Is Amazon Prime Worth the Membership Fee?

This post is written by contributing writer Samantha Sand. Samantha and her husband Richard, two IT consultants and parents, write about technology and making digital life easier at Digital Zen.

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As much as I love to support local business, life with young children means convenience trumps just about everything, at least for now. And when I can combine ease with saving money, I feel like I’ve hit on a winning equation.

logo-amazon-primeThis is how a paid subscription to Amazon Prime quickly became one of life’s necessary luxuries. Annual membership costs $79 and offers free two-day shipping on an ever-growing selection of products, as well as free streaming of many movies and TV shows.

In addition to Prime membership, the company also offers a discount program for baby supplies (Amazon Mom), and automated deliveries (Amazon Subscribe & Save). Here’s how I navigate these three programs and maximize my membership benefits.

Ship It To Me

These days I buy everything except haircuts on Amazon. The prices beat or compete with any store I can drive to, and just provisioning a home all year long pays for the membership fee before the first robin red breast shows up in my front yard.

Detergents, toothpaste, soap, tissues, toilet paper, cat food… shipped right to my door. I practically skip past the household aisles at the grocery store. Nothing I need there!

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If your kids are on the birthday party circuit like mine, that two-day shipping can be a real lifesaver too. Happily, the Stomp Rockets that Amy recommended in “The Best $10 Birthday Present You’ll Ever Need” are Amazon Prime eligible — and a big hit with our kids and their friends.

1-Click Efficiency

Now, am I the only one who does this? In the past, I’d agonize over my online shopping carts: Do I have enough here to justify the shipping? What else do I need? (Spend time looking around house.) Oh wait — am I putting unnecessary things in the cart to compensate? (More second-guessing and editing.)

When you don’t have to go through these machinations just to get to the “Buy Now” button, it’s a wonderful feeling. The efficiency of the whole process still gives me a little zing. (I know, weird.)

amazon-1-clickNow when I need something, I run a quick search on Amazon for the best deal and then click that happy “Buy now with 1-Click” button. That’s it. Two days later, box is in hand.

I do batch when I can, but it doesn’t hold me back like it used to. And I try my best to stick to home provisioning, birthday gifts, and books. Amazon helped out with Santa’s list, too.

amazon-prime-filterAlmost every item I look for is offered with free Prime shipping. I don’t even want to see non-Prime choices, so I filter my search results by checking this attribute in the left-hand column.

If the 1-click button is too tempting, it can be turned off in account settings. The easier it is to shop, the easier it is to overspend. Although I find this is true no matter where you shop, online or off. (Target, I’m talking to you.)

Calling All Caregivers

amazon-momIf you’re a mom, dad, grandparent, nanny, babysit your niece every other Thursday — join Amazon Mom.

This free program earns you three months of the Amazon Prime trial membership instead of one, plus 20% off diapers, wipes, and other items in the baby store.

Subscribe & Save

To get even lower prices and maximize time savings, consider the Subscribe & Save program.

Subscribe & Save offers scheduled, automated deliveries of things like laundry supplies, toiletries, baby care, and coffee. For each item, you elect to have it shipped to you every one, two, three, or six months.

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Shipping is free on all Subscribe & Save items — whether you’re a Prime member or not — and you get a 5% discount off the regular price.

“Order Shipping Soon” email notifications give you time to cancel, postpone, or change an order before it ships. I like this automation, but with enough controls in place so I don’t have to remember to monitor it.

One little thing to watch out for here. To reduce boxes and streamline the process, Amazon ships multiple items together on one “monthly Subscribe & Save delivery day.”  You can change a shipment date at any time (for example, you need a new box of diapers right away), but if it falls outside of your monthly Subscribe & Save delivery day, you lose the free shipping and 5% discount for the convenience.

Free Shipping, With a Side of Entertainment

prime-instant-video-library-01Included with a paid subscription to Amazon Prime is the Prime Instant Video library: unlimited, instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost. Not every title available for purchase in the Amazon video store is included in the free Prime library, but there is still plenty to choose from.

If you own a Kindle, the Prime Lending Library offers thousands of books to borrow for free, as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.

Keeping It Green

At first I worried about the environmental impact of a steady stream of packages delivered right to my door. But then I realized that the UPS truck cruises our neighborhood daily anyway, and home deliveries keep my car off the road just a little bit more.

If you’ve got the storage space, take advantage of warehouse sizing and buy in bulk. Less packaging, more product.

We recycle, burn the cardboard in our fireplace, or get creative with it, as demonstrated here by my son Brian, er — “Mr. Cherrywood” the postman.

reuse-cardboard-01

Show Me the Money

So, does Amazon really save money? In my experience, yes, even without adding in the convenience factor.

Here’s a quick price comparison of the best deals to be found on Amazon, the local grocery, and Sam’s Club for two common products.

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The Bottom Line

An Amazon Prime membership fee is well worth the expense if you buy from Amazon all year long, particularly for household and baby products. Good value and convenience team up well here, and scheduled deliveries from Subscribe & Save offer even more time and money saving opportunity.

What about you? Have you tried Amazon’s Prime membership or Subscribe & Save programs? Is $79 worth free shipping all year?

Samantha Sand lives in Delaware with her two kids, two cats, two fish tanks, and one husband.  The pair write about making digital life easier on their blog, Digital Zen, and recently posted about future technology trends in This Tech Will Blow Your Mind.  Sam believes that without continuous effort and intention, slowing down to enjoy family life would not be possible.  She is committed to the challenge, as long as she can keep her iMac.

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34 comments

  • Diana January 19, 2014, 9:59 pm

    This is a great service and I can’t believe all that you get with it. Free shipping, kindle books, plenty of movies. Here’s what else I got: http://amzn.to/1dX7la7 – Netflix should be worried.

    Reply
  • Matt Miller September 25, 2013, 6:58 am

    I am a single DAD. Do you know if Amazon Mom is available to me or is it only offered to one gender???

    Reply
    • Amy September 25, 2013, 11:18 am

      Hi Matt,

      Definitely Amazon Mom is for you too. This is how Amazon describes the program: “Amazon Mom is a free membership program created especially for parents and caretakers of small children. By visiting the Amazon Mom main page, you can sign up or sign in to take advantage of three months of FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime, 20% off diapers and wipes, and other promotions geared toward parents.”

      Hope it works for you!
      Amy

      Reply
    • Samantha Sand September 25, 2013, 2:40 pm

      Yes agreed – I think they chose Amazon Mom because “Amazon Caretaker” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Good luck!

      Reply
  • Judy July 23, 2013, 10:27 pm

    I’m currently in my trial membership of Prime and I can’t decide if it’s worth it. I’m really surprised to see that you found the amazon prices to be cheaper than those in a brick and mortar store. I compared things like pasta sauce, detergent, cleaning products, etc, and most things were considerably more expensive on amazon than in a store. I love the convenience of online shopping and having it shipped to me. That means I don’t have to schlepp the whole gang to the store. But, am I really saving money when the items are more expensive?

    Reply
    • Amy July 24, 2013, 7:51 pm

      Hi Rita,

      I actually buy non-grocery items with Prime: birthday presents, household appliances, craft supplies, etc. I do find that Amazon has consistently lower prices for these things, so I basically eliminate errand-runnning and think the membership fee pays for itself.

      Hope this helps,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Merrily April 8, 2013, 4:10 pm

    Amazon Prime has been a wonderful service for us! We moved to rural Iowa and had a new baby in the past nine months and Prime has been a lifesaver! I didn’t take the baby out for two months after he was born because of the flu outbreak and just about everything we needed came from Prime: Christmas gifts, entertainment through instant watch and Kindle library, household goods, baby gear, etc. It has also been nice to be able to order specific items that aren’t carried in the local stores since their stock is limited.

    Reply
  • Isra {TheFrugalette} January 22, 2013, 11:31 am

    I really need to look into using Amazon a lot more. I know it’s grown above and beond what it used to be, especially for groceries..thanks for the comparison!

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 22, 2013, 12:52 pm

      You’re welcome, and thanks for writing! I haven’t tried too many groceries from Amazon yet. But I think I will now that you mention it. My kids go through a lot of cereal… hope they offer some generic brands ;-)

      Reply
  • Mary Beth January 18, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Besides what you said my daughter and I share a subscription. We are both on the account so theoretically we split the cost of the membership so that we both get the benefits and it is even cheaper.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 22, 2013, 12:21 pm

      That’s another great money saving idea! Thanks for sharing Mary Beth.

      Reply
    • Nikki August 23, 2013, 12:38 am

      Do you see what eachother buys? Like if I shared it with a friend and I got their present through prime, would they see it?

      Reply
      • Samantha Sand August 23, 2013, 4:50 pm

        Hi Nikki – I don’t know the answer to that. My guess would be no, though. I just ask Google whenever I’m not sure about something :-)

        Reply
  • Dwight E January 18, 2013, 9:23 am

    I didn’t realize that Amazon had so many benefits. Me and the wife signed up for it awhile ago, but we pretty much just used it for the two day shipping. I didn’t realize it had so many available options.
    I was thinking about getting my wife a nook, but the book lending feature on the kindle sounds interesting.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 22, 2013, 12:26 pm

      Hi Dwight – I don’t have a Kindle myself, but I imagine the free monthly book might be a nice little bonus. Depends on the inventory. I was a little disappointed with the free movie selection, in the “family” category. Lots of Thomas the Train and other toddler stuff, but I had trouble finding something my six year old wanted to watch.

      Take a look at the titles available in their free library to see how much your wife might borrow from it. Good luck with your decision!

      Reply
  • Julie January 17, 2013, 5:27 pm

    If you subscribe to Amazon Prime is Amazon mom included? I’m trying to decide if we should drop our Costco membership and just go with Amazon Mom. But since we buy a lot of household items I guess we’d need Amazon Prime as well. I love Costco but with 2 kids and my husband and I both working it just isn’t convenient anymore. I’ve been trying to make a decision. Thanks for the discussion!

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 22, 2013, 12:20 pm

      Amazon Mom doesn’t come with Prime automatically. On the flip side, Prime does come with Amazon Mom – but free only for three months. Then it automatically subscribes you to the paid Prime, unless you opt out. I think the Mom program is really just an added incentive to get more subscribers to Prime. That is where the real value is, in my experience. Try it free for three months and see how you like it!

      Reply
  • Misty January 16, 2013, 11:34 pm

    I’ve had my Prime account for over a year now. I’ve saved so much money in shipping it paid for itself many times over. Also, I added a few family members so they can save too. Black Friday shopping will never be at the mercy of the retailer again. I love the instant-video option too. It’s like a combination of Netflix and Hulu and available on Roku and my Blu-Ray player.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:43 pm

      Hi Misty – you brought up a great point that I forgot to mention – sharing a Prime account with family members, even when their address is different. In fact, I was surprised when I shipped a baby gift directly to a friend that the order still qualified for free shipping. So it appears that the benefits are not limited to your own home address, which is really nice.

      I haven’t tried the instant video feature yet, but it looks interesting. Glad you are enjoying it and thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  • Sara Tetreault January 16, 2013, 10:54 pm

    Samantha,
    This is an awesome comparison. Without little ones around any longer, I can get to the store but when my kids were little, we had “Home Grocer” which was an early internet grocery shopping site. We didn’t have wi-fi at home or a computer so I’d send my husband to work with a grocery list and he’d order the groceries during lunch. They’d arrive the next day and I wished to kiss the delivery person! With little kids, convenience can be worth it.
    Great information!

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:35 pm

      Hi Sara, I love that – sending hubby to work with a list! Good for you being an early adopter of online grocery and taking advantage of it when you needed it.

      I use an online grocer sometimes too, but instead of home delivery, to save some bucks I pick up my order using their drive-thru. And I want to kiss those ladies who pull my order as well!

      Reply
  • emily young January 16, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Totally worth the money! We love it!!

    Reply
  • Jennifer Newell January 16, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Thank you for the great information! I’ve been dragging my feet, wondering if its really worth the $79 annual fee. I’ll be joining now. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:17 pm

      Hi cuz, thanks for writing! Glad you got the information you needed to make a decision.

      Reply
  • Jen @ Jen Spends January 16, 2013, 5:21 pm

    I had Prime for free a few years ago back when it was a feature of Amazon Mom, but I didn’t use it very much at the time. However, I found myself wishing I had free shipping many times while I was Christmas shopping last year, and with another baby on the way, I really think it would be helpful. There have been times when I purchased some little thing I didn’t really need just to cross that free Super Saver shipping threshold, which is kind of silly. I think I’ll sign up for Prime at some point this year.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:14 pm

      Hi Jen – it’s so great for moms, isn’t it? All those supplies tiny babies need. I’m wishing you a smooth pregnancy. Thank you for writing in!

      Reply
  • Alison @ L is for Latte January 16, 2013, 1:34 pm

    Yes. We joined several years ago to get free shipping on some very heavy item (grill grates or something like that) and I definitely think it’s worth the money. Love the free book each month on Kindle, too.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:20 pm

      I don’t have a Kindle but I was wondering about that little bonus feature – if the titles were current and if there was a lot to choose from. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it! Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • Tragic Sandwich January 16, 2013, 11:38 am

    I’m a big fan of Amazon Prime. I used to sign up for their free one-month trial at the holidays, and then cancel. Then, when I had Baguette, Amazon somehow gave me a free year of Prime.

    You know what I needed with a newborn? To know when things were going to show up. Prime absolutely met that need. So for the past year, we’ve paid for it. And I order pretty much everything on Amazon, so I’m definitely making use of it. I have no doubt that I would pay more than $79 in shipping each year, particularly for things I need more urgently.

    And the Subscribe and Save feature, particularly when combined with Amazon Mom discounts, has definitely saved us money. We spend less on diapers that come right to our door than we did when we were buying them at Costco.

    Reply
    • Samantha @ Digital Zen January 16, 2013, 11:07 pm

      Hi Tragic, thanks for writing in! When my now 3 yr old was born, Amazon ran a promotion that extended Prime benefits for up to a year. You just had to shop their baby store and for each order over $25, you got another month of Prime. One box of diapers pretty much met that requirement so we enjoyed Prime free for a whole year too.

      I agree, the two-day shipping is amazing. Especially with a newborn like you said. Thanks for sharing your experience! I love “Baguette” by the way – so cute.

      Reply

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