When I first became an Amazon Prime member several years ago, I actually joined for Prime Video. However, as I started using the site to buy food and general merchandise, my eyes were opened to all the things I could buy that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Plus, free 2-day shipping! If there was a problem with my order, everything was usually returnable with no questions asked. Customer service was top notch, which is essential for any online business. I was an Amazon loyalist for a long time, spending sometimes hundreds a month on food and everyday items.
However, the company has grown so much since I became a member that many important aspects of their business have degraded, and I’ve about had it with them. Using the site to look for a product is now a tedious process unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. Reviews and vendors are often fake. Prices are usually inflated to offset the price of the free shipping and any 3rd parties involved. There’s been no move from the company to make the Prime Video or Amazon website interfaces more streamlined or user-friendly. The last straw is that it’s often a gamble whether packages show up in 2 days or 5, sometimes even more. I don’t mind waiting longer for things, but when I pay for a service, I expect to receive it.
Lucky for us consumers, there are many more retailers available today that will help people save money on the high-quality products they are used to. While none are quite as expansive as Amazon on their own, the right combination could save you hundreds or thousands per year on everything from grass-fed ghee to gaming computers. As a last resort, if you just want the free shipping, you can simply buy what you need on Amazon as long as you hit the $25 threshold. But if you don’t like spending around 2x the normal cost on the things you buy on a regular basis, give some of these vendors a look.
Thrive Market has especially homed in on the food side, selling quality products categorized by diet, not just vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free but paleo, Whole30, and keto as well. Their focus on high quality extends to the rest of their offerings as well. Products tend to cost about half of what they do on Amazon, so there’s potential for big savings. The big catches that after the 30-day trial the membership fee is $59.95 and shipping is only free above $49. Still, if you stock up, this shouldn’t be an issue.
As opposed to Thrive, Vitacost tends to focus more on general merchandise and supplements with the same mentality about quality materials and ingredients. They don’t have as much food but they carry a lot of the necessities. Similar to Thrive, their prices are often around 50% of what you’ll find on Amazon, and shipping is free above $49. However, they stay competitive by offering their service with no membership fee, which definitely puts the company in the run for consideration.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Public Goods’ product line has grown, and I’ve been very impressed with their business model. All products and packaging are designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible without compromising quality. The company ships direct to consumer, allowing items to be sold for pocket change. After a 30-day free trial, annual membership is $59, but a lifetime membership is only $99–less than the price of an annual Amazon subscription. Shipping is also free over $25.
Jet is roughly the same concept of Amazon except many of the details important to a great shopping experience weren’t overlooked. Offerings look to be curated and categorized properly. As opposed to Amazon’s habit of overstuffing the home page, Jet’s looks clean and considered. 2-5 day shipping is free for orders over $35 and returns are free as well. What’s more, there are no membership fees. The only thing to be aware of is that Jet is now owned by Walmart. If that doesn’t bother you, have at it.
If you’re specifically trying to avoid Amazon, Newegg is your best bet when it comes to buying brand-name electronics. They sell new, refurbished, and open-box merchandise all at competitive prices. Though the average Joe likely won’t need it, the company does have a Premier membership program that includes free expedited shipping on all orders. The few times I’ve shopped on the site, shipping has been free, so there’s likely a threshold to meet, but they don’t state what it is. So…shrug emoji?
I was just as surprised as you to find out that eBay doesn’t only sell used goods via auctions, they also sell brand new items as well, sometimes with a substantial discount. Many of the listings offer free shipping and returns as well. Case in point, I recently purchased a top-of-the-line TV on the site for almost $1000 off the price offered anywhere else. While the first shipment arrived damaged, it was replaced days later at no cost to me.
I know what you’re thinking. They don’t call the store “Whole Paycheck” for nothing. Plus, the organic market was recently acquired by Amazon, so they’re just as bad, right? Not necessarily. Though I know walking to the store isn’t as convenient as shopping online, I’ve found many of the things I buy, such as Siete tortilla chips and Jilz crackers, are a fraction of their cost on Amazon. We all could use the extra steps anyway.
I don’t need to sing the praises of Trader Joe’s any more than everyone else has, but Aldi is just as good with a very similar business model, even though they’re only sibling companies. Due to their minimal overhead and advertising, both can manage to offer high-quality products at a low-cost if you’re lucky enough to have a store in your area. Products often include minimally processed foods with sustainable packaging.
Though I personally have never shopped at Costco, I have become more aware of their offerings through some of my Facebook groups. The wholesaler does offer some healthier and organic foods, but it might not be the best option for people with limited storage. Just be sure to tread lightly with this one and do some research before purchasing a year’s membership.
My recommendation, if you’re looking to compare prices, is to put together a spreadsheet starting with all costs incurred from Amazon over the last year or two. Compare all purchases and fees paid to the company to what you would pay for similar offerings from other services and retailers, then calculate the difference between the totals. It’s a lot of work and might take several days to complete, but with the right mixing and matching of the different offerings, plus buying directly from the manufacturer if necessary, the savings could be substantial and all that work will pay for itself. In this era when companies are willing to take advantage of your faith in them and turn that faith into profits, it pays to micromanage and be smart about where you spend your money.