4 Ways Amazon Shopping Is Actually Saving You Money (and 4 Ways It’s Not)

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

saving money on Amazon

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

Attention, Amazon shoppers. There could be a cleanup needed on … your budget.

Yes, Amazon makes shopping easy. It could also be cost effective. The platform’s prices are typically 11 percent lower than those at speed-shipping peers Target, Walmart, and Jet, according to Profitero.

But sale price is just one factor in deciding whether you use Amazon to spend money or actually save it.

4 ways Amazon is saving you money

If you’re not sure how effective an online shopper you are, Amazon offers you a way to find out. Click on your account, scroll to your past orders, and you’ll see every item you’ve purchased on the site.

You might see orders that you now regret. To avoid making similar shopping mistakes in the future, consider these four money-saving strategies.

1. Buying used

Amazon is infamous for putting pressure on brick-and-mortar booksellers, and I’m a tiny part of that movement. Most of my Amazon purchases are used books.

The savings explain why. Say you wanted to read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” one of the best books for beginner investors. You’d find that Amazon’s new prices beat Barnes & Noble’s. But you’d also learn that buying used could cut the hardcover price from about $21 to about $10 or the paperback cost from $10 to $5.

It’s possible you could find Kahneman’s book for a lower price in a used bookstore in your neighborhood. But not having to go searching for it also saves you time.

Saving money by buying used, damaged, and refurbished on Amazon goes beyond books. Amazon Warehouse allows you to find offers posted by third-party sellers. It’s a particularly good spot if you’re looking for an electronic on a budget.

2. Holiday gifts

Every order I placed in my first three years of using Amazon, from 2010 through 2012, was a gift for someone else. I’d always hated going to the shopping mall, browsing through stores, and not being able to compare prices side by side.

Buying presents on Amazon, you can more easily set and stick to a budget. During the holidays, for example, I set a maximum $50 budget for each family member. Seeing the itemized listing for sales tax and shipping keeps me honest. In a store, I would have spent too much just to shorten my to-do list.

Finally, buying presents on Amazon is especially a money-saver if you use some old-fashioned good sense. Make a list of gifts you’d like to buy, find the best prices for each, and group them into one cheaper shipping option. If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you need to spend $25 to qualify for free shipping.

If you’re buying presents for family that lives farther than a drive away, Amazon’s free shipping saves you money, plus a trip to the post office. And it provides gift wrapping just like brick-and-mortar stores.

3. Price-checking

There are all sorts of ways to find the best price on an item before or after you check out. When buying shoes and clothing, you might find Amazon’s price goes up or down based on your color selection. My favorite running shoes are $10 cheaper in beet red and lime punch, for example.

If you’re in the market for a big-ticket purchase like a TV, you could use a price tracker like Camelcamelcamel to alert you to the best time to buy. There are also money-saving options if you already bought the TV. You could link your account to a refunding service like Earny or Paribus in case the TV drops in price.

If you prefer, you might also check out web browser extensions like Honey. They also provide price tracking while showing the cheapest buying option on Amazon to help you get the best price.

4. Going Prime

By now, you’re probably already familiar with Amazon Prime, a $10.99 monthly or $99 annual membership that provides fast, free shipping on all orders. Whether Prime saves you money, it does offer the convenience of never having to pay for delivery.

But there are other ways to qualify for no- or low-cost shipping via Prime:

  • Anyone can get a free 30-day trial.
  • EBT cardholders only pay $5.99 per month.
  • Students are offered a free six-month trial before a $5.49 monthly or $49 yearly charge.
  • Families and roommates can share a family plan to save money.

Aside from the media streaming benefits of going Prime, being a member includes discounts on actual items. Using Amazon Family, for example, new parents can save up to 20 percent off the cost of diapers and baby food.

If you’re not a Prime member, you could still save up to 15 percent on family essentials using the platform’s Subscribe & Save program. You would need to subscribe to and receive at least five deliveries per month to score the discount.

4 ways Amazon isn’t saving you money

You could save hundreds of dollars by shopping on Amazon instead of Walmart and Jet, according to an analysis of 25 popular products from Business Insider. But there are exceptions to the rule. Toilet paper and laundry detergent, for example, can be more expensive on Amazon.

So it’s important to remember that just because Amazon can save you money doesn’t mean it will save you money all the time. Here are four ways it might be costing you.

1. Grocery shopping

In our analysis of grocery delivery services, we found that buying food online is generally more expensive than heading to the store yourself. That’s the case for Amazon Fresh, even though the service dropped its price to $14.99 per month.

Including the required Prime membership, you’d pay $279 per year to have your groceries shipped to your door. To make sure that cost is worth it to you, take these steps:

  • Compare Amazon Fresh’s prices to your local grocer’s for your most frequently purchased items.
  • Account for other costs of going to the grocery store, such as gas for the car.
  • Ask yourself if the convenience of online shopping and home delivery makes up for the difference in cost.

For example, I’ve found Amazon Fresh’s prices to be competitive but not better than my grocery store, which is just two blocks away from my house. But just because cost outweighs convenience for me doesn’t mean it will for you. Run the numbers and decide for yourself.

2. Cart add-ons

When you click on an Amazon item you’re considering, you’ll be shown a couple of other buying opportunities under the headings:

  • “Frequently bought together”: A second item that can complement your purchase
  • “Customers who bought this item also bought”: Other related items
  • “Sponsored products related to this item”: Other related items from third-party sellers
Amazon shopping mistakes

Image credit: Amazon.com

It’s possible that these suggestions remind you of something else on your shopping list. But it’s more likely that these advertisements tempt you into buying something you weren’t planning to purchase. These kinds of cart add-ons can end up costing you money.

This also goes for making smaller purchases to reach the $25 minimum before free shipping kicks in. When the minimum was higher back in the day, I once found myself buying a sports water bottle ($12.95) that I didn’t need and guitar picks ($1.22) I never used.

3. Buying in bulk

You might log onto Amazon wanting one of something and instead buy a dozen of it. The deal was too good to pass up, you might rationalize to yourself.

But you only save by buying in bulk when it’s a product that you:

  • Need more of
  • Can realistically store in your home
  • Won’t burn through faster when you have more of it on hand
  • Can’t buy for less money elsewhere

I tested this theory by buying a 24-count of my favorite cereal for $134.98, or $5.62 per box. I found that I ate more of this sugary treat because of the discount, not because I wanted to eat more of it. There was also little-to-no savings. The cereal cost $5.99 per box at my grocery store but was often on sale for $4.99.

4. Browsing deals

With its daily deals and grocery coupons section, Amazon is ripe for wasting time and money searching for and buying things you don’t need.

You could rationalize that you’re scoring an even better deal by using the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. But you’ll still be buying something that wasn’t necessarily on your shopping list.

Here are a few ways to avoid these tempting deals on Amazon and other sites:

  • On second thought: Ask yourself if you’d buy the item in a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Sleep on it: Wait 24 hours before adding the item to your cart and checking out.
  • Stick to the list: Ask yourself if this is a “want” that you can live without.

Make the most of Amazon by saving, not overspending

It’s understandable to go to Amazon for a sale the way you might go to Google for an answer. And, sure, Amazon does help you save money at times. But it also might encourage you to spend more than you should.

If you like shopping on Amazon but want to do a better job at saving money, think about changing your spending mindset. Then, log back in and stick to your shopping list.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.

Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:
    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.979% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.30% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of November 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.29%. Variable interest rates range from 2.79%-8.39% (2.79%-8.39% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.57% – 6.97%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.51% – 8.09%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.02% – 6.44%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.50% – 7.24%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.79% – 8.39%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.