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Monday, July 13, 2015

Sometimes "free shipping" isn't the best deal, (and I have to remind myself of that)

I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking along these lines -- "woo hoo! free shipping! That must be a good deal!" Then I have to remind myself to do all of the calculations, to see if it really is the best deal.

You've probably seen this on Amazon: you can buy the same product in different amounts and from different sellers, and at different price points, some with minimal shipping costs, some with hefty shipping fees.

A supplement that I use can be bought 1 container at a time, under the "spend $35, and get free shipping" fulfilled by Amazon. Or, it can be bought in a 2-pack, from an authorized seller, for less per bottle, but with a small shipping charge. That shipping charge was a stumbling block for me, this past week. I kept thinking, "oooh I want to get that free shipping". However, overall, including shipping, it was cheaper per bottle than buying it, fulfilled by Amazon, with the free shipping bonus.

It took me most of the week to finally get it through my head that the second method would make the most dollars-and-cents sense. I was still able to take advantage of Amazon's free shipping, but on a different order, altogether.

And another reminder for myself (and maybe you, too), the biggest package is not always the cheapest. When looking at buying unflavored gelatin in food service containers, it was cheapest per unit to buy gelatin 2 containers at a time, and not 3 or 4 at a time.

I also discovered this to be true when ordering replacement filters for our refrigerator. Buying a 3-pack was less expensive per filter than a 6-pack. Go figure! But I'm glad to not have to commit to (and store) more than a 3-pack for the time being.

Gotta remind myself to always do the math!


  1. It's seems funny to hear you say that you've got to remind yourself to do the math. You are queen of "Do the Math". :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      It's just so easy to slip into the mode of thinking things like, "Amazon always has great prices", or "if I save on shipping, then it must be a deal". But I'm really glad for the invention of calculators!

  2. Lili,

    I agree with Live and Learn. LOL

    But, you bring up an important point-- and I think that Amazon is a perfect example of this. The prices are all over the place, and the shipping deals can be quite different. So, you really NEED to do the math to be sure.

    Where we live, since we can't drive anywhere to buy much of anything without a pretty significant investment in gas, shipping costs/lack of costs are something we think a lot about.

    Several years ago, I stopped doing business with one of our favorite cheap mail-order resources altogether, because they don't offer free shipping until you buy $100 worth of stuff, and the shipping costs on anything less are exorbitant, IMO. Just seems like a racket to me.

    I also once started to order a big batch of 99 cent books from a mail order place--- only to realize that the shipping was going to work out to a couple of bucks per book. Nope. I waited until the next time we visited my in-laws, walked to the local used bookstore, and got 25-50 cent books from their super-bargain stacks with no additional driving or shipping. Not as good a selection, but it made me feel better.

    Have a great day! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Great example of how you do need to price things out, every time!

      When I was searching for paper baking cups, one of the so-called "best deals" would of had me spending $125 on baking equipment/supplies, before a decent shipping price. I don't think I need $125 worth of paper baking cups!

  3. Sometimes we "inherit" our blind spots from watching our parents. I can be extremely frugal in many ways but sucker to a good sales pitch or service which we cannot do ourselves. My husband particularly noticed that my parents as frugal as they were didn't shop around and compare prices for car repairs AT ALL. Whatever the mechanic said needed to be done and at whatever price quoted were taken in complete faith without question.

    I sometimes fall victim to the games retailers play. But on that score, I fare a lot better since I know games are being played and I'm prepared to use self defense...."free shipping" is one such game. Another is the rewards system that Kmart and Walgreens use....difficult not to overspend on what you don't need and blow your rewards on regular priced merchandise. Otherwise, the "free" points are not any better than a 50% off sale.


    1. Hi YHF,
      I know what you mean. My parents were frugal considering their own peer group. But they, too, did things like only take their car to the dealership for repairs (although sometimes, the dealership offers deals on repairs/maintenance, hoping to get you to look at new models), or shop one supermarket for 1 week's worth of groceries at a time. And maybe I do things that are not so frugal, but my kids will look at and think, "wow, Mom really blew a lot of money on that!".

      Yeah, it's tempting to spend more when rewards are offered. Just even the free shipping offers, if you spend a minimum amount. It does hook you!

  4. So true! And I've also noticed that certain brands of supplements have standardized pricing, as in they cannot be priced lower anywhere (Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, and other good quality brands). So I leveraged that to my advantage and had my pharmacy order my multi so I can pick it up locally and the taxes from it go to the local economy. This doesn't work for everything, unfortunately, but I'm glad when it does at times. Another savings trick I've found-specific to supplements-is to buy the supplement or herb powder in bulk, them make up the capsules myself using an inexpensive capsule machine. I've found I can make a year's worth of capsules at home, usually for about the cost of two months' buying the supplement pre-made, though this varies by the exact herb or supplement.

    1. Hi Cat,
      That's a fantastic idea to fill your own capsules -- I think especially with some of the herbs. Those can be so expensive, but just a combination of herbs in the same gel-cap. I'll look into that!

      Sometimes the best benefit we can find is to help the local economy. And that's a great thing. Keeping local people employed, and tax revenue going to our area/schools/roads. So that's an excellent way to look at things, when all compared, the prices are equal, so you might as well patronize local business.

    2. Hi, Cat--

      I've not done the capsules, but I use herb and spice teas as therapeutics; and I've saved ooodles filling my own unbleached tea bags with bulk spices and/or home-grown herbs!

      It's also handy to be able to make your own tea blends to suit your own tastes/needs. Now that I make my own for a couple special teas, it's easy to send some to our sons who live in other states, too. :)

      Sara :D

  5. This is a great reminder. I am always grateful for these reminders. Every little bit helps.

    1. I know, and I have to remind myself as well!

  6. This is so true! For a while I didn't even look at the items with shipping costs until I realized how much some of the Prime products go for. So I'm doing the math, too. It's not always the case that S&H is cheaper, but sometimes it is. And I always check price per oz or item after getting burned by believing that the bigger container was a better deal. Not only would it have been cheaper (in this case, I forget exactly what it was) to buy a smaller container, we actually didn't use up the big container before it went bad resulting in more waste. :-/

    1. Hi Laura,
      Yes! And sometimes with a bigger container (even when cheapest), we don't use it as wisely. When I'm using a smaller container of something, I am so careful to use it judiciously, but we get careless when it seems like I have an abundant supply.


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