While I don't make it a habit to do my weekly shopping at these types of stores, I do have a routine for shopping at them that allows me to take advantage of some can't-score-anywhere-else sort of deals.
So if you're like me and find yourself stopping at convenience stores anyway, consider these techniques for saving money on all kinds of items.
1. Know what day to stop in
Learn what days of the week are best for shopping at your local convenience store. For instance, my local Stripes store (a chain in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) offers a printable voucher good for one free item (no purchase necessary) that can be redeemed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The voucher item rotates between such goodies as bagged candy (regularly $1.29), a free fajita taco (regularly $1.59), or a coffee or 32 oz. fountain drink item (regularly $1.19). I know to check their Facebook page every Monday, print my voucher, and stop by before it expires on Tuesday. Some convenience stores have other offers that are only good on certain days of the week, so learn about trends at stores near you.
2. Know how to get the best price for gas
There are lots of ways to save at the pump. Sometimes, it pays to consider when a gas truck arrives. Gas prices can change with a new shipment of gas, so if gas prices are on the rise in the news, I try to fill up before the truck arrives and prices change. If gas prices are projected to go down, I may decide to wait until after the weekly arrival to get a better price per gallon.
Also, if you have a store credit card or even gift card, you can get a percentage off the purchase price for fuel when using the card. My favorite is the H-E-B 12 cents off per gallon promotion happening through July 7. And if you don't have a store card, use a credit card for cash back or special offers. Now through June 30, Discover card is offering card holders a free $25 Chevron or Texaco promotional gift card when a total of $200 in purchases is reached at any Chevron or Texaco station (when paying with a Discover card). No sign-up or coupon is needed.
3. Know the availability of in-store promotions
Whether it's a 3-5 p.m. happy hour half-price fountain drink offering (like the Speedy Stop franchises of Exxon offer) or a BOGO coupon for something in the convenience store deli or bakery, it makes financial sense to consider what promotions happen in your area. Many can be found online, like this listing of 7 Eleven promotions. Check store websites and Facebook pages for offerings in your area.
4. Know how to use snack and drink coupons
On my last trip to a popular Chevron station, I saw a manufacturer's coupon tear pad for a free 14-piece Orbit gum package with the purchase of an M&M's candy product. Before seeing this, it hadn't occurred to me to use coupons at a convenience store! Now, different stores may have different policies (or no printable coupon policy at all), but it doesn't hurt to ask. I now keep candy, cola and small snack coupons in an area of my car console for easy reach. So even when my family and I are on a road trip or I have to make a quick pit stop at a store, I can carry in a few coupons to offset the high retail prices of something I might crave.
5. Know what is available for free
Many convenience stores have air tanks available as a courtesy (for inflating tires), and some even have industrial car vacuums available for free next to their car washes. On some occasions, stores may give a free automatic car wash with fill-up. And for certain grand opening celebrations like at this facility in Tennessee, you might be able to drive away with free gas! I once received free glass wipes and upholstery wipes for my car during an opening-day celebration at a Stripes store. After all, if it's free, it's for me!
So don't get stuck in the mindset that you have to pay full price at a convenience store. Knowing what items you can save on and planning your stops according to trends and available discounts at stores in your area can be a fabulous way to save money!