Overshopping: How Much is Amazon Prime Really Costing Me?

In all my crazy obsessing and strategizing over the Nordstrom sale, I completely overlooked Amazon Prime Day! I have come to rely very heavily on Amazon. Let’s face it, Amazon makes shopping super easy. They carry just about everything you could need plus many things you don’t need. I bought my Kindle from them and continue to purchase books to download. I also subscribe to TV channels through them so I can watch certain favorite shows on demand as well as purchasing series and movies to watch on Amazon Video. I buy cleaning supplies, batteries, phone chargers, and most of my household essentials like toilet paper from them. In the past year I even began using Amazon Fresh to order groceries each week. On top of all that I have used them to purchase shoes, underwear and have also tried out their new Fashion Prime box where you select clothing to have shipped to you and only pay for the items you decide to keep. Through this service I’ve purchased sandals, bras, bathing suits, and sunglasses! I use Amazon for almost every household need I have including school supplies, dog treats and live crickets to feed our bearded dragon Spike.

Whenever I have purchased clothing from Amazon I don’t really feel any guilt. It’s almost like it doesn’t count because it’s “Amazon” not “Nordstrom”. The design of Amazon makes it effortless to buy things without giving it much thought. Usually, you save your delivery address and all your credit cards right on the Amazon site or maybe you even own the Amazon credit card! This allows for one-click shopping or better yet you can just tell your Amazon Echo device “Alexa” what you want with a short command such as “Alexa, buy more dog food”. Whether you use Echo to speak your wishes or search for your purchases the traditional way, it is a simple, intuitive process that you could do while sleep walking. You think about something, want it, search for it, purchase it and receive an email saying it’s shipped ,faster than you can brush your teeth. I can even recall one vacation where my daughter had forgotten her favorite hair product and sure enough within minutes and just a few clicks on my phone (while I sat poolside with my margarita) I was able to order it through Amazon to have it delivered to the hotel the very next day.

When Prime day hit last week, I did not feel the great rush to buy tons of stuff I didn’t need (thankfully), BUT I did believe I had scored big when one of the Amazon Prime “Deals of the Day” was a men’s cotton polo shirt for $8.49. My son needed a navy polo for work before the weekend and I searched on Amazon first because of the two day Prime shipping. At $8.49 each I decided to order him two polos just in case he ruined one (you know those mystery stains you can get on dark clothing that can be impossible to get out!). I think the whole process to purchase these shirts was three minutes. Later the same day I started reading Anthony Ongaro’s book Break the Twitch (which of course I had downloaded from Amazon). At the beginning of his book he speaks of having spent $12,000 on Amazon in four years. He had made 350 amazon purchases during that time averaging one item every four days. This shocked me. Not the amount…that was not shocking. What troubled me was that I was sure I’ve been purchasing more than one item every four days for a very long time. When I shop on Amazon I don’t think twice about it I never stop to consider how much money I actually spend since most of the items I purchase are not a lot of money. Amazon is uncomplicated, quick and usually has competitive pricing….but no matter how inexpensive something is, if I’m ordering several things per week it is certain to add up. If Anthony Ongaro spent $12,000, what do I spend? Do I even want to know?

I decided it was time to find out so I poured myself a glass of wine and ran an Amazon report to see how much has been spent so far this year. This report did not separate charges into categories, nor did it account for any returns (unless it’s clothing, I usually do not return Amazon purchases). Get ready to be shocked. I feel like I have to qualify that this amount includes food (I use Amazon Fresh for most of my grocery needs). Ok, drumroll please and more wine……I have spent $16,343 ($4923 in food) on Amazon since January 1st. If you subtract the amount that was for groceries it is still a whopping $11,420! That is absurd. Purchases I have never thought twice about because they were inexpensive, convenient and quick to receive!

Amazon my GoTo One-Stop shopping is really my GoTo money drain!

I put the wine away, got out my calculator and decided to analyze things further. I do use Amazon to buy many necessary household items, but wouldn’t it be good to know how many of these purchases may not have really been necessary? It would be easy enough to search through my last 30 days of Amazon orders and categorize what I had spent and how I had spent it:

Total amount spent in last 30 days : $2,746

Digital downloads: $90

Food: $1000

Clothing: $452

Beauty Products $370

Household Miscellaneous: $834

Next I looked to assess each category to see what I had ordered that I ended up not needing, not using, or could have done without. I did not analyze grocery purchases since food is important to my husband and family and not an area I look to cut back on. I’m not a coupon clipper and I do not seek out food sales. I pretty much buy the same food items each week. Could I save money in the food category? I’m sure I could, but the convenience of ordering groceries online and having them delivered to my doorstep outweighs any savings I may find otherwise.

Here is what I found unnecessary for each category:

$60 in Digital downloads:

  • One movie which I haven’t watched yet.

  • Two new books downloaded when I still have several books that I am reading.

  • Two books that I pre-ordered which I could have just waited to purchase when they are released and I need a new book to read.

$200 in Clothing:

  • One bathing suit that I haven’t worn yet and an extra bathing suit for my daughter which she really didn’t need.

$260 in Beauty Products:

  • Face cream & hair conditioner - didn’t need since I haven’t finished what I already have.

  • Body cream - I already have 3 body creams.

  • New brand of Hair serum oil - I own several hair oils already. Why did I think this new one would be any different or better?

  • Shower cap & hair towel turban - I already own a shower cap and a hair towel!

$80 Household Miscellaneous:

  • A new practice ACT book for my son when he hasn’t finished the first one yet.

  • A new dog bed because it was cute and in the shape of a shark.

  • Kitchen gadgets which I likely will never use.

I could have saved $600 had I been more mindful. I can probably think of 600 better things to do with $600 than buy things I don’t need. I can’t get that money back now, but I can avoid future unnecessary purchases.

Going through this exercise of taking a very close look at what I bought…why I bought it…and if I really should have bought it was extremely useful. I had never considered how much I was spending at Amazon and especially how much money was wasted on things I didn’t need. I assumed my overspending was limited to Nordstroms, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

I will still shop on Amazon as it is very convenient to find what I am looking for and I can receive my order very quickly. I enjoy using Amazon Fresh and having access to Whole Food items (since I don’t live near an actual Whole Foods store). But going forward, I plan on taking a “Pause” before I click the “Place Your Order” button and consider if what’s in my online shopping cart is really necessary. Even if an item is only $5.99, it still all adds up at the end of the month. I am going to set a monthly goal for myself to pay more attention to my Amazon purchases, take my time and THINK before I just click away. I plan on continually tracking these monthly purchases to see if I can improve in this area and will keep you updated in future posts. By the way, that great Prime “Deal of the Day” sale I thought I was getting on men’s polo shirts….I later saw that Kohl's had the same deal!

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