Saving with Amazon Subscribe and Save

Today’s article comes from the lovely Mrs. Distilled Dollar. She gives details (and spreadsheets!) as to how we use FREE services from Amazon to reduce our annual spend by over $1,000. Saving with Amazon is good. Avoiding impulse shopping is great. The best part is we’re saving TIME by not needing to drive, walk, or bike to pick up these goods.

Without further ado, here’s our frugal approach:

Ever seen that show called Extreme Couponing? It’s intense. Entire households are consumed by the notion of buying up to a 100 items at a time and paying next to nothing once all their coupons have been scanned.

The end result is having to convert the basement of their house into a resident 711. Literally. These families have so much “in stock”, they take inventory of all their supplies, and, should the world come to an end, could live out the apocalypse in the comfort of their own home.

The show does have the word “extreme” in the title for a reason, but neither this blog nor this post are about extremism.

Instead, we are going to talk about taking a moderate approach by taking advantage of opportunities to save a few bucks on everyday necessities. In other words — don’t leave money on the table when you leave the store or the online shopping cart.

Altogether, our frugal approach has decreased our annual spend by over $1,000.

So, how do we do it and how can anyone do it?

The first thing you have to do is make a list of things of household items that need constant re-stocking. These are basic items like cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. Get really specific with this list — include the brand names you use, the size, and the quantity.

Your goal should be to figure out exactly what you use and how quickly you go through it.

The life span of each product will help you to create a purchasing schedule which will allow you to take advantage of home delivery subscriptions services from Amazon.

If you really want to take advantage of the Subscribe and Save offers on, you need to figure out which items you need delivered in bulk and when.

By having 5 or more items delivered on the same schedule, Amazon offers an additional 15% discount off of your entire order.

To clarify, Subscribe & Save is a FREE feature of Amazon that is separate from the PAID services available via Amazon Prime. Subscribe & Save allows you to manage monthly deliveries while being able to cancel an order at any time. We have Amazon Prime and enjoy the benefits, primarily free two-day shipping and access to thousands of audiobooks, but this article’s focus is on the free features offered by Amazon.

If you’re interested in checking out Amazon Prime, below is a free 30 day trial.

I’m going to use the five basic items our household has delivered every 3 months to break down the savings benefits and extrapolate that over the course of the year. Most recently our supplies were delivered on June 30th of this year:

Amazon Prime Savings Example 1
The retail prices I found are from Target, Walgreens and Walmart — basically conveniently located places where Matt and I would go to in order to replenish anything that is “out of stock”. Since we live in the city, and do not have a car, we don’t have access to wholesaler retailers such as Sam’s Club or Costco.

Amazon Subscribe and Save has saved us time, money, and the trouble of lugging large bulk items to our high rise building.

While retail prices fluctuate with sales and special offers, I have found that Amazon prices are pretty much the same year round. This allows us to predict our household budget by the month, the quarter, and ultimately the year.

On razor blades, paper towels, toilet paper, dishwasher pods, and toilet bowl cleaner alone, we save an average of $133/year.

These savings do not include the cost of our time OR the cost associated with going to the store to pick up the goods.

In addition to that, I don’t miss hearing, “Babe! Baaaaaabe! We’re out of toilet paper!”, echoing from the bathroom.

We also subscribe to trash bags, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning sprays, lysol wipes, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, q-tips, cotton balls, and pretty much anything and everything else that one might consider a “necessity”.

That’s why making a list of items and how long it takes your household to go through them is key — you have to bulk together the items with similar life spans and take advantage of that extra 15% off.

And it’s not just household items either. It’s pet needs, beauty and skincare, groceries, baby needs, and more.

Personally, I keep it real simple with things like hair and make-up. I use the same eye liner, mascara, face cream, and face wash every day. I realized that I run though these items once every 3 months grouped them together to save an average 35% off of the retail price:

Amazon Prime Savings Example 2

On these 5 items alone, we end up saving an average of $100 a year.

A most unexpected and wonderful byproduct of this practice is the elimination of impulsive buying.

We know that the things we need are routinely delivered so we don’t find ourselves walking up and down store aisles and picking up “this and that”.

It’s shopper psychology 101 and retailers feed off of it — you didn’t want that Almond Joy bar until you saw it and now it’s in your mouth … ahem …shopping cart.

Or my favorite: you think you’re done shopping, but you’re looking around the store and asking yourself (out loud like a crazy person), “What else do I need?”.

No, it’s not what you “need” at that point, it’s what you want.

This practice has helped us to automate and regulate our routines and our spending habits. 

Maybe it can work for you, too. Maybe you can save a $100 a year, or maybe you can save $1000 a year.

I know that after living in the city for 8 years and using this service for the last 5, I have avoided overpaying for everyday items by about $5k.

Yes, It is time consuming to go over every single thing that you buy and then cataloging it into an excel sheet, but ask yourself if it’s so time consuming that it’s not worth $1,000 a year?

I think it might just be.

– Mrs. Distilled Dollar

P.S. Mr. DD here. If there’s enough interest, then I’ll ask Mrs. DD to break out every item we go through to show the full extent of our $1,000+ in savings. If I see enough people care for it, then I’ll try to bargain foot massages for part two of this post. 

25 comments… add one
  • [email protected] Jul 18, 2016, 5:49 am

    Another awesome post by Mrs. DD! Love how you are blending your writing and sharing! You hit many key points here and once this is done, the work is over. That “automating” is the perfect way to save time, money, and energy. I think a lot can be said for all three of those points. It is purposeful – just like writing a budget and it makes so much sense. I’d love to see a further breakdown and how you group things to maximize the discounts too.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 7:56 pm

      Why, Thank you! We are definitely still working out the balancing act of the blog life, so it goes a long way to hear that people appreciate the content they are getting.

      Saving on time is like getting that 15% off discount applied twice. You can get your money back, but you can never get time back. We want to live a frugal and efficient life that allows us to enjoy the time that we have together 🙂

      I’m seeing a trend with requests for a full spreadsheet of our Subscribe and Save purchases, so I think part two will be coming soon… relatively… soon 😉

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap Jul 18, 2016, 6:33 am

    Nice work guys. We don’t have anything similar here in Oz that I know about but i can just imagine how much larger families could be saving with this service. Hopefully you get a few readers taking up the excellent advice.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:02 pm

      Thank you! I hope this approach saves A LOT of families A LOT of money! 🙂

      And, yes, certain areas of the US definitely make it more difficult to take advantage of services like that. In our case, we don’t have a car, so we can not easily get around. Pros and cons are everywhere!

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Paige @ Live, Laugh, Budget Jul 18, 2016, 6:39 am

    Wow! I had no idea the savings could add up that fast. We will definitely be giving this a try. Thanks for the tips!

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:05 pm

      I know, right!? I remember when the option on Amazon first came out — I almost did a back flip. I’m a pretty petite girl and am determined to never take more than one trip to the grocery store, so having a service that would deliver in bulk AND at a discount was just amazing!

      Try it out! 🙂

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Apathy Ends Jul 18, 2016, 6:48 am

    Huge fan of Amazon and haven’t tried this service yet – Thanks for breaking this out – a 15% discount is hard to pass up

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:10 pm

      Yep. It’s like, “Oh, look… $30 dollars…. just laying there…. I suppose I’ll just leave it and carry all this heavy shit home.”

      No. You take your $30 dollars, and you put into your IRA.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire Jul 18, 2016, 7:09 am

    Great post! It’s awesome to see how thinking ahead and taking advantage of the “deals” provided by Amazon have saved you guys a thousand bucks. I’m also going to have to check out this discount!

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:11 pm

      You definitely should! Shampoo, body wash, deodorant, shaving cream, razors. BAM – that’s your five right off the bat.

      You’re welcome 🙂

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Dividend Family Guy Jul 18, 2016, 7:18 am

    I too take adavantage of this service. I am on a slight break this year as I got a great Groupon for a wholesale club. However I will be back at it next year. I think the biggest advantage you point out is the stopping of impulse buying. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into Walmart with a short list and then an HOUR later I come out spending twice what I had originally planned on. Most of it junk food. Thanks for the post.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:13 pm

      It’s always about taking advantage of the best and most frugal deals. Making your dollars last longer sometimes means getting creative and switching services for the sake of introductory prices or special promos.

      More power to you!

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • FinanceSuperhero Jul 18, 2016, 11:20 am

    I had no idea that 15% savings was available in this manner. This is a really wise approach to saving money, Mrs. DD. I imagine that it requires a bit of working and planning up-front, but $1,000 per year back in your pocket is completely worth the extra effort.

    Saving money on items/services I have to purchase anyway is my favorite way to win with money. I find it more satisfying, psychologically-speaking, than most other money wins.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:18 pm

      It sure is. It’s so important to look at it long term. $85/months might feel like chump change, but it’s $1000 a year.

      Everything adds up and if you take a strategic approach, you make make your money work for you so much sooner that 65.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar.

  • Thias @It Pays Dividends Jul 18, 2016, 11:27 am

    We have used the subscribe and save feature on a couple of occasions but we have caught the price creeping up from time to time around our re-order point to make it not as good of a deal. That being said, we didn’t have the 5 items scheduled to get the extra 15% which is needed to really maximize the savings. I may need to take another look to see if we can re-implement this service.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:22 pm

      I’ve seen prices for certain items spike by $4 or so now and then. When that happens, I switch brands. With most things, like paper towels, it doesn’t really matter to us what brand it is. Subscribe and save allows you to switch items, brands, delivery dates, and skip deliveries as needed.

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Jon Jul 18, 2016, 5:43 pm

    Wow, this is a really cool service that I have never heard of. With subscriptions in general, I always get nervous that you will either run out of something a few days before your next shipment arrives or that you will slowly start building up massive inventory on something if you don’t use it fast enough!

    With a 15% savings off Amazon’s already good prices, it’s worth looking into though – thanks for sharing!

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 18, 2016, 8:23 pm

      You are totally welcome! Glad you enjoyed the read. Let us know how much cash ends up back in your pocket if you try this out! 🙂

      Mrs. Distilled Dollar

  • Financial Slacker Jul 19, 2016, 8:49 pm

    We’ve been using Subscribe and Save for a while now. I know we’re saving money, but haven’t gone through the analysis as you did.

    It’s great to see the actual numbers backing up my gut instinct.

    And even though we do have a car, the convenience factor of having these items delivered is huge. And does prevent the impulse Costco purchase (where we used to buy these items).

  • Dollar engineer Jul 20, 2016, 1:08 pm

    Well damn, how have I not taken advantage of this. Not only saving money but saving time and hassle of getting items when they run out. Definitely going to give it a shot. Thanks Mrs. DD!

  • Melanie Nov 4, 2016, 9:10 pm

    I just recently set up my first item on subscription to save, but you’ve inspired me to see what else I can save on! Coffee and Toilet paper would be easy additions.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:28 am

      Yep! We love the fact that we don’t have to do much besides carry the mail up to our room. 🙂

  • Charlotte Sep 25, 2017, 8:06 pm

    Would love to see the full breakdown of what you get from subscribe and save! Just started using it and looking for more inspiration.

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 26, 2017, 12:19 am

      It has been a lifesaver! I’ll see if my fiancee will do an updated post, as I know the post above contains only a dozen or so examples. We’ve even tried a food delivery service that ended up being okay at $7 a meal – which was surprising given it was healthy and had a great variety.

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