amazon prime = I buy more stuff (from amazon at least)

Huh, Amazon is having a big “prime” day on the 15th.  We didn’t know that when we first queued up this post.  Go us?

#1 had resisted getting Prime for a long time.  Not because of the annual cost of the thing (we spend more than that on Netflix each year), but because of the behavioral changes I worried might come with it.  It’s not so bad to wait for products– waiting encourages introspection and makes it easier to put something on the wishlist since getting it in 7-10 days isn’t so much different than getting it at the next holiday (or failing that, getting it at Target on the weekend).  Once it’s on the wishlist it either displaces a potentially unwanted present, or it might no longer be needed.

Without Amazon Prime I would also batch up orders to make sure I could get to $35 before purchasing to get free shipping.  Though sometimes if I needed something, I would either have to pay shipping or find something I didn’t need right away to add to the list (but, of course, there’s always the wish-list for those items).

But then I needed Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer because DH had taken the ipad and its children’s games with him.  We do have Netflix, but at the time it mainly only had PBS Kids stuff (now it’s got a lot more variety, like My Little Pony, which I swear is the best show on kids’ TV these days, except maybe Doc McStuffins).  Also DC1 wanted to read more Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja and that’s on the list of things that can be read free (one book a month) for Amazon Prime members.  So we did their free monthly trial.

Like many technology things, Amazon Prime is one of those things that you don’t need until you have it and once you’ve had it it seems essential.  Yes, it has increased our amazon spending– if we need something soonish, we really do just go on amazon and order it.   This is especially useful for when we get a flyer from school at the beginning of the week saying we need something by Friday.  However, it has also, I think, cut down on our Target and Home Depot purchases.  So I’m not sure what the overall net effect is on spending and stuff-acquisition.  The number of amazon boxes randomly showing up at the house seems to have slowed in the months since we first got it, though I’m not sure how much of that is due to the Prime effect slowing down and how much is due to, you know, getting ready to move.

Should you get Prime?  Probably not, unless you care more about convenience than spending and stuff acquisition, which you may.  Or really want Nickelodeon kids’ television.  Once you have it, you may find it hard to ever give up, even after the free month is over.


The shelter put the foster kittens on a kind of kibble that I can’t find in my local stores, so I ordered it from Prime rather than driving around to any more stores.  Also the special kitten-safe litter, just because that’s heavy and awkward to carry home from the store 2 blocks away with the other groceries.

Privilege, I haz it.  And it’s super-great!

I shop through, which is the exact same as amazon (same interface, account info and preferences) except it also donates to a charity you choose.  Not a lot (a Google search suggests .5% or $5 for every $1000 you spend), but more than 0.  Partner and I don’t factor this in to our yearly charitable donations.

This post is not a plug, we don’t get paid for this post (though we do get paid a bit if you buy any stuff through affiliate links).  We’re just spitballin’ about the conveniences of our lives.

We know very well that Amazon can treat people badly.  We are not unconflicted about this.  But the convenience is just too much.

Do you use Amazon Prime?  Why or why not? If you do, have you noticed it affecting your spending habits at all?


46 Responses to “amazon prime = I buy more stuff (from amazon at least)”

  1. gwinne Says:

    I get to comment first? Wow.

    My verison goes a lot like #1s. I started using a free month of prime about a year ago. And really for the number of times it’s saved me a friday afternoon Target run (which is across town, and I’m sure uses more gas than the less than the roughly $2/week cost of prime) it’s been worth it.

    I’m not inclined to buy more books or big things. I am purchasing more in the way of snacks (subscriptions) but, again, that’s something I’m *not* buying at the grocery store. In the end, I’m not sure it amounts to much change, just a reshuffling.

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I had a one-year Amazon Prime subscription that expired in May. My daughter ordered it on her Kindle before I learned how to set a password on purchases. She also purchased about $10 worth of games. Imagine my surprise when I saw that extra $100ish on my credit card bill!

    I really did like it. I contemplated renewing my membership, but ultimately decided that we didn’t use it enough. Now I miss it!

  3. Steph Says:

    Oooh, good timing on this post – my credit card is giving 5% cash back on Amazon purchases through September, and that’s been making me feel like I can justify spending more there. I mean, 5% off isn’t something to sneeze at (I either pay my bill with the cash back or re-use the points on amazon purchases), but it’s not really enough to go crazy on.

    I don’t have Prime though, since I don’t order from Amazon super often (mostly holidays, then sporadically when I need something). I’m also lucky enough to live in a big city where most of my Amazon orders do arrive in 2-3 days, even if the free shipping says 6-8 days. I think only my suitcase took a week, because it was big and had to ship from halfway across the country, rather than the next state over.

    On the non-shipping front, Netflix has enough to keep me occupied, and if it doesn’t have something, I either get it from the library (though again, big city means a fairly extensive library catalog) or pay the $3 to rent it (maybe 2-3x/year).

  4. First Gen American Says:

    I’ve been a prime member since it started. When I moved from big city that had every mall/kind of store imaginable, to a place where most large stores were an hour away, online shopping became essential for me.

    Amazon has really innovated the online shopping experience (remember mail order?) I think it’s good to reward companies who are bringing an improved shopping experience to the consumer (whether it’s quality, convenience or service).

    Price still trumps a lot of other factors for me though especially on bigger ticket items. If they get to the point where they are no longer price competitive on similar items from other sellers, then I will go through the hassle of putting in my shipping and credit card info into another seller. Often though, I’m pleasantly surprised that when I find an item I like on another site, it’s often cheaper once I look for it on amazon.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s why amazon is winning the market right now: convenience and price. And if you live near a distribution center, it’s hella fast. When I lived in a more rural area, amazon was a lifesaver.

      That having been said, I did hit 2 local indie bookstores this weekend because it was fun. I bought things.

  5. Linda Says:

    For a few years I benefited from being on someone else’s Prime list (first a roommate and then my former BF) since they allow you to add others to get the benefit of free shipping. After I moved I did get my own Prime membership, but not just for the free shipping. I also wanted to have access to their streaming catalog. While there is overlap with Netflix, they do also have different content, too. (As a matter of fact, I was looking for a show last night that I wanted to add to my Roku watch list and Amazon had it, but Netflix did not.)

    While setting up a new household after the move I found Prime to be very helpful. Sometimes I wanted something that I couldn’t pick up at the local stores. I also like how I can set up Wishlists for easy ordering of household and other products I use regularly (like bags for my Miele vacuum cleaner and Cosequin for the dog) that aren’t easily picked up at other retailers. I also sometimes like the convenience of getting heavier items like large bags of dog kibble delivered to my doorstep. And of all the reading apps I have on my iPad, I like the Kindle app the best so I tend to purchase more books from them than any other ebook retailer.

    I think my only issues and concerns with Amazon Prime are these. 1) You must have a Kindle device to benefit from the free ebook lending program that comes with Prime. I don’t have a Kindle device, I have an iPad. I’m not ready to spend the extra bucks on a Kindle device at this point, so I don’t realize that benefit of Prime membership. 2) A few years ago Amazon was getting dinged for their poor sustainability record, and I’m not sure they’ve done much to address that. I still find myself getting multiple shipments/boxes for a single order, for example. I always check the option to get stuff in one box when it’s available, but there are still times my orders get split.

    P.S. Thanks for the reminder to place an order I’ve been putting off!

  6. Ana Says:

    We’ve had it for years. Since we’ve been car-free, Target trips became very rare (two-three time a year, usually when we’ve rented a car to travel somewhere). Its really the primary way we shop, from oatmeal to diapers to kids birthday gifts and everything in between.

    • the frugal ecologist Says:

      Ditto for us. We also use it for streaming and music.

      My state charges sales tax since there is now a distribution center here. That made amazon purchases 8.25% more expensive but it’s still our primary way of shopping.

      • Kellen Says:

        Technically, your state charged use tax before, you just evaded taxes :). Seriously though, do any individuals pay their use tax?

  7. rs Says:

    I had Amazon prime for couple for years and then I decided that its not worth it. The free movie selection is very poor (I don’t watch TV) and as you said, you don’t need most of the stuff right away. I don’t miss it. It has not reduced my regular amazon shopping by much, but has definitely reduced impulsive junk buying in a moment’s influence.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    I don’t have Amazon Prime because it costs money and so far I’m fine not having those benefits. I do buy things from Amazon, but I don’t have outside factors (kid’s schools) making me want to rush things. Also, I have a Home Depot and a Target within walking distance (and a RedCard). Mostly I’m just not a very big consumer. After decades of being a grown-up, I have everything I need and am mostly just in replacement mode. Also, I hear that Amazon is cheaper for a lot of things for some people, but apparently I live in a lower-cost city (for food at least), so they don’t have as many bargains for me.

    I did worry about spending more when I switched from writing checks to using rewards credit cards for most purchases. But in the end, I trained myself to ignore the reward (like #2 ignores Amazon smile donations)–I just use it to calculate which card to use or to decide whether to go with a negotiated cash price.

    Another factor for me is that I sometimes get an Amazon gift card for a birthday present, plus I get them from Swagbucks plus I just got a bunch from my tax refund. It’s kind of weird to have so much money sitting there–it’s tempting to buy more things from Amazon just to use money that’s not earning any interest, but of course none of my money is earning much interest, and so far Amazon gift cards never expire, so I still go for the best price. I do sometimes have to remind myself that even though it feels like “free money” and so it doesn’t count, really it spends just like real money and gets used up like real money and thus does count.

  9. hush Says:

    We live in a rural area and have found Prime to be essential for our lifestyle, where we can’t simply run out to a decent local store. The things we tend to buy on there (such as, most recently, a boy’s gymnastics leotard), are often hard to find in brick and mortar stores anyway. Also, “Transparent” by Amazon Studios is a super cool, groundbreaking program to watch. Ditto “My Little Pony” and its progeny. Every so often we’ve run the numbers and the vaunted “free shipping” that you actually pay for in advance has amounted to significantly less than the total annual shipping costs we would’ve paid had we not had Prime – of course, this was even truer before they raised the price by around $20/year (last year? can’t recall). Well worth it for us.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s where I was at before I moved to Paradise, too. It let me maintain some civilization that wasn’t available locally (or required over an hour round-trip to get to).

  10. SP Says:

    I hate going to the store, and find that when I want specific items, it is much easier to just go to Amazon. I can see my options, price compare, and see reviews. They are price competitive compared to other online prices, but I often can find the same item in a store for cheaper for small (<$10) items – so there is some degree of shipping built in to the lower cost items.

    But I'm benefiting from the "free shipping from someone else's membership", so I don't pay for it right now. I don't get access to the streaming content, but my sister can share with like ~5 extra people. I don't know whether I'd pay for it myself or not. I hate paying shipping, but usually can wait until I have enough things to get the free shipping minimum, and the "2 day" shipping isn't really critical in general. But it does make me turn to amazon if I know I'm out of something – I might not be going to the store in the next several days, and said item could be on my doorstep the next day.

    I've got one or two "Sunday delivery" packages without requesting, which I'm opposed to because… it just isn't necessary. There is no need for me to get my stuff on a Sunday.

  11. middle_class Says:

    I got a free year of Amazon Prime. I like the convenience of it but honestly, I don’t often use the 2-day shipping. Instead I just get free regular shipping and get a $1 credit toward digital purchases. I’m on the fence about it but likely to not get it once the membership expires. The Tv offerings are OK, but the movie selection is so limited and unappealing to me.

  12. DrDad, PhD Says:

    I’ve had Prime for a long time, but have been getting it through my family. I don’t have many of the streaming video options, but still get the free shipping.

    I’ve found it super convenient when something breaks and I need a repair it relatively quickly, but don’t want the hassle of going to the store. I use it mainly for my car because it’s cheaper than a parts store and have been able to find (and diy install) my brake pads, spark plugs, oxygen sensor, door handles, radiator, timing belt, water pump, fuel filter, transmission fluid, and all the little clips for the bumper/fender/wheel well. I always shop around, but amazon is almost always cheapest. I figure I’ve saved nearly $5000 by doing the work myself….

    On an more fun side, Amazon also used to sell inexpensive ($45) wine-making kits.

    In the end, I probably do buy a little more through prime, but I don’t think it’s any different from when I go to target and roam around only to find my cart has $100 of stuff I don’t remember needing until I got to the store….

  13. Cloud Says:

    I love our Prime membership. We got a year free when I signed up for Amazon Mom (ages ago- I never use any of the other “benefits” of that program) and we liked it so much that we have kept it. When we first got it, we only used the free two-day shipping, which was a godsend for two parents who were both working really full schedules and hated to go to Target on the weekends (the crowds!) but had two kids whose evening routines made an evening Target run a PITA that we also tried to avoid.

    We have since expanded our use. I do borrow books on my Kindle- mostly I use it to help reign in the costs of my Tungsten Hippo website hobby. (I recommend a short ebook every week, and while those are cheap, they do add up- particularly since I don’t recommend every one I read. Some of the ones I try suck! The borrowing option makes me willing to take more risks with the ones I try.) My husband has loved the video streaming for quite sometime. We recently dropped our Direct TV subscription, so now the kids are also appreciating the TV show streaming. It has helped us avoid the need to buy a lot of shows or movies for them now that their usual channels are gone. I haven’t tried the music service, and I don’t use the option to store my photos there.

    I don’t find that it makes me buy more things- mostly, Amazon is useless for the things I’m vulnerable to impulse buying on (mostly shoes, but also some types of clothing) so I don’t find myself ordering things unless we have a bona fide need. I.e., if we didn’t have Prime, I’d be driving to Target. Evening Target trips are less annoying now that my kids are older, but I don’t feel the need to change.

    The one thing I have to watch out for is 3rd party resellers doing arbitrage there- I’d noticed this effect last Christmas when the toy my younger daughter wanted from Santa was sold out at the first couple of stores I tried. I went to order it on Amazon and it was 3x the retail price… so I skipped that and drove to some other stores and found the toy at the “correct” price. I recently came across a Planet Money podcast on this, and it is apparently a fairly common practice now. Actually, it is probably the reason the toy was sold out at stores! So I watch the prices I’m accepting at Amazon a bit more closely than I used to.

    As for their labor practices… Gah. I think society should make laws about what acceptable labor practices are, and not pretend that busy consumers are going to have the time to research these issues on a case by case basis. I know that puts me outside of the American mainstream, though, so I try to pay attention. I freely admit I don’t do as well on that as I could.

  14. CG Says:

    We are Prime junkies. It was especially helpful with all of our winter babies. We’re out of (bottle parts, onesies, diapers)? No one wants to go out in the snow and ice? No problem! Now I use it a lot for kids’ friends birthday presents; since we only give books I rarely want to go to the store just for that. If I have time I do go and support our local bookstore, though.

    We recently got rid of our cable and now get pretty much all of our shows through Prime. Most of the ones the kids watch are included (Wild Kratts, Dinosaur Train, Word Girl) and the ones we want to watch we pay for. We don’t watch much tv so it means big savings for us even with buying Elementary and various PBS Masterpiece shows.

    I haven’t done the analysis, but I suspect it has saved us money through not browsing at Target as well.

  15. Monica Samsky Says:

    I just checked, and I’ve had it since early 2011(!). I can’t imagine giving up the convenience–while we’re not out in the sticks, going to a big-box store is at minimum a half-hour round trip drive, plus shopping time, which is not all that easy to fit in most days. I buy stuff on impulse, but I also buy stuff on impulse when I go to the big-box store. It feels like a huge time-saver and not much of a money-waster for us. And we watch as much streaming video on Prime as we do on Netflix…

  16. mareserinitatis Says:

    I like amazon prime because I have a handful of exotic habits that require supplies, and those supplies cannot be acquired locally. Also…I buy a lot of books. I feel a bit uncomfortable buying from a lot of the ‘little shops on the net’ because of some bouts of credit card theft a few years ago. I probably spend more than I need to on amazon, but it’s been a lifesaver so many times.

  17. contingentcassandra Says:

    I hate shopping, and value my time, so I think I’d probably be buying a lot of stuff on Amazon even if I didn’t have Prime (which I do). I’ve never made use of any of the streaming or e-book benefits, but should look into them now that I have a tablet (but not a kindle).

    The main thing that worries me are their labor practices. If there were some sort of employee-owned cooperative (or similar) that offered similar (even less-speedy) services for even some products, I’d make an effort to shop there, instead (I’m not sure I’d entirely believe a traditional company that argued that it treated its workers better. It’s hard to know how to judge such claims). Barring that opportunity, I’m in favor of labor laws that make all employers treat their employees better, even if that means I pay higher prices for consumer goods.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I agree with everything you say. Right now the convenience outweighs the guilt for me, along with price. Although I haven’t shopped at WalMart in years because the low prices were not enough to outweigh the evil. I have weird and arbitrary lines (e.g., I don’t eat veal but I do eat lamb, because….?). It doesn’t make a whole lotta sense objectively but I still get so many benefits from amazon.

      Full disclosure: we do get money from people who browse amazon through our links on this site. So…? It’s not a lot, but it is there.

      • First Gen American Says:

        I happen to meet a guy last week through a mutual friend who works at an amazon warehouse. He works on the robots and automation there doing programming. He appeared to be happy working there and seemed proud to talk about Amazon as his employer and even was talking up the sale that’s today. I’m not saying that the labor practices are perfect there, but my one experience with a warehouse employee gave me the impression that they were a good employer.

        He didn’t have a college education….He said he was just “into computers” and after working at amazon a while, they picked up on the fact that he was underutilized and now he’s doing a much cooler job than when he started there. He’s only been there for 2 years and is in his 20’s. So, yes, they probably pay him less than a robotics engineer, but he’s also happy and not drowning in $100,000 of student loan debt.

        There are a lot of companies who won’t even interview you for a job without a college education. It’s pretty exciting to me that it’s still possible to work your way up in a big company without a diploma. Don’t get me wrong, I love my diploma, but not everyone’s cut out for a 4 year degree or can stomach so much debt…or had kids young or have other life priorities that prevent that degree from happening early in life. I have lived through the manufacturing sector moving to China and seen many of these blue collar jobs dry up over the last two decades. These types of huge distribution centers are creating new opportunities for the blue collar worker all over the country…and a lot of those jobs aren’t minimum wage jobs.

  18. Kara Says:

    I have had Prime since the beginning and I use it all the time. The free shipping saves me a fortune over the holidays, I rent/borrow movies and books via the service all the time, and really it just makes my life a lot more convenient.

    To address two things said above:

    For the person who said they can’t take advantage of Prime borrowing because they have an iPad, not true. You don’t have to have a Kindle device; you can download the Kindle app on your iPad and use it to borrow books. I do it all the time on my Samsung tablet. Right now I have 8 out of a maximum of 10 borrowed and I’m reading 3 of them concurrently. :)

    And I think it was #2 who said that they can treat people badly and I also am aware of that, but so does Target, so does Home Depot, so does Macy’s, so do any number of other retailers (with the exception of probably Costco and QT, but even then if you dig around I’m sure you can find something they’ve done wrong). If I boycotted every single company that had issues of some kind, I’d be living in a cardboard box under a bridge and eating grass. Except even then there’d probably be something with manufacturer of the cardboard box. :) So I do pick and choose my battles there – won’t shop at WalMart for example – but I have to shop somewhere.

    • Linda Says:

      Well, I’m the one that put up the comment about borrowing books and I’d love to learn how to do that on my iPad! Amazon Help says I have to own a Kindle or Fire, etc.

      I know I can borrow library books and read them on my Kindle app, and I do that all the time. Borrowing books from Amazon, though…that I have not been able to figure out on the iPad. Please share!

      • Kara Says:

        Linda – Go to on your computer and select the “read for free” button on any Kindle Unlimited book. You’ll get a “thank you” screen that says something like “The book will be delivered wirelessly to your Kindle” but below that it will say something like “Read now in the Cloud reader or deliver to another device.” As long as your iPad Kindle app is registered with Amazon, you should be able to select it as your other device and transfer the book to the app. It has to be connected via WiFi, mind you. It won’t transfer over a 3G connection. I do it all the time with my Samsung tablet and my boyfriend transfers books to his iPhone as well.

      • Linda Says:

        Ah, I see. Thanks, Kara, but I’m not interested in paying the extra $9.99 a month for Kindle Unlimited at this time. It it came for free with Prime then I’d be all over it! But I already spend enough of my budget on media.

      • Cloud Says:

        I think you two are talking about two different services. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service you pay for in addition to Prime. The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is something different- you can only borrow 1 book at a time, and the books available are different (because Amazon’s terms for inclusion in the two programs are different).

      • Linda Says:

        Right, Cloud. I’ve looked into whether I can borrow books as a perk of my Amazon Prime membership, and have discovered this is only possible for people who have a Kindle device. I don’t have a Kindle, just an iPad (and iPhone) running the Kindle app, so that makes me unable to take advantage of this service. The Kindle Unlimited program mentioned by Kara costs $9.99 a month and can be used on any device. I don’t want to pay extra for the service at this point. However, I was asking for more information just in case there is yet another service of which I’m unaware that allows one to borrow books through Amazon and not pay a monthly subscription fee.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If it makes you feel any better, we only get one book a month which means DC1 is going very slowly through the Diary of a Ninja series.

      • Kara Says:

        Oh PHOOEY. I’ve had both for so long I don’t pay any attention to the difference between them. I went to see if i could borrow a non-unlimited book to my tablet and apparently because I have both Prime and Unlimited, it doesn’t differentiate in my account. So sorry!!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks for putting this in the right words, Kara. I don’t have energy to boycott Amazon’s uber-convenience, along with all the other things I’m boycotting, which seem more obviously and egregiously evil.

  19. Leigh Says:

    I paid for a Prime membership for a couple of years before canceling it, but then my boyfriend turned out to have one and happily shares it with me for free. We buy a reasonable quantity of things on Amazon. Not going to the store is a huge time saver. We got a Costco membership this year and we usually go once a quarter. The things we buy there like toilet paper are about half the cost that we used to pay on Amazon.

  20. chacha1 Says:

    We’ve had Prime for years and have always gotten “our money’s worth” out of the free shipping, because I do almost all my non-food shopping through Amazon and DH does a lot of his, too. Since cutting off our Dish subscription, we’re also taking advantage of streaming through Prime … $100/yr for movies & shows vs $73/mo? yes, please.

  21. middle_class Says:

    After reading these comments, I’m thinking that I should keep Amazon Prime! I have found 1-day shipping handy when needed but I am pretty good at not letting things run out. You can get free shipping without Prime, right? You just need to have $35 per transaction. This can get frustrating though! Oh, if you have a Amazon credit card, you can get $20 if you spend $100 today. I just bought a load of household goods.

  22. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Been on Prime since forever. Probably order shitte at least three times per week.

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