Navigating options when it comes to saving at the pump

While cheaper prices may seem appealing, U of M’s Mark Bergen advises to always take into consideration the price gap before deciding to spend in times like these.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, gas prices keep breaking records.

The national average topped $4.32 a gallon as of Saturday, according to AAA and in Minnesota the average was $3.95.

In Wisconsin, the average is $4.04.

It’s high prices like these, that have people on the hunt for cheaper options.

One of those options is to fill your tank at warehouse store stations like Sam’s Club and Costco.

The line at the Bloomington Sam’s Club off West American Boulevard was a line that wrapped around the parking lot as people were waiting to fill up.

“All consumers are going to be looking for places where they can get some savings,” said University of Minnesota marketing professor Mark Bergen.

Leading more people to places like Sam’s Club and Costco, where the average price for gas across the metro as of Saturday was at is at $3.79, according to GasBuddy.com.

So why does it seem like these prices are always much cheaper?

“The reason they do that is to try to get you to become a member, and the reason they want you to become a member is to buy all the other things that they have in the store,” said Bergen. He went on to explain, “we often use a term like ‘loss leader.’ … They’re not losing money on gas, but they may not be making as much on gasoline.”

While cheaper prices may seem appealing, Bergen advises to always take into consideration the price gap before deciding to spend in times like these.

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“If the gap is growing, it’s a better deal than it was before. If the gap’s the same, it’s probably, roughly, about as valuable as it was before because you’re only going to get that 10 or 20 cents savings you know per tank as you bring it out,” said Bergen.

Keeping in mind, there are perks for some spending at regular gas stations as well.

“You should always be careful and thinking about if you have any loyalty programs or other things, that’s also lowering the price of gasoline on those sides as well,” said Bergen.

So you don’t necessarily have to get caught up waiting in long lines, while also waiting for gas prices to subsidize.

“We do have options and choices and inflation is something we can get through, you tend to need to shop more and be more proactive on your budgets and your decision making,” said Bergen.

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