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Paycheck Chronicles

When A Deal Isn't Really A Deal

Getting the best price on everything can be time-consuming, and tricky.  Sometimes, you have to do some serious math to figure out whether that "deal" is saving you money. Whether it is zero percent financing vs. a car rebates, something more tricky, or just comparing the price of different sizes when you have a coupon, the best price isn't always obvious.

Just this week, I tried out a "deal" that might not be as much of a deal as it looks.

I belong to BJ's Wholesale Club.  If you're not familiar with BJ's, it is similar to Costco and Sam's Club.  They are advertising $.25 off each gallon of gasoline if you purchase two selected items in the store first.  Twenty-five cents is a lot of money off gas, so I investigated a little more.  While the list has 16 items on it, there are only three items that we would use:  paper towels, toilet tissue, and dishwasher detergent.  All three things would store well, so I continued looking to see if it worked out as a value to me.

Name Brand More Expensive

First, you have to figure out the cost of taking advantage of this deal. The eligible products aren't the least expensive options for each category. How much more will it cost to purchase the eligible items?

The toilet tissue is Charmin brand, and the cheapest eligible product is $19.99 for 36 rolls that claim to be the equivalent of 87 "regular" rolls.  There is a $3 coupon available, bringing this product's final price down to $16.99.

The BJ's equivalent product is $14.99 for the same type and amount of toilet tissue.  It would cost me $2 more to purchase the Charmin brand.

The paper towels are Bounty brand, and the cheapest eligible product is $18.49 for 12 rolls that claim to be the equivalent of 22 "regular" rolls.  There is a $3 coupon available, bringing this product's final price down to $15.49.

The BJ's equivalent product is $14.99 for the same type and amount of paper towels.  It would cost me $.50 more to buy the Bounty brand.

The dishwasher soap is Cascade Action Pacs, and the cheapest eligible product is $15.99 for 105 pods.  There is a $3 coupon available, bringing this product's final price down to $12.99.

The BJ's equivalent product is $11.99 for the same type and amount of dishwasher detergent, plus there is a $2.50 coupon, bringing the final price down to $9.49.  It would cost me $3.50 more to purchase the Cascade brand.

Your brand allegiance might be different from mine, which would change the value for you.

Gas Savings

My car takes around 19 gallons of gas when it is pretty darn close to empty. If I save $.25 per gallon on 19 gallons, I've saved $4.75 on the price of gas.

Obviously, your math would be different for a larger or a smaller car.

Is It A Deal?

In this particular case, I could save as much as $3.75 if I purchased two packages of Bounty paper towels and a tank of gas, or I could actually spend more overall if I bought the Charmin and the Cascade.  The important part is that I really had to do some research and crunch the numbers to figure this out.  If I'd just jumped on $.25, I might have wasted money on this "deal."  And what if I don't need a full tank, or my husband's car needs to be filled instead of mine?

This wasn't even a particularly complicated deal, but it demonstrates how you have to do the math to figure out what works for you.  A deal isn't a deal if it costs you money!

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