Ever seen that show called Extreme Couponing? It’s intense. Entire households are consumed by the notion of buying up to a 100 items at a time, and paying next to nothing once all their coupons have been scanned. The end result is having to convert the basement of their house into a resident 7-Eleven. Literally. These families have so much “in stock,” they take inventory of all their supplies, and, should the world come to an end, could live out the apocalypse in the comfort of their own home.
The show does have the word “extreme” in the title for a reason, but neither our blog nor this post are about extremism. Instead, we are going to talk about taking a moderate approach by taking advantage of opportunities to save a few bucks on everyday necessities. In other words — don’t leave money on the table when you leave the store, or the online shopping cart.
Altogether, our frugal approach has decreased our annual spending by over $1,000.
So, how do we do it, and how can anyone do it? The first thing you have to do is make a list of things of household items that need constant re-stocking. These are basic items, like cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. Get really specific with this list — include the brand names you use, the size, and the quantity. Your goal should be to figure out exactly what you use and how quickly you go through it. The life span of each product will help you to create a purchasing schedule, which will allow you to take advantage of home delivery subscription services from Amazon.
If you really want to take advantage of the Subscribe & Save offers on Amazon, you need to figure out which items you need delivered in bulk and when. By having five or more items delivered on the same schedule, Amazon offers an additional 15% discount off of your entire order.
To clarify, Amazon Subscribe & Save is a FREE feature of Amazon that is separate from the PAID services available via Amazon Prime. Subscribe & Save allows you to manage monthly deliveries while being able to cancel an order at any time. We have Amazon Prime and enjoy the benefits, primarily free two-day shipping and access to thousands of audiobooks, but this article’s focus is on the free features offered by Amazon. (If you’re interested in checking out Amazon Prime, you can try a free 30-day trial.)
I’m going to use the five basic items our household has delivered every three months to break down the savings benefits and extrapolate that over the course of the year:
The retail prices I found are from Target, Walgreens and Walmart — basically conveniently located places where my fiance and I would go to in order to replenish anything that was “out of stock” in our home. Since we live in a city, and do not have a car, we don’t have access to wholesaler retailers such as Sam’s Club or Costco. Amazon Subscribe and Save has saved us time, money, and the trouble of lugging large bulk items to our high rise building.
While retail prices fluctuate with sales and special offers, I have found that Amazon prices are pretty much the same year round. This allows us to predict our household budget by the month, the quarter, and ultimately the year. On razor blades, paper towels, toilet paper, dishwasher pods, and toilet bowl cleaner alone, we save an average of $133/year.
These savings do not include the cost of our time OR the cost associated with going to the store to pick up the goods. In addition to that, I don’t miss hearing, “Babe! Baaaaaabe! We’re out of toilet paper!” echoing from the bathroom. We also subscribe to trash bags, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning sprays, Lysol wipes, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, q-tips, cotton balls, and pretty much anything and everything else that one might consider a “necessity.”
That’s why making a list of items and how long it takes your household to go through them is key — you have to bulk together the items with similar life spans, and take advantage of that extra 15% off. And it’s not just household items either. It’s pet supplies, beauty and skincare, groceries, baby needs, and more.
Personally, I keep it real simple with things like hair and makeup. I use the same eye liner, mascara, face cream, and face wash every day. I realized that I run though these items once every three months, so I grouped them together to save an average 35% off of the retail price:
On these 5 items alone, we end up saving an average of $100 a year.
We know that the things we need are routinely delivered, so we don’t find ourselves walking up and down store aisles and picking up “this and that.” It’s shopper psychology 101 and retailers feed off of it — you didn’t want that Almond Joy bar until you saw it, and now it’s in your mouth…ahem…shopping cart. Or my favorite: you think you’re done shopping, but you’re looking around the store and asking yourself (out loud like a crazy person), “What else do I need?” A most unexpected and wonderful byproduct of this Subscribe & Save practice is the elimination of impulsive buying. Because these things aren’t what you “need,” they’re what you want.
This practice has helped us to automate and regulate our routines and our spending habits. Maybe it can work for you, too. Maybe you can save a $100 a year, or maybe you can save $1,000 a year. I know that after living in Chicago for eight years and using this service for the last five, I have avoided overpaying for everyday items by about $5K. Yes, It is time-consuming to go over every single thing that you buy, and then cataloging it into an excel sheet, but ask yourself: is it so time consuming that it’s not worth $1,000 a year?
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