Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Making your online dollar stretch further
I've been a very satisfied customer at Amazon.com for more than twenty years, dating back to the 1990's. It remains my go-to source for many of my requirements, in areas where I know it offers value for my shopping dollar. Nevertheless, I've noticed over the past few years that in some areas, its prices are now higher than its competitors, who are also improving their online sales and service to a level that competes with Amazon for customer satisfaction. (I wrote about one such experience a couple of years ago.) Also, for some products, the much-vaunted "two-day free shipping" offered to Amazon Prime customers is slipping to three days, or four, or sometimes even out to a week. If that continues, I'm going to question whether Prime membership remains worthwhile.
In recent months, I've noticed that more and more suppliers are putting a lot of effort into upgrading their online stores - and, what's more, their prices have improved quite drastically. Many are now competitive with major online and storefront retailers. For example, yesterday I restocked our pantry with Bob's Red Mill grains and soup products. We'd run low on some of their staples, and others were past their expiry date. Bob's Web site prices were consistently less than Amazon's for the same product, and above a minimum order figure, shipping was free. Buying direct from the supplier was a no-brainer in this case.
Another aspect is if you want to order brand-specific goods. Often they aren't available in the quantity and/or selection you want in local stores. I've just restocked our pasta sauces, which we'd used up completely. We like to store sauce in cans, rather than in jars, because of breakage issues (don't ask!). Hunts makes a tasty selection, but most of their flavors are usually out of stock locally. By searching most of the supermarkets online, then buying on price, we were able to get five different varieties at very reasonable cost, to be delivered to a local supermarket (with no shipping fees) for collection later this week. To buy them on Amazon, or have them delivered by other vendors, would have cost quite a bit more. Even better, by purchasing bulk packs of 8 or 10 cans at a time, the cost per can was significantly lower than local prices. That's taken care of our needs for the next year or more. (Menu hint: pasta sauces are good for more than just pasta. Try them as ingredients in stews or soups, or to make a flavorful meatloaf. It takes a little experimentation, but removes a lot of the guesswork from seasoning your food.)
I've noted several articles recently about how people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, not able to accumulate any savings. I think some of that may be to do with basic financial (in)discipline, perhaps paying for things that aren't essential (e.g. eating out too often): but another element may be buying unwisely. A little effort, some Internet searches, and selective purchasing, can save a lot of money, and make that hard-earned paycheck stretch a little further. Try it. You might be surprised. (It's even more valuable if a few friends combine their purchases, and buy in bulk from a big-box store such as Sams Club or Costco, either in-store or online. The savings can be significant.)