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Why I’m Not Joining Amazon Prime

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Why I'm Not Joining Amazon PrimeI have nothing against Amazon. I love Amazon. It’s awesome to order stuff from home and avoid going shopping IRL. Every guy hates shopping so we love Amazon by default. Amazon saves time and usually it’s a pretty good bargain. However, I’m not joining Amazon Prime. Amazon is already a great service and I don’t think anyone really needs Amazon Prime. It’s a frivolous purchase. Today, we’ll go through the benefits of Amazon Prime and I’ll tell you why I’m not joining anytime soon.

Amazon Prime benefits

Amazon Prime is a membership service with quite a few benefits. Currently, Amazon Prime costs $99 per year. To me, free 2 day shipping is the best feature of Amazon Prime, but let’s go through a few other benefits as well.

  • Free 2 day shipping – Most items on Amazon are eligible for free 2 day shipping. This is a great benefit if you need an item quickly.
  • Same-Day delivery in eligible areas – This is available in many cities when your order is over $35. Even quicker delivery!
  • Music – Members can stream over 2 million songs ad-free. This sounds like a cool service especially if you have one of those Amazon Echo doohickeys. You can unlock more music with Amazon Music Unlimited (a separate membership program.)
  • Movies and TV shows – This one sounds good if you watch a lot of TV.
  • Ebooks – Subscribers can access many ebooks in Amazon’s library.
  • Early access to Lighting Deals – I guess this one is good if you like to shop lighting deals.

These benefits are pretty nice, but I’m not convinced yet. It’s not quite the right fit for the RB40 family.

Why I don’t like Amazon Prime

First of all, I detest subscription fees. Any membership fee increases our monthly expense. We are pursuing financial independence and our FI ratio* will head the wrong way with more subscription fees. Some will say that $99 isn’t that much, but early retirees need to think of it in terms of passive income. To generate $99 per year, we’d need to invest $5,000 in VIG, Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF. That’s not trivial for someone looking to retire early. The only subscription fee I’m willing to pay for is a gym membership. Better health is worth the price.

*FI ratio = passive income / expense

Free shipping – I hope you know that free shipping isn’t really free. The cost of shipping is either folded into the price or investors are footing the bill. Consumer should expect to pay more if Amazon wipes out Walmart, Target, and other competitors. I’m quite happy with the $25 minimum to get 5-8 business day free shipping.

One of the best strategies for minimizing buyer’s remorse is to delay the purchase. The $25 free shipping minimum helps with this. A $20 electric kettle has been in my Amazon shopping cart for about a week. I want it, but it’s not necessary. It’s perfectly fine in the shopping cart for a while longer. I find that I delete things out of the shopping cart pretty often. Many times it ends up that I don’t really need that thing anymore or I found something even better. Delayed gratification is a great strategy that everyone should adopt. If I had Amazon Prime, I’d probably hit the purchase button much more frequently.

Music, movies, tv shows, and ebooks – These entertainment benefits are actually pretty cool. However, I don’t have a lot of time to be entertained. I’m busy with blogging and being a stay at home dad. Also, I can get almost anything I want from our awesome library. I’d rather give $99 to the library than spend in on the Amazon Prime membership. This is a neat benefit that doesn’t really do much for me. Maybe this would be a good option when we’re retired in Hawaii and don’t have much to do. Except I’m sure Mrs. RB40 will think up plenty of activities to keep us busy.

Early access to lighting deals – This is just another way to spend more money. I only shop when I need something. The more you look at “deals”, the more stuff you’re going to buy. Lighting deal shoppers spend money, not save money. Looking at deals is just too tempting.

The fact is Amazon Prime members spend more – roughly double the amount of non-members. My goal is not to spend more, it’s to invest more and become financially independent. These are the reasons why I’m not joining Amazon Prime.

What about you? Are you an Amazon Prime member?

Are you an Amazon Prime member?

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Oh wow, a lot of people love Amazon Prime. The comments are pretty amazing. Amazon Prime still isn’t the right fit for us at this time, but I’ll keep that option open for the future. You can try Amazon Prime with their free 30-day trial (students get 6 months free.)

*Disclosure: This is an affiliate link and we may receive a referral fee if you buy something from Amazon. I figure I’ll throw this link in here because Amazon Prime seems to work really well for a lot of people.

My Amazon purchases

This is a short extra section to share what I purchased from Amazon this year. It looks like I buy from them about once per month. That’s pretty often. Let’s check out my purchases and see what I think of my purchases now.

  • LEGO Star Wars – Wookiee Gunship and Imperial Assault Hovertank. These were birthday gifts for RB40Jr. Good purchase.
  • Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder – $15 for 600 g. This was a great buy. Creatine helped me work out better and I haven’t used up the bottle yet. Great purchase.
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder – $58 for 5 lbs. The extra protein helps me build muscle and I also sneak a teaspoon in RB40Jr’s hot cocoa. I found that my gym has a sale every few months and it’s cheaper there, $50. Okay purchase.
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. I enjoyed this book and probably will regift this book to my brother on Christmas. Good purchase.
  • Kirkland Cetrizine – $17 for 365 tablets. This was an awesome price. Great purchase especially during allergy season.
  • Arctic MX-4 Thermal compound paste – My laptop was blowing a lot of hot air so I took it apart and replaced the thermal compound paste. It’s running cooler now. If your laptop is over 5 years old and running hot, you should get one of these. You can see how to replace the thermal paste on YouTube. Good purchase.
  • Nordic Ware Bundt Pan – This was Mrs. RB40’s birthday present. It’s a bit too big, but it works pretty well. Good purchase, but she needs to use it more often. Maybe when the weather gets cooler. Good Purchase.
  • Matfer Bourgeat 8 inch carbon steel pan – This $16 pan is way too tiny to cook anything in. I could cook one egg on it and that’s about it. Bad purchase! The Lodge 12 inch carbon pan is way better. I use that almost every day and it’s non-stick now after about a year. When it comes to pans, bigger is better.
  • Winco Fish Spatula – This $5 spatula is pretty cool. However, I don’t use it very often. I found a cheap stainless steel flipper at the grocery store that is more solid. This one is good for more delicate work like flipping fish fillets… Okay purchase.
  • Eclipse Glasses – I got two pairs of nicer eclipse glasses for our camping trip for $35. This is more expensive than the paper eclipse glasses, but it was worth it. These are way more comfortable and they fit RB40Jr much better. The next eclipse is coming up pretty soon – a Total Lunar Eclipse on Jan. 31, 2018. We won’t need an eclipse glasses for that one, though. Great purchase.
  • Snorkeling stuff for our Waikiki trip – I got rashguards, inflatable snorkel vests, and a full face snorkel mask for Junior. We’re going to Waikiki next week! I can’t wait. The snorkel works well in the pool, but RB40Jr might not be able to snorkel in the ocean with all the waves. We’ll see how these work out.

All in all, I spent about $350 at Amazon in 8 months. That’s not too bad. The shopping experience is good and I’m mostly happy with my purchases. This level of purchase doesn’t really warrant an Amazon Prime membership. We’re fine without it.

Okay, it’s your turn to share your experience with Amazon and Amazon Prime. Do you like them, hate them, indifferent?

Image credit – Flickr dinomite

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{ 90 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako September 14, 2017, 1:49 am

    I know what you mean Joe! I hate subscription fees! Prime does have a lot of value, but it’s a gateway drug. Once you sign-up, you start spending more…and more and more.

    I definitely don’t want to be spending more.

    When I do need to buy something off Amazon, I’ll use Bing Rewards Amazon gift cards to lower the price and activate any free Prime trials that are available. It’s good enough for me.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:37 am

      Yeap. For me, the convenience isn’t worth the trade off. Regular Amazon is good enough.
      I forgot all about the Bing Rewards program. I’ll have to remember to use it next time.

  • Grant @ Life Prep Couple September 14, 2017, 1:51 am

    I also hate subscription fees of any kind but my love for Amazon is too strong.

    In one simple word, we justify Amazon Prime. Diapers. With Amazon Prime and Subscribe and Save you get 20% off already cheap diapers. We also have an Amazon Visa which gives another 5% cash back on all Amazon purchases.

    You can also kind of hack Amazon’s subscribe and save and get 15% off all kinds of stuff that you buy regularly anyway. Body wash, deodorant, shampoo, detergent, etc. I find their prices are already competitive but once you do 15% and 5% cash back their prices can’t be beat even by Sam’s or Costco or Wal-Mart.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:38 am

      Ahh.. Diapers and infant formula might have swayed me. We joined CostCo when our kid was young to get those things. Amazon Prime is probably a better choice now.

  • Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle September 14, 2017, 3:25 am

    I love Amazon. However, we refuse to buy into prime. We know that if we had the “free” shipping, we would buy so much more. Like you said, delaying the purchases keeps you from buyers remorse. And like you, we put alot of stuff back when we wait.
    So yes we love Amazon, but if we want to reach FI, we have to put barriers up to keep spending down.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:39 am

      Exactly. It’s harder for me to return stuff when I purchase online too. The inertia is much higher. Returning stuff to the brick and mortar store is easy for me.

  • La Rubita September 14, 2017, 3:31 am

    I can’t say enough praises about Amazon Prime. It helps me immeasurably by offering within one site; all competitors prices and options on any particular product with free rapid and quick shipping. If one is extremely busy , and who isnt these days?, then you can’t imagine how helpful it is. In my case I am shopping for my own household and for medical products for my elderly dad in a quick and timely manner. It would take me so much longer to run around and collect these items then there would be the has and travel and dealing with getting these items up to my condo apartment home as opposed to delivery? Please!! I am definitely a Amazon Prime lover. Even as a frugal shopper who also teases others who “buy” their own discounts through membership clubs without calculating that factor into their delusional cheaper purchases, Amazon Prime is a wonderful and brilliant choice for me. And I don’t have to buy a bushel of peppers to save a dollar:)
    I have self control, for the most part, so no frivalous purchases for me. Even though the prior commentors line was, “It is Gateway drug”, is hilarious! This should be a paid endorsement but alas is not:). Amazon Prime makes my life so much easier…

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:43 am

      I’m glad Amazon Prime is working well for you. If you buy from Amazon often, then it makes sense to join. I can see how it would save time. We just don’t buy enough stuff to make it worth while.

  • Darren @ Learn to Be Great September 14, 2017, 3:33 am

    I went without Amazon Prime for about six months. I stopped buying things because I didn’t want to pay for shipping. I started a free 6-month student account when I was taking a few classes earlier this year and later went back to the paid Prime membership.

    That inital break from Amazon Prime broke a spending habit I didn’t realize I had. Lately, I’ve noticed that many states want to collect taxes on Amazon purchases I don’t want to shop on Amazon anymore and will probably cancel my membership too, Joe, especially since we don’t watch Amazon Prime’s shows and movies.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:44 am

      That’s a great comment. I bet a lot of people have an unknown spending habit on Amazon Prime too. You don’t realize how much you’re spending unless you take a break. Or really keep track of it with a spreadsheet. Thanks!

  • Anita September 14, 2017, 4:22 am

    I, too, refuse to join Prime for the same reasons you listed–so glad I’m not alone on this! I usually get free shipping just by totalling $35 and do not need all the movie, music temptations. I do use Subscribe & Save and believe that is truly a value–but you do have to review the pricing every so often to ensure the prices haven’t increased.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:45 am

      I don’t really get the subscribe and save. I guess they will send the item to you every month or something like that. I’ll need to check it out.

  • Ron Cameron September 14, 2017, 4:23 am

    Price is only a concern in the absence of value! The $99 is well worth it to me for several reasons: I use it for my business (1-5 purchases a month), we buy a LOT of “usual” stuff that that we can’t get at Costco (for which I pay $120 a year and is worth many times that to me), and we indeed use Prime Video. I probably wouldn’t have it if we didn’t have the business, but it is handy to order say, grease, and have it delivered two days later! And I rarely go to a brick and mortar store anymore, which will have it’s own unintended consequences.

    It’s good you’re evaluating the human behavior aspect, as it’s absolutely a gateway for spending more. Ordering a book from my chair vs walking/biking to the library is pretty tempting!

    ps – Lightning! They’re lightning deals. But they have good lighting deals, too 🙂

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:47 am

      Good point. It is well worth it if you use it for business. You can write off the subscription fee, right?
      I disagree about the lighting deals, though. You don’t know you want it until you see the deals. It’s too tempting to “save” money. 🙂

  • Natalie September 14, 2017, 4:33 am

    You made good valid points and I agree with every one of them. I’m still keeping my Amazon Prime because of the convenience. We not only use it for ourselves but for our 2 sons (they use their own credit card when making purchases), our parents, and vacation rental property that we own (hmmm, I wonder if we could expense it off?). We are currently down sizing and I’m using self control with purchases bc I really don’t want more stuff in the house. Also now that my children are grown (and a smaller house), even with working I now have lots of free time for “free” music and movies 🙂 .

  • Apathy Ends September 14, 2017, 4:40 am

    We have been on Prime for 3 years now – I love the convenience and it saves us enough trips to the store that I think we make back the $99 in time savings. We use the little dash buttons for most of our household goods – tap a button and laundry detergent, dog treats, TP, and a few other things show up at our doorstep 1-2 days later.

    Our dog food is $3 cheaper on Prime, they drop off a 30 pound bag right on my doorstep – no pet store trips for me!

    There are some good shows on Prime, and we use the unlimited photo storage as well.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:49 am

      Those dash buttons make it way too easy to spend money. 🙂 It sounds very convenient.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 14, 2017, 4:50 am

    We shop on Amazon a lot too. When Mr. FAF was still in school, we could get a huge discount for students. He had to send them his transcript and whatnot for verification, but it was all worth it.

    I really like Amazon’s two day delivery, easy returns, and customer service. I think Amazon has the best customer service in the world. I think I’m biased hehe. But I can see why Amazon Prime is not worth it in a lot of cases.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:50 am

      I haven’t used the customer service much. Returning stuff worked well when I had to do it.
      I wish Amazon treat their workers better, though.
      You guys are hooked. 🙂

  • Maria September 14, 2017, 4:51 am

    Hi J,
    Amazon Prime for $99 a year is simply unbeatable at our house!
    My top 10 reasons:
    1. Whole Foods is now owned by Amazon- cheap organic food at discounted prices!
    2. I stream music and breaking news all day long and when my grand sons visit they even listen to stories on Echo.
    3. Less gas used on shopping for sales.
    4. Rather than renting or buying videos- I stream top series, shows, documentaries and movies- Mad Men, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey! Priceless
    5. All Birthday gifts purchased from personalized wish lists bought from my sofa.
    6. I’m usually reading a free ebook, drinking wine, cooking or baking while others are in congested traffic and waiting in line to pay in stores.
    7. I’m eating pumpkin pie on on Black Friday while shopping for Christmas gifts and finish up on Cyber Monday with more pie. Priceless.
    8. Makes life simple and easy to get my vitamins, makeup and toiletries in 2 days without going to the store.
    8. I’m able to use my Amex reward points to pay for purchases or membership! priceless…
    9. I can read reviews prior to each purchase.
    10. I can use the Amazon Prime scanner in a store to compare prices!

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2017, 8:53 am

      I forgot all about Whole Foods. I heard it is still pretty expensive even with the new discounted price.
      Going shopping is pretty annoying. We don’t go shopping much so it’s not a big deal. I wonder what life is going to be like when Amazon puts everyone out of business. People will never leave their home.
      I’m glad Amazon Prime is working for you.

  • FromUSA September 14, 2017, 5:07 am

    Not an Amazon Prime member myself even though I could get it for only $49 per year!
    (I still have my .edu email active; therefore I could get the special rate for students even though I graduated years ago.)

    I’d often find that I can get better deals on Jet.com or at Walmart. Also, I don’t care for those so-called “benefits”—I don’t have time to waste on TV shows. Now I only shop once or twice on Amazon—and spend maybe $100-$150—per year there.

    Amazon is very much a thing of the past for me. Used to shop there a little bit more. Now it is just “meh.”

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:26 am

      I like Walmart too. It’s a great alternative now that they have free shipping on many items.

  • Mr. Freaky Frugal September 14, 2017, 5:26 am

    I’m with ya, Joe. I also refuse to pay for Amazon Prime.

    Mrs. Freaky Frugal and I do make a monthly online purchase at Walmart for perishable items. Walmart gives free 2 day shipping for the items we need for orders greater than $35. I wait until our orders are big enough so we always get free shipping.

    Also, I place the order using BeFrugal or TopCashBack which usually saves an additional 5 to 10 percent. I also sometimes use discounted gift cards for even more savings. Sweet!

  • Pennypincher September 14, 2017, 5:36 am

    Interesting topic/post, Joe. Impressive about you changing out your Thermal compound paste!
    There are unbeatable deals on things that are needed. Emphasis on needed.
    It’s the same with Costco or Sam’s Club-why would I buy a subscription to those, just to buy giant packages of toilet paper that I have no room for? No thanks.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:27 am

      I hate Costco mostly because it’s always so busy there. We don’t buy bulk so it’s not a good fit for us anyway. Changing thermal compound pace isn’t that hard. 🙂

  • Pennypincher September 14, 2017, 5:38 am

    Oh and Ps- Islanders will know the best, calmest waters to snorkel in. Ask around. Enjoy!

  • Michael September 14, 2017, 5:46 am

    I have Prime and wouldn’t do without it. I have no problem paying for subscription services if they have a value to me (I am a member of both BJs and Costco), which Prime does.
    – Videos: Between their original series (disclosure: I initially began paying for prime specifically to watch The Grand Tour (aka Top Gear)) and the prime library, this is a great addition for Friday date night.
    – Prime storage: I don’t use this but they have a TON of cloud storage; I have seen this recommended by many of the photography blogs I read, although I have not done a ton of research into it.
    -Prime Reading: In addition to the library of free books, which I have used, there is a rotating selection of magazines available each month, that pretty much cover all interests. This has saved me a ton of money as I can just download a random magazine to flip through at night or if I am flying.
    – No limit to free shipping (for most products). Just as an example, a lightbulb in my microwave blew up (oh that was fun) and because of the way its situated, I needed a specific $8 tool to fix the socket, which no store carried. Yes, I could have ordered it from Home Depot and received it in 7-10 days, but via prime I had it within 48 hours. Sure if I didnt have prime, I could have spent more to get the free delivery, which defeats the purpose, or I could have paid extra for shipping. However as something similar probably happens every other month either of these would add up very quickly.

  • Veneta @ Becoming Life Smart September 14, 2017, 5:48 am

    These are all great points. I hate subscription fees as well. I resisted signing up for Prime for many years and finally broke down four years ago and signed up for the free trial. We actually love our Amazon Prime service and get tons of use out of it.

    We love the movies and shows feature and use it to play shows for our 4.5 year old every day so we can avoid commercials. We cut cable so this works great for us. I also love the streaming music feature – they have an app so you can stream it to your phone and then through a speaker.

    With that said, I agree it’s so easy to spend a lot more money now that we have Prime. There is no threshold for free shipping and all of my credit info is already saved in my account plus two-day free shipping means I get it pretty fast. It’s definitely easy to spend too much without realizing it.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher September 14, 2017, 5:56 am

    Amazon Prime definitely enabled my poor money habits. I have no one to blame but myself, of course, but the convenience of the program made it all-too-easy to fork over my money. I canceled Prime cold turkey to learn how to control myself.

    I don’t like how pricey Prime is; I would feel like I have to use it very often to get my money back on it. It’s cheaper just to fork over shipping costs when I order something once a month.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:31 am

      If we have Amazon Prime, I’d feel pressure to spend to make the fee worth it. Probably buy more, for sure.

  • adumbby September 14, 2017, 6:01 am

    you’re missing out. you are able to ‘share’ your prime membership with two other people, so you could split the cost that way too el-cheapo

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:31 am

      Really? I should check with my brothers.
      I thought you can only share if you live in the same household. Not sure how this work with shipping.

      • Louise September 16, 2017, 6:11 am

        You can ship where you want. I’ve had things delivered to work, home & to a locker near my son’s university.

  • Kim September 14, 2017, 6:13 am

    Take RB40 jr to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling. The bay is protected by a reef so minimal to no waves at all and lots of cool fish to see. Also, buy a cheap pool noodle for him to float on for snorkeling. They should have them at the ABC stores pretty much on every corner for less than $5. Best money we spent in Hawaii for our boys.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:34 am

      We probably won’t get to Hanauma Bay this time. I went there 18 years ago and the snorkeling wasn’t that great. Kaui and Big Island has nicer snorkeling. Probably good for kids, though. I got a snorkeling vest.

  • Lazy Man and Money September 14, 2017, 6:21 am

    I think Amazon Prime is a great value. I listen to about 2 hours of music a day, commercial free through that Echo-thingy ;-). It surely beats buying a ton of CDs, right?

    As a SAHD, I can say that Amazon’s videos are very useful with a lot of educational children shows. While there are plenty of other options (PBS, Netflix, NickJr), having a variety is helpful to avoid what I call SpongeBob Syndrome, shows that aren’t educational.

    I buy surprisingly little from Amazon, but it is very helpful to get some of the things I do need delivered to my door. The alternative of driving to Wal-Mart with two toddlers who want to go to the toy aisle because grandma does it all the time is not fun or time-efficient. Sometimes I don’t have the luxury to wait to get several items up to the $35 price.

    We also use the free unlimited photo sharing for family stuff… though that’s still a work in progress because of the thousands of photos we’ve had over the years.

    I think that’s a fair amount of value for $8 a month. Isn’t HBO Go something like $15/mo.? I see so many people talking about Game of Thrones, but that’s not twice the value of all that I get from Amazon Prime.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:38 am

      I really like PBS. The shows there are pretty good. We get DVD from the library so kid shows aren’t a problem. I don’t like Nickelodeon at all. Their shows are headache inducing.

  • Ms. Montana September 14, 2017, 6:47 am

    We didn’t use prime for a long time, but we made the switch to it a year ago because of the diaper discount. Amazon already had the lowest cost per diaper I could buy. Then I looked at the yearly savings on diapers. That came to about $50- $70. I’m not sure we’ll keep it when (if…) this diaper season of our live ever changes. But it has saved a bit of add on purchases trying to get to the free shipping limit. 🙂 We also pay for it with our Amazon cash back…which stings a bit less. Same with Costco. The cash back from there covers the membership price.

  • Jeff @ Maximum Cents September 14, 2017, 6:52 am

    I disagree. We mostly only buy things on sale from Amazon and typically Subscribe and Save for an extra 5-15% off. In order to take advantage of the sales we need Prime so the shipping is free. They periodically offer clipped coupons where you can save a lot. Also, we purchase some items that are simply cheaper than anywhere else. Combine that with all of the services that Prime offers (including discounts at Whole Foods) and $99 is worth it. Also you can wait for a sale on the Prime membership.

  • Sam @ Financial Samurai September 14, 2017, 6:54 am

    I wouldn’t have joined Amazon prime either until my sister-in-law convince my wife to get it because we need so much for our baby. So far, it’s been really helpful because there are a lot of things that we might run out of, such as diapers, or gas drops or whatever that is so much easier when it is delivered to us.

    But I absolutely believe we probably spend 100% more because we have prime. I’m assuming the franticness of buying all the stuff slows down after your little one is potty trained. When was your son potty trained? Thanks

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:40 am

      It sounds like a good deal for the baby stuff. This must be pretty new. We went with CostCo 6 years ago and stop being a member once our kid was done with formula.
      Our kid potty trained before he was 2 years old. Still a while for you guys yet.

  • [email protected] September 14, 2017, 7:00 am

    Great article . I like your statement “To generate $99 per year, we’d need to invest $5,000 in VIG, Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF”. I always think about bills or purchases as how many hours of work will this take me to have.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:41 am

      Yeap. This is especially true with subscription because you have to pay for it every year. Once you start a subscription, it’s hard to stop.

  • Rogue Dad, M.D. September 14, 2017, 7:04 am

    Agree to disagree — a subscription fee is completely justified if you actually use it to save you money and time. Yes, an impulsive buyer can go nuts on Amazon, but with the restraint you are discussing, that seems unlikely.

    I’m an Amazon Prime member (have been almost as long as it’s existed), and I still put things in my wish list or cart and come back later.

    The faster/free shipping does make me more likely to use Amazon, but it doesn’t make me more likely to BECAUSE an item in general just because I saw it on Amazon. It’s a tradeoff between can it wait until I have time to drive somewhere to buy a single item — which is difficult with 3 kids and two working parents — or can it wait a couple days for Amazon to send it to me. Amazon often has lower prices than other places, but sometimes not. If you assume that Amazon may not have the lowest price and actually shop around briefly online then you won’t go crazy buying things from them just because of the free shipping.

    Target and Walmart are not in danger of going the way of B&N anytime soon (but many other stores are). I don’t feel a need to drive to Walmart to buy diapers when I can click a button from my house and buy them. Big corporate retailer is big corporate retailer, and Amazon > Walmart in my view.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:45 am

      This is strange, but I changed my opinion on Walmart a few years ago. It used to be so busy and I didn’t like going there. The crowd is less now and it made the shopping experience a bit better. We don’t go there often, but I like Walmart now.
      Of course, if you’re busy, it’s better to go with Amazon. You can’t beat the convenience. Walmart has free shipping on a lot of stuff now too. Amazon = Walmart for me.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire September 14, 2017, 7:05 am

    You make great points, Joe… however, I’m part of the Amazon train. For me, I value my time over the money in this case. I’m the guy they want as a customer – I order most everything from them. If I realize I need deodorant – boom, order sent and done. No trips to Walmart needed. We order at least a few times a month from them.

    However, I’m very big on checking prices first. If prices are a big difference at Walmart or Home Depot or wherever, I’ll skip Amazon and just wait until my next trip to the store.

    The other thing that makes it worthwhile for us is that we take advantage of the streaming music and Kindle books and their streaming videos (though the selection isn’t all that great).

    I’m a pretty cheap guy and I weigh the renewal every year, but for me, this is one expense that makes sense.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:46 am

      Thanks for sharing. Nice to hear it’s worth it for you. Maybe we’ll try it someday when we are less busy. 🙂

  • SMM September 14, 2017, 7:07 am

    I don’t have it either because I can’t justify the subscription VS the amount or dollars I spend on Amazon. I also won’t buy anything either unless there’s free shipping. Finally if I decide to use competitor Walmart instead I can buy something online that’s not in the store and have it shipped directly to the store to pick up for free since we frequent Walmart. But I still got love for Amazon too 🙂

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:46 am

      Walmart offer free shipping on a lot of stuff now too. I order CoQ10 from Walmart and didn’t have to pay for shipping.

  • Karen B. September 14, 2017, 7:11 am

    Joe, good topic to discuss. Enjoyed the article and all the comments. I may consider buying Prime in the future, but only if it should benefit me at that time, I am much more informed now. Thanks

  • Helen September 14, 2017, 7:19 am

    I’m not using Amazon Prime. I don’t do online shopping most of the time. When I need something, I like to go to the stores, take a close look, and really make sure it fits my need. Still an old way. Overall, I don’t like shopping no matter what, and definitely won’t pay any membership fee.

    But I do use Amazon to sell my book. If you are interested, please check my memoir, search Books for “Helen Wang Dad’s Bicycle”. Thanks.

  • Mr. Grumby September 14, 2017, 8:17 am

    I used to be a member but cancelled last year. My experience is exactly what you said: I spent WAAAAY more as a member than I do now, and I often leave something in my cart for awhile until I’m absolutely sure. The video benefits were nice but Netflix is great. The other thing is that Amazon is not really a low price option in most cases. It will be interesting how Wal Mart does against them as they ramp up their online store.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:48 am

      Thanks for confirming my theory. 🙂 Amazon Prime isn’t the right fit for everyone.

  • Iexpedite September 14, 2017, 9:06 am

    I had a prime account but found that my spending was going through the roof. Packages were coming in and my wife would ask what it was and I had no idea. I would have to open the box to remember what it was I needed so badly. Laziness precludes me from the instant gratification that Amazon provides. Getting ready and going to the stores to find the things I think I need is not nearly as fun. I let the account expire and now I rarely order anything from Amazon.

    I also found their shipping as being less than promised. Two-day shipping meant once Amazon got the package to the shipping service it would take two days. From the time I clicked the button until the time my box of joy arrived was typically more like a week. I once order cocoa liners for my planter boxes and they sent them individually wrapped. I got 13 boxes that were 5 feet long that contained a bubble wrapped piece of material I was about to fill with dirt. The entire order could have been put in a single box but instead, they packed them like they were made of gold. I once ordered a firebox safe and a can of powdered milk. They loosely packed both items in a single box. When it arrived milk was everywhere the can had exploded and filled every crevis of the safe.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:50 am

      Exactly! If you can’t remember what you ordered, you probably don’t need it. That should be a household rule. If you don’t remember, then it’s going back. 🙂
      Ha ha, the safe story is pretty funny. At least, you got a story out of it.

  • Chris @ Keep Thrifty September 14, 2017, 9:33 am

    I love your views on this – especially looking at the FI contribution needed. I’ve got the free 2 day shipping because my brother linked our account to his but none of the other perks. I really don’t feel like I’m missing much. We get most of our entertainment from the library or streaming free on broadcast TV sites (CBS.com, etc)

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:52 am

      I will check with my brother. He has little kids so maybe he has a membership. Thanks!

  • Laura September 14, 2017, 9:40 am

    I like the music and video streaming. Where it really is nice is around birthdays and holidays. Family is strewn all over the country and my spending limit on gifts for younger nieces/nephews is $20 or less, so having free shipping on smaller purchases works quite well for us. Especially when I forget and gifts are ordered last minute.

  • FullTimeFinance September 14, 2017, 10:06 am

    We use Prime primarily for the video service, the 2x a month free shipping is just an added bonus. We have prime and Netflix as the only sources of tv entertainment for our family of 4. While our kids don’t watch a lot of tv, we do occasionally need something.

    • FullTimeFinance September 14, 2017, 10:08 am

      oh and our primary usage for Amazon are everyday items where its easier for us to order thing like pullups online then drive to a store and pick them up with 2 kids in tow.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:53 am

      Our kid watch DVD from the library. It works pretty well for us because our library is really good. I guess it’s good we don’t know what we’re missing. 🙂

  • Laskman September 14, 2017, 10:50 am

    I sell Amazon credit spreads monthly, with the exception of earnings. $99 is a ‘thank you’ for the profits generated – definitely has helped with early retirement.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:54 am

      I have no idea what Amazon credit spreads is. I will see if I can find out more about it.
      Ahh.. I see. I don’t trust Amazon stock. Someday, they will have to generate profit and the number won’t make sense then.

  • Mark September 14, 2017, 10:55 am

    I really hate Amazon Prime and will never subscribe. It makes you spend more unconsciously. This is really bad for your FIRE plans

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life September 14, 2017, 12:16 pm

    It’s funny that you prefer to return at a B&M. That’s almost a dealbreaker for me – I do almost all my shopping online to save energy and time, so if I can’t process a return on my own time, day or night, and just drop it at the UPS store or have USPS pick up, I don’t want to buy at all.

    We use Prime a lot and I pay attention to our bottom line. We use subscribe and save for household items we use regularly – diapers, wipes, dog pill pockets, dog treats, allergy meds. I group those purchases carefully to get the maximum 15% off eligible items and 20% off diapers.

    We won’t buy from them if they don’t have the best price after accounting for the time / energy / gas spent going to the physical store. Errands around here are plentiful enough, I don’t want household shopping to be part of that pile.

    I also make sure to request a free extension on our Prime membership whenever they fail to deliver on time and inconvenience me!

    We’ve spent a lot with Amazon over the years, my shopping history goes way back to when they first started selling books! But I always compare to other stores and make sure we really are getting the best price and shop elsewhere occasionally because I don’t want them to drive Target or Costco out of business.

    Oh also I save by redeeming for discounted Amazon GCs at Swagbucks instead of full price PayPal money.

    I downloaded the data on my shopping going back a few years for a post, I’m not sure I want to know how much total we have spent but I am curious to see if I have funded at least half of it through gift cards in at least one year.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:57 am

      We rarely return so it’s not really a big deal. I guess going to UPS isn’t a big deal either, but I’m just more comfortable returning at the store. I guess I’m old school that way.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks September 14, 2017, 1:01 pm

    I got rid of it when they first upped the price to $99. Taking the temptation away saved us a good bit of money. Now we have it again, because I’ve been ordering some specialty items for my hobbies, and it’s the only streaming service we have. We don’t pay full price because Mrs CK gets the student discount since she has a .edu email address 🙂

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 10:57 am

      Nice with the .edu email address. That’s a good way to get a discount. 🙂

  • Candi @ minhus September 14, 2017, 4:36 pm

    I don’t pay for Prime, the boyfriend does, but I do take advantage. I watch Prime video (though not as much as Netflix). And I love having 16lb bags of cat food delivered to our door at cheaper than pet store prices.

    Thanks for posting your Amazon purchases. It never occurred to me to get my allergy meds from Amazon (doh!) but now I’m going to start! It’s a fourth the price of the store brand I was buying!

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:00 am

      Yeap, it’s Kirkland too. I think there is an even cheaper option now, but I like Kirkland. Citirizine is way more expensive at the grocery store.

  • Jing September 14, 2017, 4:38 pm

    I love prime, but I probably don’t take advantage of it enough to justify paying the subscription. However the peace of mind that comes with times when I run out of things or have an emergency is nice. My frugal fail of the year is that I haven’t linked my account with my boyfriends still because my parents are part of my “household”, and I’d feel guilty about cutting off their benefits!

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:02 am

      Can your boyfriend join your account? Not sure how Amazon define household. 🙂

  • David Michael September 14, 2017, 5:22 pm

    I believe that Amazon is one of the best run businesses in America. I say that as a Prime member as well as a prior Fulfilment Center Senior Worker during Christmas Season (Oct-Dec) in the Fernley, NV warehouse. Working 50 hours a week for 12 weeks at age 75 was a tonic and a challenge but my immediate boss made it a great gig. She was a Filipino and she was outstanding! In fact, the majority of workers were immigrants who were also outstanding. When we did scanning competitions on a weekly basis (I was a scanner), I averaged 2500 books in a hour and the winners did 8000 books. I mean…hands down, they were amazing. What makes this country great is the variety of people from all over the world that call the USA home. If you don’t believe me, then I suggest you work for Amazon for one season. The basic rule is: two hours from initial order to shipment. And, not everybody makes it as an employee. I watched in fascination as one young person after another would last two days or a week and then they were gone.

    I love Amazon shipping, movies, and especially Kindle books. Since my wife and I travel frequently, the Kindle is a one of our great entertainment values. I mean…about every other day I find a new book for free that has 4-5 stars. My Kindle Fire has 2500 books.
    All of that for $99 a year. So…do I think Amazon is a great value? Absolutely!

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:04 am

      Thank you for your input. I read about how hard Amazon pushes their workers. It doesn’t sound like a pleasant work environment for me, but I haven’t experienced it personally. Maybe I’ll try the seasonal work one day.
      I like Kindle books too, but real books are so much better. If our library system isn’t so good, then I would read more Kindle books. My eyes aren’t so good so real paper is way better.

  • Stockbeard September 14, 2017, 6:24 pm

    I’m so much in that I am a Prime member both in the US and in Japan (where it costs about $40 a year, btw). I might cancel my prime membership in the US next year since I don’t live in the US anymore, but at the time I lived in the US, the prime membership was great value for us because of:
    – significant price cuts on diapers (as mentioned above)
    – Video game discounts (I’m a gamer) + the occasional freebie with Twitch prime
    – Netflix-like service with Video
    – good discounts on prime day and black Friday, if you prepare in advance and know exactly what you want.

    Each on of these benefits paid for the prime subscription in full for us. In other words we feel we’re getting $400 worth of benefit from that $100 subscription. The other benefits (free ebooks, free music streaming, free shipping) are gravy, and we use them regularly.

    We also have an Amazon Echo and the combination of that device + a prime subscription got me killer deals throughout the years. In 2016 I got the collector’s edition of a specific video game for $18 (Alexa-only deal on Prime Day). Retail price was $90. I played the game, then resold it weeks later for $40, which was a win for me, and a win for the buyer who bought it for significantly less than what the game was being sold for on places like Craigslist or ebay.

    I agree that if you’re not very careful though you can quickly develop a non frugal shopping habit. I’m sure this is Amazon’s expectation of course. But just like “loss leader” sales, I think us frugal people have the unusual power to leverage the benefits without falling into the trap 🙂

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:06 am

      I hope you’re doing well in Japan. Yeap, you should cancel the US membership. You can always get it again if you move back here. 🙂
      We don’t have the Amazon Echo yet. We’re always behind the technology curve…

  • Teri September 14, 2017, 9:30 pm

    Was going to agree with you, then saw the responses your article generated. I’m amazed how many people swear by Amazon prime. Still won’t join and I now have a better understanding of why so many people love it.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:08 am

      It really is amazing. The Amazon Prime subscribers outnumber non members 2:1.
      I still not ready to join. Everyone has to make their own decision. 🙂

  • Nicoleandmaggie September 15, 2017, 4:57 am

    We have it because it has the nickelodeon kids shows, which are less casually sexist than PBSs. (All men hate shopping, really? When you say stuff like that it helps perpetuate a culture in which women have to do the shopping and men who enjoy shopping are ashamed to admit it.)

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2017, 11:10 am

      I don’t mean grocery shopping. That’s just a chore for everyone.
      Men can go shopping if they like. It’s not a big deal.

  • Mrs.Nerd September 15, 2017, 8:44 pm

    I agree with you 100% Joe. One of the reasons we do not have Amazon prime is to delay instant gratification. Even with a baby and young child at home I never see the need to have 2 day shipping. I keep a track of what we need and order with the 5-8 day shipping. I’ve also always felt guilty with the number of boxes that arrive for one order. I do not know if Amazon have a green thumb or not.Think about the logistics involved in bringing you something to your door step in 48 hours. All in all I add stuff to my cart and let it be for a couple of days 9 out of 10 times I do not end up buying stuff unless we need it. And with streaming with two young kids we hardly have anytime to watch much tv.

  • GYM September 15, 2017, 9:02 pm

    I’m not a fan of subscription either, but I think it is tempting because Amazon Prime has a discount on diapers, which we are in dire need of now. My sister had an Amazon Prime free trial that just expired but I did get her to buy some stuff for me before it expired. I think it provides more value in the US rather than in Canada because there’s not as much stuff that you can buy on Amazon.ca.

    • retirebyforty September 16, 2017, 9:21 pm

      Really? I thought Amazon would be very similar in Canada. That’s an easy way for them to expand.
      Their diaper sounds like a good deal. We don’t need it anymore, though. 🙂

  • Jason September 16, 2017, 2:57 pm

    I understand you. I don’t have it either. I still haven’t gotten into the whole cutting the cord thing. And the truth is the more you subscribe to things, etc for music, tv, etc, your expense might be just as much as a normal cable package. We do have Netflix that is good enough. I don’t do enough on Amazon to order it.

  • Jeff @ Maximum Cents September 17, 2017, 12:59 pm

    Joe, can you explain why having a $60 Costco membership is worth it? Some items are cheaper than elsewhere but you have to drive there, go through a massive warehouse, and wait in long lines. Amazon doesn’t have any of those negatives.

  • Roy Enloe September 18, 2017, 5:19 pm

    If you live in a small town with no stores, ordering from Amazon saves a trip to “town”.
    I order a lot of small items from Amazon via Prime and feel that I save money in the long run.
    I must admit that the free shipping and the one-click shopping can lead to extra purchases.

  • Kate September 28, 2017, 5:16 am

    I recently wrote about this topic as well, as I despise the Amazon Prime fees and pretty much rarely order from them. I’ve been able to find better deals locally, and after learning how a lot of sellers on Amazon game the system to get prices to go up (and watching items on my wishlist fluctuate in price constantly) I’ve been taking my business elsewhere. Nice breakdown of how you view it, I am right there with you.

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