Getting the most out of Amazon Prime.

So I initially thought of Amazon Prime as gimmicky, like those Airline Miles credit cards with a $60/year fee.  I prefer services with which you know what you are getting, rather than those you need to make work for you.  Is my lifestyle conducive to taking advantage of this service?

We finally broke down and got Amazon Prime while going through checkout with something recently.  We noticed that you get streaming movies/TV in addition to free shipping for $80/year or $6.60/month.  So we decided to get this and cancel our 2-DVDs/month Netflix account ($5/month).  This could potentially be a very convenient 2-for-1.

But the question is: can we get enough streaming movies and enough free shipping to beat $5/month for Netflix plus whatever we were spending on Amazon shipping and the higher prices of brick and mortar stores?

Streaming movies

So far it seems like the Amazon Prime streaming library is kind of meh.  Pleasingly, it has more documentaries than the Netflix DVD collection provides.  Our Netflix account was mainly good for recent releases, which Amazon Prime is not really.  On the other hand, I cannot remember a single recent release from Netflix I have enjoyed any time recently.  But I can remember a series of atrocities such as Pacific Rim and Warm Bodies.  So maybe we are better off.  Considering we might have to Red Box a new release here or there, we probably need to get the cost savings out of the free shipping end of Amazon Prime.  Which we probably already knew.

Free shipping

What is Amazon good for?  Keeping in mind that is has to be items sold by Amazon and not third party sellers, it is tricky.

Good for:

  • Anything heavy or embarrassing to schlep out of the store.  50-lb bags of dog food and TP come to mind.  You could probably get a couple of 48-packs of toilet paper and live in a tissue paradise for the next 5 years.
  • Even heavier things that won’t even fit in/on your car reasonably.  Now’s the time to buy that telescoping ladder we’ve been putting off.
  • Electronics – such as TV antennas and Tivo.  Our antenna was not available at Best Buy, and we did not even bother looking there for the Tivo.  This is where the long tail comes in handy.
  • Specialty things or things you can’t get where you live.  Those delicious Belgian cookies are probably somewhere on Amazon.
  • Anything you get frequently – I am still working on this because most of my regular groceries are perishable.  I am not sure I could turn Amazon into a Peapod.  But I could do without schlepping weekly stores of Ocean Spray juices and monthly 24-packs of water…

Not good for:

  • Things you really need to smell/slather first.  I thought I would find a great selection of fancy soap+lotion sets on Amazon, but that was not the case.  And I could probably find a better deal – with olfactory data – walking into TJMaxx.
  • Fancy groceries.  Tried BPA-free tomatoes as a test case and found the same products around the same price in my local Hannaford.  If anything, this experiment improved my impression of my supermarket.
  • Interior doors.  Just another DIY interest – but Amazon left me lost.  I have a feeling they don’t sell many doors.  Same is true for other Home Improvement odds and ends like entryway door knob sets.

I don’t think we buy enough to make Prime worth it all the time, just like with the Airline Miles credit cards.  At $6.60/month, you would get your money back buying one significant thing per month.  Because shipping usually comes in around $6.  But we don’t really buy high volumes of anything non-perishable, nor anything very expensive or shipping-intensive.  And I could try to price-gouge on the few fancy things I buy at the Natural Food store, but I like playing with the owner’s big, fluffy dog.  A dollar off hippie deodorant is not worth it.

Have you figured out how to make Amazon Prime work for you?  Or do you just like the convenience of delivery without a fee?

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6 thoughts on “Getting the most out of Amazon Prime.

  1. I think you’re putting WAY more thought into this than the average Amazon Prime user, haha… I think most people would assume that it’s a good deal, but never stop, like you did, to add up the actual money that they save on shipping! I did one of those 6 month student trials (which I think might still be around?) where you sign up with your edu email and you get 6 months for free and that was AWESOME. But I didn’t actually order that much stuff to justify the price (if I had to pay it).

    Also, since I’m trying to be minimalist, having stuff shipped-for free!- to my door is no bueno! haha

    • Yeah, I guess that was my hunch as well. You could just buy all your stuff on Amazon, but what if you don’t buy that much stuff? Most of our purchases are lumber and other DIY materials. I think we got Prime more to see what the streaming movies are about. With respect to Netflix it’s probably a win-win because they offer you a better price as soon as you cancel. So we could probably go back to Netflix at the end of the promotional period at a lower price.

  2. One value to prime is that shipping is 2-day air, not just standard.

    Even if I didn’t make the Prime membership back in a year’s worth of Amazon shopping (which I actually do), it’s hard to put a value on the few times that I have to have the item as quickly as possible.

    Time is a hard thing to put value on, and with a full time job and trying to get the most out of my free time, I don’t want to drive to a flea market or to Walmart to pick up a pair of $6 earbuds. My choices are to wait and go without music for 6-10 days, take time out of my schedule and drive out far, go to Best Buy/Tiger Direct and spend $20, or thankfully now, Prime it.

    Maybe this is just an added benefit which you can appreciate once you feel you’ve made your money back on shipping costs in general, but I really do appreciate ordering something Wednesday afternoon and having it at my door before the weekend.

    • Good point Jimmy! Time is definitely paramount. It seems like I can’t get anything done on work days. I hate driving through extra traffic at rush hour after a full day’s work, so I put errands off to the weekend. But to your point, I could grab something online and it would arrive before the weekend anyway.

  3. I have also wondered about Amazon Prime — but keep in mind that if the order is $35.00, or over, shipping is free of charge. Until very recently, the amount required for free shipping was $25.00, so the $35.00 level is somewhat less convenient.

    Perhaps Mr. Amazon is attempting to fund his mechanical flying spider delivery drones with his new rates. But again, Amazon Prime offers free second-day shipping, but I don’t find that terribly necessary, although I am sure some do.

    Although, let me back-pedal, I ordered a book from an Amazon ‘store’. on January 2 — remarkably, it arrived by noon on January 4. The package was not sent by expedited mail, the postage cost $2.58 — wonders never cease! (I didn’t see a mechanical flying spider drone hovering over my house that day . . .I’ll watch next time!)

    • Well I for one look forward to the mechanical flying spider delivery drones.

      But it’s true that their 2-day shipping can be very quick, and the $35 threshold leaves a lot of room for this free shipping service to kick in.

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