Is Extra Travel Worth Additional Savings? Plus Calculator

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road trip with man and woman

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My wife often likes to drive about 30 minutes in order to do our grocery shopping at Aldi’s for additional savings in groceries. We have a Commissary two minutes down the road and a Super Walmart five minutes down the road however she believes it is worth the extra drive when you value how much you can save. I wanted to find out if this was really true or not.

First let’s say Aldi’s is about 30 miles away, so the round trip is 60 miles or one hour of driving. Let’s also say The commissary is about 2 miles away or 4 miles round trip and 4 minutes of driving. Her car gets about 26 miles per gallon. Gas currently is about $3.80 a gallon. So it will cost about $3.80 to drive 26 miles.

The total cost of gas for a round trip to Aldi’s is 60miles/26miles x $3.80 = $8.77.

The total cost of gas for a round trip to the Commissary is 4miles/ 26 miles x $3.80 = $0.58.

It will cost $8.19 ($8.77 – $0.58 ) more to dive to Aldi’s than to the commissary. So of she saves about $15 by shopping at Aldi’s versus hopping at the commissary then after the additional cost of travel she will have only saved $6.81 for an additional 56 minutes of her day driving. That is like earning $6.51 an hour to drive plus you get generic brand food as opposed to brand name food.

Now if we were to take my truck, that only gets about 13 mpg, then it would actually cost more overall to shop at Aldi’s by about $1.37 even though we saved the same $15 spent at the store. It will cost about $16.37 in gas to drive the additional 56 miles.

We can increase the savings by doing a more bulk purchase fewer times a month. If we condensed our shopping so that we only have to go three times a month, while still purchasing the same amount overall. We can continue to save a total of $60 a month ($20 a week for three weeks instead of $15 a week for four weeks) and after spending $8.19 extra in gas to travel to the further store, we will have saved a total of $11.81 per trip.

If you drive extra distance to purchase at wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club then you may benefit even more depending on how far you go. Here is a chart that compares savings with distance traveled:

Just enter what you get for MPG, the current average gas price per gallon, distance to the closest store you shop, distance to further store you want to compare and finally the additional savings you think you will have by shopping at the further store. The bottom line labeled “net savings” is what you will actually save after you factor in the additional cost of gas to travel the further distance. The graph will show where you will break even for each mile further traveled. The “cost difference” is the amount you will have to save in order to just cover the extra cost of travel. For instance, given the above scenario, you can see at about 25 miles further, it will cost an additional $4.00 in gas. You will need to have saved more than $4.00 at the further store in order to make it worthwhile.

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