Friday, December 4, 2009

Making the Most of Your Amazon Cart: Let's Save Some Money

Did you know that Amazon's prices fluctuate daily? Sometimes multiple times per day for any given item? I didn't. I kinda sorta maybe did, but I didn't realize that it occurs as often as it does, and I didn't have a good handle on how I could use that to my advantage.

So after a good number of years of watching Phillip post about price fluctuations in his cart, it dawned on me that maybe he was on to something, and maybe this information would be useful for me to share, too. So yeah, I know I'm not discovering anything groundbreaking here, and that people have been doing this forever and ever.

This practice is new to me, however, and I was quite surprised at just how much money I could save on my holiday purchases if I camped my shopping cart. So, dear reader, I offer it to you. Ready?

You should start early - I don't think it's too late to start now for this year's holiday purchases, but I like to start at least 6 weeks in advance.

It's important for me to mention that I have an Amazon Prime subscription. As I do more than 75% of my holiday shopping online, it pays for itself each year - and then birthdays and other purchases are just a bonus. If you tend to do most of your shopping offline, then a Prime Subscription is not for you.

Next, I look for the items I want to purchase on Amazon, taking care to ensure that they are Prime items, and I add them to my cart.

Here's where the magic happens: Don't proceed to check out and purchase everything in your cart. Sit on it. For WEEKS. Really!

Every day, take the time to go and view your cart at least twice a day. Amazon will notify you (at the top, in red) of any price changes which affect items in your cart. The prices don't change in just one direction - in the space of a few hours an item can price can go up or down as much as 50%. It kinda sorta smacks of playing the stock market, to me - you have to sit and watch as prices go up up up and down down down, and judge for yourself when the best time to buy might be.

When you feel like you've watched long enough and have reached the best price you're going to get, move every other item (the ones you don't intend to purchase) to your "Saved Items to Buy Later" by clicking the button. Make sure all that's left in your cart are the items which have hit your purchase point that you're ready to buy. And then, check out! Go! After you complete the purchase, go back and move the items back into your shopping cart by clicking the button.

For example, I placed an order today, for 4 items that have been in my cart for 25 days. I'm not going to tell you what the items precisely are, because hey! It's pre-Christmas! (and my husband reads this!). For purposes of this post and the sake of standardization, we'll assume each item carries an average shipping cost of $3.99. I'm not going to include the purchase price of the Prime subscription, as my subscription for 2009 had already "paid for itself" by September.

Item Price
(when added to cart)
Shipping cost Subtotal
Actual Price
(at checkout)
$3.99 $53.98 $32.99 $20.99
$29.99 $3.99 $33.98 $16.99$16.99
$19.99 $3.99 $23.98 $8.99 $14.99
$9.99 $3.99 $13.98 $4.99 $8.99
$109.96 $15.96 $125.92 $63.96 $61.96

If I had completed my purchase at the time I added the items to my cart, I would have spent at least $109.96. I ended up spending only $63.96. That's worth spending some time loading a web page, if you ask me.

So, to sum up:
-Add items to your cart but don't complete the purchase.
-Log in to your Amazon account at least twice daily to check for price changes.
-After awhile, you'll get an idea of what the highs and lows are. Keep track.
-When you're ready to buy, move the non-intended items to "Save for later".
-Make your purchase!
-Move the remaining items back to cart.