Monday, December 30, 2013

Best day to buy petrol in Sydney

This has been me for a long time . . . 

Image pulled from
Original artist unknown

When it comes to money and finance, I have, for the most part, skipped merrily along with little thought about the future and my current spending. There are some pricey things I just won't consider (a Gucci handbag for example). 

But I have also been ignorant about the real cost of living. I try to set a budget and it falls over. I think it's because I don't actually know how much my daily living expenses cost.

Over the past few days I have read 'Your Money or Your Life' by Alvin Hall and 'Hot (broke) Messes: How to have your latte and drink it too' by Nancy Trejos. Both have helped me realise that my ostrich mentality has been holding me back from future-planning and protecting myself from possible risks like job loss, illness or even things like my phone or laptop suddenly not working. And that I have been placing my values in spending patterns that don't actually reflect my own values. 

But that's a post for another day. 

Today I was curious about the best day to buy petrol. I only fill up my car about once a month, as I generally only use it to drive to see my folks in the countryside. When I do fill up the tank, I do it as a spontaneous and unplanned action. As I see the numbers tick over on the petrol bowser I get a niggling feeling that if I'd plan ahead, I could spend less money on petrol. But an even more niggling sensation has been the knowledge that I really don't have a clue about petrol prices. 

Entering 'best day to buy petrol in Sydney' into google lead me to this page on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's website. 

In particular I was caught by this graph.

Apparently petrol is supplied in cycles. These fluctuate based on the cost of transporting it and some other factors which are explained on the ACCC's website. In Sydney it's generally a fortnightly cycle. Buy your petrol around 4 days after the lowest dip in the cycle and you'll pay about 7.5% more to fill up your tank. The last time I filled up the tank of my Toyota Starlet it was $55. So if I had chosen a better point in the cycle, it could have been $51. But then add the discount of a Coles shopper docket and I could have saved even more. 

Perhaps the overall saving is only $100 per year. Is it really worth it? 

As this article explains - $10 a month can make a big difference to a mortgage:

Assuming you've got a $100,000 loan amount set at 4 percent on a 30-year fixed mortgage, that extra $10 payment would save you $3,191.78 over the full loan term. It would also shorten your mortgage by 13 months, meaning your 30-year mortgage would be a 28-year-ish mortgage.

So - back to the question. What is the best day to buy petrol in Sydney? Based on the tracked petrol cycles for December 2013, the best day to buy petrol in Sydney would be a Thursday or Friday, around the 15th and 1st of the month

However, it's not just about the day of the week, or even the date, but about paying attention to average petrol prices. In December 2013 the cost of a litre of petrol ranged from $1.42 to $1.59 (almost 12%). So basically any day that the price drops below $1.50 per litre is a good day to buy petrol. In December 2013, there were 16 days where the price was below $1.50 per litre. Of course, this bottom figure may change as overall petrol prices rise and fall, but for today it's a good guide.

When it comes to saving money on petrol in Sydney, there are three tactics you could follow: 

  1. Try to purchase your petrol around the 1st and 15th of each month and you should be able to make use of the downward swing in the cycle 
  2. Keep an eye on the price. If it drops below $1.50 per litre, fill 'er up!
  3. Keep your Coles (or other supermarket) shopper dockets in the car

These easy steps could save me over $3,000 and buy me two years of freedom from my mortgage. And that would make me more like this ostrich:
I know which one I would rather be. I'm starting to understand that simple steps now can make a big difference in the long run.