picture, but this is a close estimate. Also you need to know the average price per gallon of gas.  Input these numbers into the highlighted spots in the spreadsheet.
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  15. Now just hit tab and it will calculate exactly how much money it costs you to go from one store to the next, and from your home to each store!  I’ve left lots of room in the spreadsheet so you can figure out as many stores as you want.

Personally, I found it helpful to actually draw out a pseudo map on a piece of paper because I am a visual person.  Lucky for me, since I live out in the sticks everything is on one main highway!  And the store I go to the most (Winco) is the furthest one away, which means all of the other stores are on the way.

So there you  have it.  As you can see, it costs me about $6.42 in gas round-trip (remember to calculate your gas home, too!) to go grocery shopping at Winco.  Kinda freaky looking there in black and white.  The closest grocery store is Safeway which costs me $4.72.  So if I found something super fabulous there, even if it is FREE, I need to remember that it still costs me $4.72 just to get there and back.  Keep this spreadsheet on hand – you can update it for different vehicles and if gas prices change, or if they put in a new store.

Next post in the series – What we pay for coupons…

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  1. Couponers will argue that they only use coupons on a regular grocery run so therefore it isn’t costing them extra for gas. I do NOT coupon but I will use coupons that I find for products that I already intend to buy whether I have a coupon or not. Our stores do not offer any double coupons or anything like that. Maybe this works in some parts of the country but not well around here.

    1. Yes! You are right, for the most part. I just know, personally, I have in the past been swayed by some great deals and if I am realistic about it I didn’t save any money after my hassle and gas was taken out. Yes, I get paid for my hassle! OK just kidding, but I think you know what I mean. I think in this attempt at couponing again I am going to just do the same as you for the most part. Since I do have additional stores “on the way” to my regular grocery store, it’s no big deal for me to stop there, but I know some people’s stores are more spread out.

      I do know there are some people while running errands that will drive 5 miles out of their way (which means a 10-mile roundtrip) for some free gum or soap or something, so it would really be important to have a good idea of how much the trip itself costs, especially with today’s gas prices increasing.

  2. Thanks for making this- it is AWESOME! Right now I live in the center of everything, so I’ve never considered the minimal gas cost, but the Hubs and I are moving to the boonies so I will be plugging in numbers today. Every little bit helps.

    1. Oh Candace thank you for the feedback! Yesterday after I posted I was thinking to myself… just wait, NO one will ever use it… lol. But that’s me… if I am gonna talk about something I figure I might as well take pictures and write a tutorial! 🙂

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