For those who don’t have an Amazon Prime membership yet, I have a question: why not? The $79 you’ll spend on Amazon Prime is possibly the best $79 you can spend this year. That’s because Amazon Prime essentially pays for itself in savings, not to mention how much simpler it’ll make your life.
I admit, I was hesitant to sign up for Amazon Prime at first, too. But after enjoying the Amazon Prime Free Trial for the past few months, I’m never going back.
On paper, here’s what you get with an Amazon Prime membership:
- FREE 2-day shipping on eligible products.
- $3.99 1-day shipping on eligible products.
- Unlimited Amazon Prime Instant streaming.
- Kindle Lending Library.
- Sharing of Amazon Prime Benefits with anyone in your household.
If you shop at Amazon.com with any frequency or own a Kindle, those benefits should be immediately compelling to you. If not, let me paint a picture of what life with Amazon Prime will be like for you.
Never Pay for Shipping Again
Free shipping is more of a luxury than most people realize. First of all, shipping costs can really add up. Amazon shipping charges usually cost about $2 to $4 per shipment, often more. In 2011, I personally ordered about 50 items from Amazon (and I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet). If I were paying for shipping, I’d be looking at a dent of $100 to $200 in my wallet, just for shipping. But because I’m an Amazon Prime member, I paid approximately zilcho.
But the benefit is more significant than that. Amazon Prime gets you free 2-day shipping. And most times, it comes faster than that. On more than one occasion, I’ve been spooked out after placing an order on Tuesday afternoon and having the UPS man knock on my door Wednesday evening.
I find free 2-day shipping very, very handy. Normal Amazon members can get free 3-5 day shipping on orders over $25, which I see as the cleverest marketing ploy on the planet. How often have you compulsively filled your cart with random crap you didn’t need in order to break that free shipping threshold? I used to do it all the time. But now, whenever I think of something I need, I fire up my Amazon Mobile app, look it up, hit BUY and it’s on my doorstep in far, far less time than it would have taken me to gin up the gumption to drive to the mall. I do this all the time for light bulbs, batteries, toilet repair parts, obscure kitchen gadgets, toiletries and other stuff that usually stays on my shopping list for weeks. And I never have to buy $22 worth of candy just to get free shipping on a $3 part for my toilet tank.
Save Gas, Save a Trip, Save Your Sanity
Shopping sucks. Especially for unexciting, yet hard-to-find things, like popcorn salt or a zing-ear switch or brewer’s yeast or a lizard thermometer. Driving from store-to-store looking for this stuff is a huge waste of gas. Not to mention that you’ll probably end up eating out at some joyless food court if you’re gone for any number of hours. I don’t know about you, but shopping always puts me in a bad mood. Amazon Prime is a lifesaver in that regard. And because you get free shipping, it doesn’t matter that your entire order is nothing but a $3 electrical component that weighs half an ounce.
Comparison Shop: At-home or On-the-go
I have the worst buyer’s remorse. I have it so bad I start to feel terrible before my merchandise has even been rung up. Whenever I put money down on the counter, I just know that I could’ve gotten it cheaper somewhere else. I’ll usually sit there agonizing in the aisle for way, way too long, trying to Google prices or calling my wife to see if she saw it somewhere else cheaper. If you’re shopping on Amazon.com, this is an immediate non-issue. Checking prices elsewhere takes less than 30 seconds, and oftentimes you don’t even have to leave Amazon.com to do it, since the same items are usually offered by multiple sellers.
If you are in a brick-and-mortar store, Amazon Prime is your friend, too. If you happen upon something on the shelf, you can quickly zap it with the UPC scanner on the Amazon Mobile app and see if you can get it cheaper. If you can, and you can wait about 2 days to get it, then you’re set. I’ve done this a couple of times, but mostly, I appreciate the peace of mind that it offers me. It quells my paranoia and lets me buy without feeling like a chump who didn’t do his due diligence.
3 Amazon Prime Tips
1. Got roommates? Split an Amazon Prime membership and share the benefits. You're allowed to share it with anyone in your household.
2. You can also “share your benefits” with a friend or relative, essentially giving them 6 free months of Prime (free shipping only) even if they don’t live with you (log in to your Amazon.com account, click Manage Prime Membership and scroll to the bottom).
3. Are you a student? Are you a parent? You can get a free Amazon Prime membership (shipping benefits only) by signing up for Amazon Mom or Amazon Student.
Classy Customer Service
The common conception is that middlemen are bad news.They are skeezy parasites standing between you and a straightforward transaction. But with Amazon, it’s the opposite. Amazon has a legitimizing effect on some of the would-be scummy merchants in the same way PayPal brought law and order to eBay. Even when Amazon doesn’t have a cheaper price, I often buy from them anyway, since I have faith that they’ll take care of me if something goes ill.
If you lurk any of the popular social media channels, you’ve inevitably come across one or two stories of Amazon’s classy customer service. For example, one user panicked once he realized he forgot to cancel his free Amazon Prime trial before the 30 days were up. But instead of charging his credit card for the service, Amazon automatically cancelled it because he hadn’t used Prime during the trial. Amazon also has a very responsive and helpful customer service chat, which I have used several times. I vastly prefer it over waiting on hold. Once, I missed a Gold Box deal by a few minutes because of technical issues that may or may not have been Amazon’s fault and they honored the discount anyway, just because I asked. And Amazon has never hassled me about cancelling an order (which I’ve done more than once—that 1-click ordering can be kind of touchy).
In addition to the paradigm shift (I said it) in shopping habits that Prime brings, Amazon Prime opens the door to some other perks. Namely, free unlimited Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming and free access to the Kindle Lending Library. Personally, I see these as fringe benefits. I don’t watch much TV (online or off) and I don’t mind paying for a good book. But Amazon Instant Video looks very promising. With full seasons of Lost, Arrested Development, 24, Doctor Who, Pushing Daisies and a smattering of feature films and documentaries, Amazon Instant Video could feasibly replace your Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription in the future. And if you have the new Kindle Fire, then Amazon Prime is a no-brainer.
See the full list of Amazon Prime Instant Watch TV episodes and movies.
See a sample of the books available in the Kindle Lending Library.
What Should I Buy Off Amazon?
That’s an easy one: everything. Amazon has practically everything that you would normally get by hopping in your car and driving to the mall. For me, Amazon has even gone ahead and replaced my hardware store, Best Buy, much of my gift shopping destinations and to some extent, my grocery store. Now, you won’t find milk and eggs on Amazon, but it is a nice resource for some of the more obscure food stuffs that my grocery store sells at inflated prices in its ethnic or organic section.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Weight Gain Powder – Never set foot in a GNC again.
- Pistachios – Cheapest I’ve ever seen anywhere. I’ve bought two shipments of these.
- Vegan and Vegetarian Food – Primal Strips anyone?
- Computers and Hardware – Good deals every now and then. Keep an eye out.
- Gifts – See our gift guide for some great examples.
- Diapers (and wipes) – Maybe not just yet for you, but for me it’s been awesome.
- Razor Cartridges – Don’t you hate when they have these locked up in the store?
- Guitar Strings – Stock up on high Es.
- Cat Food – Good Subscribe and Save candidate.
- Snacks, candy, nostalgia foods – Remember Dunkaroos?
- Automotive Parts – Windshield wiper blades, belts, gaskets, engines.
- Boxers, socks, undershirts
Amazon Prime has completely changed the way I shop, both online and offline. Best of all, I haven’t paid a cent for my first year of Amazon Prime, due to the various ways of getting the perks for free (see the tips box in this article). I know it seems daunting to pay $79 upfront for something you are not sure if you’ll use in the future. But trust me on this: you will use it. When I think of the way that Prime has saved me time and money, I compare it to a CostCo membership.
I find it odd that many of my twenty-something friends eagerly sign up for a CostCo membership ($55/year) or a Sam’s Club membership ($100/year) in the name of saving money. Even I did it when I first got married. It just feels like a fiscally responsible thing to do. But here’s the thing: when a mother goes in and buys a pallet of Honey Nut Cheerios to feed her five kids and husband for the next year, it makes sense. It saves money and it saves a trip (or two or three) to the store. But when my wife and I buy a gallon of tabbouleh, it just goes rotten.
The fact of the matter is that single guys or young couples don’t usually need to buy things in bulk, even for the things we use everyday. We buy things in a one-off fashion, or on a once every few months basis.
If CostCo is the perfect money-saving model for those who are shopping for their families or their bomb shelters, then Amazon Prime is the perfect model for those who shop for themselves and perhaps a roommate or live-in girlfriend. CostCo allows you to save money when buying regularly in bulk. Amazon Prime allows you to save money when buying everything else. That includes big ticket items, small ticket items, things you buy once a month, things you buy once a year and things you never thought you’d buy online.
Believe me. If you hate the mall and loving getting things in the mail, you can’t go wrong with Amazon Prime.