Saturday, January 25, 2014

And this is all we need

Since we cut our family income in half almost exactly a year ago when my paid maternity leave ended, we have re-assessed a lot of the solutions we were using for convenience.

Though I love Amazon Fresh grocery delivery with all my heart and soul, we couldn't justify the higher prices and $75 minimum order, so I stopped using it. For the items we buy regularly it was cheaper for me to go to Whole Foods (!). Given that our "regular" grocery store is Trader Joe's, which is a lot less expensive than either of those options, I went back to traditional grocery shopping.

The other thing we gave up was our weekly yard service. We hate doing yard work, and our yard had never looked better, but at $50/week it was definitely not a necessity.

We dropped our Costco membership - every time we went to the store we'd spend $200 in stuff we weren't intending to buy, just because it was there and a great deal.  See ya!

Ditto the weekly organic vegetable CSA-type box from various places. I was never great at staying on top of it (how healthy we'd be if I was!) and it was more than I'd spend on just the things I know we'd eat, even at Whole Foods, so we dropped it.

But the one thing I haven't quit is our Amazon subscription orders for various household items.  For many items, like non-perishable foods, cleaning products, personal care stuff, and dog food (yay!), Amazon has a special "Subscribe and Save" option that allows you to get that item regularly.  You choose the interval from 1 to 6 months, and you can "skip" months, or postpone deliveries if you don't need it right away. If you have 5 or more items arriving each month, you get 20% off on the whole thing, and that's where the magic happens.

When you don't get the 20%, the subscription is probably slightly more expensive than buying the equivalent item at Target. But for the convenience it can't be beat, especially for things like a 30lb bag of dog food - shlepping that and a 25lb baby to the car at the same time is physically impossible for me.  And now that I've figured out what we need on a regular basis, I've got 5 items every month, so I always get the 20%, which makes it slightly less expensive (and that doesn't even count the gas and time needed to go to the specialty pet store, Target, and the grocery store). 

Amazon has changed the program over time - you no longer get to "lock in" the price at which you subscribed, so I've noticed some things rising in price over time and have had to cancel a few when they got too expensive.  They moved to shipping all subscription items together on the same day each month and I can't adjust that if I need something sooner. You also don't get Prime 2-day shipping on the items, so it can take a week for them to arrive (but they are excellent about getting here before the day Amazon tells me they should arrive).

For the first few months, I had to log in mid-month and adjust things as I figured out how we used them, but now that I've been doing this for a year, most of the "regulars" are set up perfectly.  

Here's a quick list of the things I have on subscription:
  • Soy milk - 8 64oz shelf-stable cartons. Only a few dollars more (total) than Trader Joe's and they show up at my door. We go through more than this in one month, but it's a good start.
  • Wellness "Old Dog" food - this can only be found locally in specialty stores, for almost $20 more than we pay on Amazon. Plus the bag is HEAVY.
  • Organic Applesauce Cups - I use these for T's lunches and quick snacks. Shelf-stable and hard to find locally.
  • Peter Rabbit Organics "Squeezy Fruit" - hard to find locally and much cheaper than individual packs at Whole Foods
  • Larabars - both girls love these, and the price is comparable to Trader Joe's individual price
  • Cetaphil Restoraderm Body Wash - the only thing that works on T's eczema. Not always available locally.
  • Toilet paper - I hate running out of paper products so we buy the big box.
  • Paper towels - Ditto
  • Huggies Overnight Diapers - comparable price to Target which doesn't always have them
  • All Free & Clear Laundry "Pods" - can't find these locally

I'm not a personal finance expert, so I won't claim this is some fantastic money saving trick, but it does help me avoid extra trips to Target, affectionately known as the "$50 store". In addition, we rarely run out of the essentials like toilet paper, overnight diapers, or our favorite kid snacks, so there aren't as many "emergency runs" to the grocery store.  Did I mention I dislike grocery shopping?

If we ever have to go into financial lockdown, I'll re-evaluate whether we need all of these things, but for now it works really well for us to have them just show up at various intervals.  If you're on the fence about setting up a subscription, I'd recommend trying it.  You can cancel items anytime before they ship and adjust the timing as needed. I love it, especially since we don't have any kind of "warehouse club" membership.

And yes, I do have Amazon ads on my blog, but I wrote this post spontaneously. I love me some Amazon shopping.


  1. I haven't ever checked out Amazon for some of our staple items - I will now!

  2. I often then I should own Amazon by now considering how much money gets funneled to them monthly. I love that you did an evaluation on your spending. Having just become a member of the unemployed I am going to have to do this as well. Ugh. It seems everything I want to have shipped via Amazon on a regular basis isn't available for that option. But unlike you, I do like to grocery shop, so it works out for me.

  3. I wish they had this in Canada - I'm sure it will roll out eventually. In the meantime I agree with you - my number one way to save money is just to avoid going out to a store (especially Target - it's more like my $75 store, SHEESH). So ordering from home is brilliant - I can't wait!

  4. I haven't done subscribe and save. I probably do buy diapers 1x/month from Amazon, but I wanted to keep the flexibility. But so with you on Costco being a major money losing proposition. I mean, yes, on individual items it is a hugely good deal (GoGo squeez applesauce, microwavable individual mac n cheese, etc.). BUT we never walk out of there without spending hundreds of dollars, and I cannot believe that we need everything we spent the hundreds of dollars on. It's like everything in the store has a halo over it because it's SUCH A GOOD DEAL that I can't even remember what we paid but it must be SUCH A GOOD DEAL. Eh.

  5. Thanks for the info. I've used Amazon a few times for diapers and somehow ended up with so many boxes of diapers I may never need to buy diapers again. Which is kinda sweet if you think about it.
    Avoiding trips to the grocery store/target is awesome and definitely saves money. I actually spend less now that we mostly go to whole foods because I avoid all their 'weird' boxed stuff and just stick with fresh produce and dairy.

  6. I'm a huge subscribe and save lover but have recently started using it more!! It saves my life!! :)


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