When I logged into my Amazon Prime account a few days ago, a notification popped up saying something like, “In the past 12 months, you’ve saved $250 and 40 trips to the store using Prime.”
I laughed. There was no way I had ordered enough for that to be true! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it probably wasn’t an exaggeration. I spent an exorbitant amount on Amazon over the past year — and I don't regret a single penny.
While the ease of online shopping makes it easy to order items I don’t need, it has also created a simple way to restock the household goods I do need regularly, such as dish soap, sunscreen and vitamins. A Prime membership, which now costs $119 per year (previously $99), or $12.99 per month, provides access to streaming video and music services, a selection of free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on over 100 million items, among other perks.
I mostly use the free shipping, so I decided to take a look at my order history from the past 12 months to see if I had truly saved the $250 Amazon claimed. Since last June, I placed 54 orders using Prime. If shipping costs around $4 per order, that means I dodged about $216. After subtracting the $99 annual fee it cost me to be a Prime member, that comes down to roughly $117. In other words, just by ordering from Amazon rather than from other sites, I saved over a hundred bucks.
While I could have avoided shipping fees altogether by buying from brick and mortar stores, the ease of shopping online saves me something even more valuable: my time. According to Amazon, I bypassed a shocking 40 trips to various stores.
Living in New York City, it can be a hassle to run errands. Between taking the bus or subway to Target, shopping and returning home, one trip can easily take over an hour. If I want to grab something after work, I’ll have to carry it along with me to whatever plans I have that night, so I avoid picking up heavy or bulky things unless I’m headed straight home.
These are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things, but the time adds up. Let’s say I saved an average of 30 minutes for every “trip to the store” I avoided by ordering online. That’s 20 hours I can now use to do something more worthwhile, such as spending time with friends and family.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans earn an average of nearly $27 per hour. At that rate, an extra 20 hours per year is worth $540. That could be $5,400 of time saved over the course of a decade, though online ordering might save you more or less than 20 hours per year depending on your lifestyle and where you live. Since you might value your time differently, here's how financial journalist Jean Chatzky suggests you figure out how much your time is worth to you.
Personally, I find the time savings invaluable. When I moved earlier this year, for example, I needed a host of products like packing tape, mattress covers and heavy duty markers for labeling boxes. Instead of finding time to track everything down on top of my already stressful moving schedule, I opened my Amazon app and ordered everything I needed with just a few clicks.
I don’t always advocate for paying for convenience. I’d rather cook my own meals than waste money on takeout, and nine times out of 10 I’ll take the bus over calling a Lyft.
But in this case, I appreciate getting to outsource my errands: In the time it takes me to make a list of what I need to pick up at various stores, I can place an order for those items to be delivered straight to my front door, with free shipping. So paying for Prime definitely feels worthwhile for me.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!