30 days without Amazon Prime (and how you can spend less online)

I made a big step toward minimalism in the past month: I stopped using Amazon Prime, and I’ve only bought one item on Amazon in that time: a single e-book. For many years, Amazon has been the inescapable online shopping outlet of choice for me, especially once Prime’s free, two-day shipping became a thing. However, for several years I’ve wanted to call it quits, but I wasn’t sure I could live without it—until now!

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t stopped online shopping completely. Target, in particular, got several orders from me in the past month—but I waited to make just a few online orders, and I spent more time thinking about my orders. With Amazon Prime, on the other hand, it’s just too easy.

A cat peers out of a cardboard box
I do love a cat in a box, but I don’t miss the onslaught of Amazon packages coming to my home. Photo credit: Jiawei Zhao on Unsplash

I finally decided to stop using Prime (and Amazon, other than the aforementioned e-book) after reading a book by well-known minimalist Joshua Becker called The More of Less. In it, he tells the story of a couple who wanted to go on vacation but didn’t have the extra money to do so. However, they get home one day and have a big pile of Amazon packages waiting for them (sound familiar?), and start to think about their Amazon purchases. Looking back, they discover that they’ve spent more than $10K in several years just on Amazon purchases, with most of the items purchased costing less than $40 each.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even want to do the math on how much money I spend on Amazon each year. I think it could be more than $10K a year, for how much I’ve used it. (Granted, I hate going out in the world to shop, so other than groceries and some household items, I buy everything online, but still.) That’s a lot of money going into Jeff Bezos’s pocket (and Amazon avoids paying taxes on all of its income).

Those “small” purchases

What really got me about the couple who Becker describes in his book is that they identified that almost all the items they bought on Amazon were $40 or less. I thought back to my own most recent Amazon purchases, and sure enough, almost everything was cheap (or at least, cheap to me, recognizing that I have a level of comfort and privilege that not everyone has). And the items aren’t just cheap in price—most of them are cheaply made. They aren’t quality items. For every quality item I got from Amazon, there are probably five items that haven’t stood the test of time. But the items were so cheap, and so tempting, I just kept buying them anyway.

Breathing room

For the past month, I finally feel like I can breathe again. We still have packages coming to our home, but it’s not every day or even every couple days. In spurts I buy household essentials from Target or Grove Collaborative (more on why I love Grove in an upcoming post!), or clothing from Nordstrom Rack, but not at nearly the same volume or money. For anyone who knows me, you know that I like things, and I love online shopping, so this is a big deal, and I’m planning to continue my “experiment” for another month.

Set a limit

The great thing about setting a limit (such as 30 days) is that it gives you enough time to break the habit that gives you that coveted dopamine rush of a habitual action. And here’s the thing—I AM a recovering online shopaholic, so no judgment here. I have suggestions on how to avoid going overboard with online shopping because I’ve spent years working on controlling those habits.

Tips for spending less online

As experts on habit suggest, give yourself at least 3-4 weeks to change a habit, and focus on one habit at a time. Here are some strategies that have helped me (and again, not saying I’m perfect or don’t make an impulse purchase now and then!).

  1. Make impulse purchases more difficult by not saving credit cards (or removing credit cards you’ve previously saved).
  2. Consider how many credit cards you really need, and whether those cards benefit you. Personally, I find that I do best with only two credit cards, both of which have low interest rates and which I pay off every month.
  3. Set a budget for how much you can spend at a particular online retailer, or all online retailers.
  4. Wait 24 hours to make all purchases, or at least more expensive purchases—it’s amazing how 1-2 days can change your perspective on “needing” an item.
  5. Keep a list of items you need to purchase and wait until a specific time (like once a week on Sundays) to order items at the same time (which also gives you more time to think about them).

Maybe quitting your Amazon Prime membership and/or not using Amazon is too difficult—I realize that a lot of you may have life circumstances (like juggling several jobs or raising kids) that make Amazon an important resource. What I would encourage you to do is think about your online shopping habits with different retailers and whether they fit with your goals and priorities.

Are there ways you can ensure that you are more intentional about what you purchase? Are there certain conditions (like sales, free shipping, automatic orders, or credit card points) that make you more likely to impulse buy? There’s nothing wrong with online shopping, but it can be worth thinking about how we do so. And I’ll keep experimenting and report back with more suggestions! Stay tuned.

Featured Photo Credit: Leone Venter on Unsplash

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