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.

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