Amazon Prime: Frugal or Foolish?

Every year during No Spend Month, I like to take some time to reevaluate the bills on what I call the “negotiable categories” of our budget. These would be things like the cost of internet service, insurance, and memberships like Costco and Amazon Prime.

Could we be saving money in these categories? Do we even need those memberships? Some super frugal people are indignant about paying for the privilege of spending more money. However, I have always found that Costco at least saves a lot more money than we spend for the annual membership.

Today I want to take a look at the cost of Amazon Prime and see whether or not I should let it off the budget chopping block.

One of the things that makes being a one-car family work for us is being able to order groceries, household items, baby supplies, and just about everything else we need online. I have an Amazon Prime membership, and I order just about every item we need there. If you’re not familiar, the Prime membership includes free two-day shipping on all “prime-eligible” items (usually those shipped from Amazon rather than a third party). So, I get it almost as fast as loading the kids up and going to the store myself. Almost.Driving vs. Delivery

Because I’m super nerdy and love numbers, let’s do a little math.

It’s about 8 miles round trip for me to go to the store. The average cost of gas here in Spokane was $3.83 for 2013, but we all know that the cost of owning and operating a vehicle is far more than just gas. According to AAA, you’ll pay $0.77 per mile to operate the average SUV. I placed 52 orders on Amazon Prime last year, so that’s 52 saved trips to the store. More if you count going to multiple stores to find the best deal.

52 trips x 8 miles per trip x $.77 per mile = $320.32

It would have cost me $320 to drive myself to the store instead of shelling out the $79 for Prime. So, I saved $241 and untold amounts of mommy energy by staying home.  You can easily do the same calculation based on your own location and shopping habits.

I have also done extensive comparison shopping and found that Amazon typically has some of the cheapest prices for many of the items I buy. So, there’s some additional savings in there that’s a little harder to track. If you enroll in Amazon Mom (free with Prime), you get 20% off diapers and other kid stuff everyday.


One of the other perks of Amazon Prime is that you get unlimited streaming of many movies and TV shows. The service is comparable to Netflix. We got this handy dandy little cable for $8 (on Amazon of course) that connects the Kindle to our TV, so I can catch up on Downtown Abbey and Smash on the big screen. If we canceled our Netflix membership, we’d save $95.88 per year, which more than covers the $79 for Amazon Prime. We haven’t canceled it yet, but now that I think about it, maybe we should. But then again, I’d really miss White Collar.


Prime allows us to check out one book per month from the Amazon Kindle lending library. It’s nice because it’s delivered directly to our kindle immediately, almost like magic. (Ok, it’s not our Kindle at all, it’s my husband’s that he very sweetly let’s me borrow almost every night.)
We almost always get books from the real library, and rarely spend money on books. So this is more of a convenience and instant gratification factor, rather than actually saving money.

The Verdict

Yes, we are technically paying to shop, and that sounds like a really silly thing to do when you’re trying to save money. When we started getting intense about budgeting and saving money, I very nearly canceled the membership. After a closer look though, Prime is obviously worth the expense and does save us quite a bit.
You can sign up now for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. Just be sure to cancel it if you decide not to keep it. Though if you do forget, I think they’ll prorate it for how much you actually used it if you’re not too awfully late.

Do you use Prime? Do you think it saves you money?

Click to find out whether being an Amazon Prime member makes you frugal or foolish. #frugalliving #moneysavingtips

shannon Clark, LIFE & FINANCIAL Coach

As a mom, I know what it's like to feel exhausted, overwhelmed by life, and inadequate to meet my children's needs. But I also know you don't have to stay there.

As an author and coach, I've had the joy of encouraging more than 9.1 million moms to find forward motion with their faith, family, and finances — without the frenzy.

Will you be next?

20 thoughts on “Amazon Prime: Frugal or Foolish?”

  1. I do use Amazon Prime. I also am able to get it at the discounted rate of $39/year because I am a student. We use it instead of Netflix & Hulu (we still have an antenna so we get the major networks at least), and I have a price sheet drawn up to compare bulk prices on the things we need. It is also AMAZING for buying gifts. I am able to get people what they want at a better price and don’t even have to step into a store! With a large family, this is a huge selling point for me. The gas savings alone on shopping make it worthwhile.

    Plus, with Swagbucks and a survey site I use to earn gift cards I feel like I’m maximizing savings by having prime.

    • I tried the 30 day prime recently, well – December 2016. Some of the items came quickly yes, and that was real nice. Sadly others did not and many orders came split up in multiple boxes on different days. I’m not talking during the typical Christmas rush. I’ve been a customer with Amazon for many years only getting a few things in bulk as needed as a man. Yes, real men love this site too on major budget get info here. Unfortunately, what steered me away from the extra prime fee ($99 is +tax) Being charged state taxes on everything now really takes many of the Amazon benefits away. With the online market we can go directly to the sellers and order and avoid the extra tax, for the extra savings. Most companies offer free shipping now too. Cut cable years ago and did not watch anything on prime. Did not have a Amazon device to watch it on. Divorced single dad, just making it on a super tight budget.

  2. I did the 1 month trial and have not looked back. I love the shopping convenience especially since I am so busy. And it comes so quickly.

  3. If you get the trial, don’t want it, but forget to cancel within 30 days they will refund the $80 if you haven’t made a purchase with it.
    I have student prime, it’s awesome!

  4. I have to admit I waffled back and forth a long time before signing up for Prime. Now that we have it, it would be very hard to let go for many of the same reasons you cite. The reason why I think it *may* be more of an unnecessary convenience than a need is because before Prime, I simply had to wait a week (sometimes a little more) before getting what I bought rather than 2 days. Since I hardly ever had an order less than $25, every order was shipped free. So the 2-day shipping, though I LOVE it, doesn’t always strike me as a necessary budgetary item. Plus I have found that it just doesn’t have as many offerings that we like for streaming shows as Netflix does. In the end, we have decided to keep both Prime and Netflix, but I think if we were forced to choose, it would be Netflix for us. BUT I thoroughly enjoy my prime membership and am too addicted to Julia Child’s The French Chef to let that go! ;-)

    • I have really struggled with amazon because I prefer to shop local and support our local economy. But with 2 very young boys, getting them
      In and out of the car drives me crazy. This year I started ordering more with my amazon prime membership and while I sometimes feel guilty it has been invaluable. Plus, I love that you can assign benefits to people. My husband who has NO time can now order gifts without me seeing. And I can help my mom who lives 1-2 hours from the store and is on a limited budget since she’s retired.

  5. I don’t feel like Prime is paying to shop, it’s more like a flat-rate shipping for the year. I pay at max $80 as long as I buy Prime items. Ok at christmas time, I buy almost everything online… If I buy 25 items at a low estimate of $5 shipping that’s $125. I’ve already saved money and that’s just Christmas! I can buy all year and still be saving on shipping! I just today found out about the instant stream! That’s a huge perk!

  6. I also have it, bought it at Christmas time because I was doing some online shopping and wanted to save on the shipping. I am currently living w/ my parents who have cable, but if I lived on my own I would definitely just use the prime video streaming and skip cable entirely. I think that in my situation it only saves a bit of money but for a family it would definitely save a lot!

    • I love using Amazon Prime for Christmas presents! Every Black Friday, I sit down at the computer and order all my gifts instead of going out to fight the crowds. I more than make up the cost of my membership on that one day alone with all the money I save.

  7. I don’t have prime and rarely shop on Amazon. Never really think about it to be honest. We are a Netflix and Hulu Plus household since we got rid of cable/dish. I can’t see us changing that. We love our netflix. I also price match and coupon quite often. Does it really compare to coupon prices? I am going to check it out a little more in depth. If I do decide to try it out I will use your site to sign up. I would think for those that are already members that you also save more money by going into a store less often. As much as we try to stick to our list sometimes we just get a little something extra. thanks for the review.

  8. I LOVE AMAZON PRIME! Sorry to yell, but I use it for everything! When Amazon came out and said their sales were down 25% last month, my UPS man said ‘It sure wasn’t your fault!’ LOL Since I use it as often as possible I knock off 20% off my monthly amount! I buy TP, paper towel ,cat food dishwashing/clothes washing detergents,etc. Love my Kindle too! Free books gotta love! I highly recommend Amazon Prime!

  9. When I did price comparisons early last year I found Amazon was slightly more expensive than Walmart for a lot of items such as toilet paper, pet food, and hygiene items. Am I missing something? We have Prime specifically for gifts and such, but I haven’t been using it for household products because it seemed to be more expensive?

    • I think you’re right on. I keep a price list that shows all the items I buy most often and the different stores where I shop including Amazon, Costco, local farms, and a couple local grocery stores. That way I know where to get the best deal. I get TP, garbage bags, stuff like that usually at Costco because it’s cheaper than Amazon. Amazon really wins out on anything that Costco (or maybe Walmart in your case) doesn’t have for the home, some bulk foods, and any specialty items, electronics, some personal care items. Either way, I do find that the reduced transportation costs, reduced impulse buys, and less time spent shopping (that I could be using to run my home business), and the ability to be a one car family more than makes up for the occasionally slightly higher price of some products. I think it just depends on what you buy most often, but I do encourage you all to try keeping a price list. You can download a free printable price list when you sign up for free email updates to this blog, for a limited time only!

  10. I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought things from other online sources that meet or beat the price you can get on Amazon in the past year or two. Also, you can often get free shipping. Yes, you may not get the item quite as fast, but your life will go on if you have to wait an extra day or two. Personally I’m tired of supporting Jeff Bezos and his expensive rocket hobby, on which he spends 1.3 billion dollars per year.


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