Amazon Prime doesn’t save you money

You may think you’re getting one over on them when you have Amazon Prime, but Amazon is laughing all the way to the bank.

I want you to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription.

I don’t say this because I hate Amazon, or believe they must be stopped, or anything like that. They will be stopped, eventually, just like all tech giants. Remember AOL? Facebook has started its slow decline, and I couldn’t be happier, and Amazon will get its due soon.

And unlike Facebook, I do use Amazon. In the last three months, according to my order history, I spent about $160. I’d say that’s a little low, but about right.

I’m just here to say that having an Amazon Prime subscription doesn’t save you money. You just think it does.

Perhaps you don’t care about saving money. And if so, that’s okay. I’ve got no problem if you want to pay for convenience.

But I don’t want you to think for a second that you’re somehow saving money. Quite the opposite.

Let’s take a look.

Amazon Prime feels cheap

Amazon Prime is $119 a year, less if you qualify for the Student rate. This gets you lots of different benefits (movies, music, Whole Foods deals, etc.), but mostly, what people get is the 2-DAY FREE SHIPPING.

I love free shipping, don’t you?

And we’re talking about $10 a month, which isn’t that much to ask in most households. You might be tempted to wonder what all the fuss is about.

But let’s take a look at this graph, which shows how much the average Prime member spends on Amazon versus the non-Prime member:

Source: Statista

These are all pre-pandemic figures, but even still, we’re looking at an average of $1,400 versus $600, a difference of $800.

Now remember, Prime is $119 a year. Do you think these people saved hundreds of dollars in shipping?

No, they just bought more at Amazon, because it was so easy. Just click a few times and the items will be at your door in a few days.

I don’t pay for shipping

I haven’t paid for shipping on Amazon in a few years. Well, maybe once.

That’s because if you don’t mind waiting 5-7 business days, and you don’t mind getting your purchase order up to $25, they’ll send you everything for free.

Now the $25 minimum order might induce some spending of course, but I generally have a bunch of sub-$10 items that I wouldn’t mind acquiring at some point. When it’s time to buy something, if it’s less than $25, I toss one of those little things into the cart, and free shipping it is.

But I could pay for shipping

Generally speaking, shipping costs less than $10, at least in my experience.

In order to make up the cost of Amazon Prime, you would need to make at least 12 purchases like this in a given year.

These are orders where you have decided that you must have it quickly. But did you really need it that fast? Sure it’s fun to click a button and let the machinery of the empire grind into action, dropping a box by your door before you know it, but did you really need it that fast?

Well, if you do, then by all means, pay for shipping.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can find a better price

Yes, we all know that Amazon sells things so cheaply that it’s almost not worth shopping around.

Except when it is.

I recently was in the market to purchase some energy bars, and the 12 pack (which I had bought from Amazon many times before) had gone from $25 to $40 seemingly overnight.

The price was still $30 elsewhere, but if I had had Prime, I wouldn’t have bothered to look, because of the implicit pressure to utilize your Prime benefits.

Same thing with my beloved Vega protein powder. If I hadn’t checked another site, I would never have known about the absolutely insane deal that MorningSave has been running for some time, which turns out to be about 14% of the price on Amazon. Not 14% off, 86% off.

Now that’s cheap.

That’s how much extra I would have spent if I had had Prime.

So, how much extra are you spending on the same goods because you use Prime?

I have never had an Amazon Prime membership, on the principle that it’s much easier to never start smoking than it is to quit. But people can and do quit.

A quick note on worker conditions

It appears that by ordering things that require rapid delivery, we are contributing to the deteriorated working conditions at Amazon. It has been suggested that ordering things with a more flexible turnaround time can, by nature of less stringent deadlines, improve conditions for the zillions of people who package our stuff.

Just a thought.

Quitting smoking is hard

I have never had an Amazon Prime membership, on the principle that it’s much easier to never start smoking than it is to quit.

But people do start smoking, and people can quit.

It might be momentarily harder to adjust to purchases where you either need to pay for shipping or have things arrive more slowly. But then again, maybe adapting to the slow shipping life, just like Slow Food, might actually be a good thing.

Amazon made a profit of somewhere between $2 and $6 billion in the second quarter of this year. That’s three months, not even the whole year. And you really think you are getting one over on them?

Hardly. The house always wins. Las Vegas isn’t so opulent because people come away winners. It’s time to leave the table.

Postscript: Right after this post went live, I placed a small order on Amazon, three items, in the range of $30. They claimed it would take a week to arrive using the free shipping method. It arrived in less than 24 hours.

I’m just saying, you might still get fast shipping anyway.


  1. Camille M

    Hi Mike! It’s great you put the numbers here I was pretty curious to see how much the average Amazon Prime customer spent vs regular Amazon customers. $800 is a lot!

    I personally use regular free shipping (much to the dismay of my husband who wishes we could be part of the Prime club) and honestly it definitely helps curb unnecessary spending because we put it on our cart and wait to just to fill it up until it reaches free shipping but in the process we totally forget about the item since we never really needed it in the first place!

    • Mike Pumphrey

      Thanks! It’s great to see that there are other people who haven’t been sucked into the Prime rabbit hole. 🙂

      And yes, I too prefer to wait 24-48 hours before making an unexpected purchase, on the idea that if I’m not still thinking about it, it probably wasn’t important anyway!

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