Is this blog becoming a place for paid shilling? No, Amazon didn’t pay me to write this. And yes, it’s true that if any of the tens of readers of this blog sign up for a Prime trial or use my affiliate links, I’ll make a buck or two. But I’m not such an easy endorser. Amazon Prime has made my hectic life much easier in so many ways, any one of which could be worth the $99 annual price.
Free same-day and two-day shipping
Buying things on Amazon appeals to me in three ways: I like to spend as little time and money as possible buying things, I’m an ambivert and I like reading reviews of things I buy before I buy them. This makes the idea of taking a trip to the mall, interacting with a salesperson and standing in line to buy a pair of pants an unnecessary proposition. To sweeten the deal, Amazon gives Prime members free two-day shipping on any order, and free same-day shipping on some items as long as you spend $35. You can even extend this set of privileges to a family member who lives in another state.
As organized and dependable as we try to make our lives, omissions happen. We’ve all forgotten the birthday present, the school supplies, the spare tube of toothpaste. Amazon lets me pull peace of mind out of an “oh sh*t” moment, knowing I’ll have whatever I forgot within a day or two.
Free, unlimited, automatic photo storage
The Amazon Photos app will automatically back up all of your photos, from any device, into your Amazon Cloud Drive whenever it’s connected to Wi-Fi. You can also use the app to view the backed up photos, even after you’ve deleted them from the device. Lindy and I use this feature to see each other’s photos without having to email or text them back and forth. It’s easy to download multiple photos at once from a computer too.
Amazon does also offer online storage for documents and videos, but it’s limited unless you pay extra. I also use Dropbox, so this value-added option isn’t for me.
As an Android phone guy, I’ve never had much use for iTunes. As an iPad user who also has a laptop, I can easily listen to my digital music library using the Prime Music app. I can download tracks to the device or stream them anywhere. Bonus: thousands of albums are included for streaming at no additional charge. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten ready to buy music only to find it’s already included with Prime. Lindy found this most recently with the Hamilton soundtrack and when we decided to have a Pet Shop Boys retrospective during a long road trip. You can also upload your existing CD collection and keep it in the cloud, for access anywhere on any of your devices.
Prime Instant Video
Amazon has a massive library of free video content available for streaming, from the Curious George reruns that buy us an extra hour in bed Saturday mornings to original series. Movies are available for sale or rent, usually for less or at the same price as iTunes. And you can watch it all from a device with the Prime Video app, or by plugging an Amazon Fire Stick into a TV or a projector. The latter is our favorite way to watch things.
We have recycled a lot of brown cardboard boxes with As on them, and a lot of air packaging. I’m not sure if driving a hybrid around town to buy various things in reusable bags is better or worse than delivery trucks and new boxes. To keep the environmental costs of this kind of consumerism as low as possible, I try to group my orders so we’re at least not getting multiple boxes with one or two items in them.
Amazon has nearly perfected the science of making it easier for you to buy things. Automatic subscriptions, tracking ads after you’ve browsed an item, a nifty shopping app and one-click ordering are all paving the way for you to part more easily with your dollars. I’m all for making life as easy and inexpensive as possible, and I probably buy 9 out of 10 non-food items from Amazon. Still, as I go out of my way to avoid being an excessive consumer. I don’t own a television, I don’t listen to commercial radio and I tend to recycle most of the Sunday newspaper inserts right after they come out of the bag. And I know Amazon wants to be more successful by having me buy more stuff.
I’ve got a few tricks that help me keep the purchasing minimal. One, I will add something to my cart in the app but hold off on completing the transaction until 24 hours later, to make sure it’s something I still need. (This doesn’t apply for the emergency birthday gifts and the like.) Two, I keep a wish list of books, movies and music that I want to purchase later, and try to find as many of the books as I can at the library. Three, I’m in charge of maintaining our household budget. Amazon transactions fall into multiple categories and I have to sort all that out at the end of the month. Keeping the transactions minimal keeps the reconciling minimal. And four, I’ve turned off one-click ordering but have added authentication to my account. Having to go through a few extra steps to make a purchase lets me think one last time about whether I want to go through with it.
Any other Amazonians out there in the universe? And anyone want a 30-day free trial?
Also published on Medium.