Saving Strats: A Prime Example

Saving Sucks

Let’s be honest; saving sucks. It’s much more fun to splurge on new clothes, video games, and expensive nights out.

Before I started to actually keep track of my budget, I’d end up with hundreds of dollars worth of expenses each month that I couldn’t even remember spending. Where did all my money go?!

On the odd occasion that I did look back at last month’s expenses, it all kinda sorta made sense. I obviously needed that new adaptor for my computer and memory card for my camera. And that $200 spent on miscellaneous hobbies? Absolutely essential.

Things continued in this fashion for many months—even years—once I started earning a paycheck. Then, almost instantly, everything changed. My spending dropped and my savings began to grow.

What happened, you might ask? Well, my annual subscription to Amazon was expiring, and I decided (gasp!) not to renew it.

Amazon Prime

Now, I won’t sit here and place the singular blame on Amazon Prime for my terrible spending habits. But man did they make it easy.

At the press of a button, I could have anything I wanted delivered to my door in less than 48 hours. It was magical—the convenience, outmatched. How could I possibly give that up?

Well, they increased their fee from $80 to $100, and I just couldn’t stomach that. Little did I know, that $100 dollar savings was the beginning of many more hundreds of dollars to come.

Unsurprisingly, right after cancelling, I needed an order of Burt’s Bees chapstick. And soon. My lips were chapped and I had just run out of my last tube. But wait! 48 hours had turned into 5-7 business days. And unless I wanted to add another $20 to my purchase, shipping was going to cost me $8.95!

A day or two later, I finished book #5 in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. So, naturally, I needed the next one. My train rides to work the following week would be utterly devoid of Roland and his ka tet if I couldn’t get my hands on #6 in exactly 48 hours!

This was a huge problem. No Burt’s Bees and no Stephen King. So, how did I solve it? I simply… went without.

Lessons Learned

Two things. One, Burt’s Bees chapstick literally creates an addiction. Once I went without it for a few weeks—yes, I had to deal with severely chapped lips—my body learned to naturally re-moisturize itself. How weird!

Two, Amazon can be an expensive way to read books. eBay (if you want to own a copy) and libraries (if you do not) are way more affordable. (Of course, if you're looking for a brand new copy or want to support our affiliate links, Amazon is still a good option).

Okay, and a third thing. It’s not necessarily about Amazon Prime. It was about convenience. Maybe you don’t have an Amazon Prime account. Maybe for you it’s a Stitch Fix subscription or frequent trips to Target. For me, once I removed the convenience, my spending patterns changed completely and on their own.

So, what new spending habits have I developed since my departure from 48 hour shipping?

Keep it in the Cart

In order to qualify for free shipping—and trust me, I will never pay for shipping—my Amazon cart has to be at least $25. So, understandably, I now wait for items in my cart to build up to $25 or more before I buy them.

Guess what? Especially for discretionary spending, things rarely made the journey from “ADD TO CART” to “CHECKOUT.” I would look at all the fun new toys, and realize… most had lost their appeal. Their sparkle gone; their shine diminished. “Do I actually need that?” I’d ask myself. “Do I even want it anymore?”

This happened countless times and has saved me hundreds of dollars. My new self-imposed rule: keep everything in my cart—yes, even if it has free shipping—for a full week before purchasing. Voila! Like magic, I watched my spending decrease and my savings do the opposite.

How about you? Think you’d benefit from cancelling Amazon prime, or do you have the self-control of a Buddhist monk? Let me know in the comments below!

What Adds Value

So, what’s really happening as these items sit in my cart for over a week? Without realizing it, I’m continually asking myself the question, “does this add value?”

Do I really need this new computer mouse when my old one is perfectly fine? I’m typing this right now on a 10 year-old MacBook. Clearly, my standards aren’t very high.

And what about this Nespresso machine? I do love myself a nice cup of espresso in the morning.

Wait… I barely drink coffee anymore. Get out of my cart!

Thanks, Amazon

Over the years, I’ve made the subconscious question “does this add value?” very intentional. Learning from my Amazon Prime experience, I’ve expanded this thinking to all aspects of my spending.

For instance, do I need to continue this Netflix subscription when Ms. Flash’s brother has an unused profile? How about this $250 gadget that’s a gift to my parents, when a personalized Shutterfly card would mean so much more? (Seriously, the amount I’ve spent on gifts for family/friends that go unused is absurd).

The more I ask myself this question, the more I realize that expensive things are not (always) the answer. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ll upgrade my computer eventually…).

So, what started as the simple decision to cancel Amazon Prime has led to a whole new philosophy on spending—and living altogether. All of this to avoid the additional $20 annual subscription fee.

Thank you, Amazon, for increasing the cost of Prime membership. I owe it all to you.

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