5 ways to maximize your savings on Amazon

Published: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 @ 10:23 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 @ 11:25 AM

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Amazon.com is the largest online retailer in the United States. They’ve made it incredibly easy to purchase millions of items that ship straight to your door. It’s convenient, saves some hassle in running errands, and often provides a way to buy items online for less than they cost in physical stores.

If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, it makes good financial sense for you to maximize your savings when purchasing from the company. Here are five ways to can enjoy the convenience of shopping online with Amazon while saving even more money.

Share Your Prime Membership with Others in Your Household

Prime membership offers a serious perk for frequent Amazon shoppers: free two-day shipping on thousands of items. As a Prime member you also receive unlimited streaming of movies and video offered on Amazon Instant Video, and you can also borrow one e-book from the Prime library for free each month.

But Prime also costs users $99 for the year. That leaves you with lots of books to borrow, videos to watch, and purchases to make to get the free shipping if you want to offset the cost of membership.

Unless, of course, you share Prime membership with someone else and split the cost.

Amazon does allow you to add individuals onto your Prime account, but technically they should be members of your household. Here’s what Amazon says about sharing Prime benefits:

"Free or paid Amazon Prime members can share their shipping benefits with up to four additional family members living in the same household. If you purchase a Prime membership for a small business, you may invite up to four co-workers to shop with this corporate account."

It seems that the rules aren’t strict on the same-household stipulation. People sharing your Prime benefits can ship to multiple addresses, so it’s currently possible to add a friend who doesn’t live with you.

But Amazon may make this harder to do at any time, and you’ll need to decide for yourself if flouting the stated guidelines is something you want to do.

ARTICLE: Read Clark's take on Amazon Prime membership

Get a Discount on Prime Membership

Certain groups enjoy Prime membership discounts, too.

If you’re a student with a valid .edu email address, you can sign up for a free trial of Amazon Student. You can also enjoy a discounted membership rate of $39 per year after your initial trial ends. Students can earn $10 to spend on Amazon each time they refer a friend to sign up, too.

If you’re a parent, you may want to give Amazon Mom a try. You’ll receive a three-month trial period that gives you the benefit of free shipping, but this service comes with a $99 yearly fee (just like Prime) that kicks in after your trial ends. Amazon Mom perks include big discounts on staples like diapers and other family essentials.

 

Look Through the Warehouse

The Amazon Warehouse, that is. Amazon has a section on its site called Warehouse Deals, where you can shop for open box and returned items and items that were damaged in transit. Because the items aren’t in “perfect” condition for retail sale, they’re offered here at discounted prices.

 

Purchase Everyday Items with Subscribe & Save

On many household essentials and grocery items, Amazon offers you the option to “subscribe” to the product and offers a discounted price if you do so. This is the retailer’s Subscribe and Save program.

You’ll receive regular shipments of the item you subscribed to, but for as much as 15% off the regular price.

 

Use Tools to Spot Additional Savings

If you’re a frequent online shopper and want to get serious about savings, there are two tools that will help you.

The first is a browser extension called Honey (which works with any online shopping cart, not just Amazon). Honey is a free tool that you can download and activate. Once you’ve loaded up an online shopping cart, you can use this tool to automatically search for and apply discount and promo codes.

The second is a website that helps you track prices of items on Amazon. This can help you identify sales cycles to help you score the best deal. The site is hard to forget thanks to its bizarre name: CamelCamelCamel.

And of course, you can always browse through Amazon’s own coupons to see if you can score additional savings.

Amazon is a great place for consumers to shop for almost anything imaginable. Make sure you get the very best deal and maximize your savings with these tips.

ARTICLE: Amazon offers employees $5,000 to quit

 



About the author: Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and content manager currently working on building her business and becoming a full-time solopreneur. She's passionate about personal finance, careers and business, and all things Gen Y--and she writes about it all on her blog, Common Sense Millennial. An avid runner, she enjoys getting outside as often as possible when she's not immersed in blogging and helping other small businesses build and manage their online presence. Connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

Come clean: The truth about energy-efficient washers and dryers

Published: Monday, November 13, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient Only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers You can save $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certi

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year, according to Energy Star. So, you may think it would be wise to replace washers and dryers with newer models.

Yet dryers can last longer than washers since dryers have not changed much in recent years. Instead, they can be maintained just by cleaning the lint tray before or after every use. However, the story’s a bit different for washers.

In the case of washers, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s appliances guide, upgrading washers every 10 years or so can save you more.

RELATED: Is an energy-efficient dishwasher worth the money?

The EnergyGuide label can be a useful tool when comparing appliances. Here are a few facts about energy-efficient washers and dryers to consider before making your next purchase:

The truth about energy-efficient dryers.

ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years, according to LifeHacker.com. The average cost of a new dryer is $550.

Regular dryer maintenance will keep your dryer from breaking and heat clothes a little quicker which can save you money. In addition to cleaning the lint trap every load, vacuum the area below the lint trap periodically to decrease the dry time and save a few cents every month.

Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The truth about energy-efficient clothes washers.

New models have become more efficient by switching to the front-load clothes washer, using around 50 percent less water and 37 percent less energy. The average price of a new ENERGY STAR washing machine is $750, also according to LifeHacker.com.

Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient.

If your washer is over 10 years old or a top-load washer, you could save up to $135 a year on both water and electricity by buying a new or newer front-load washer.

The truth about HE vs. energy-efficient.


Beware of high efficiency (HE) claims since this designation is intended to match certain washer types (for example, front load) with specially designed laundry detergent.

With no standards for energy efficiency behind the HE label, only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy.

Last word from ENERGY STAR

Clothes washers are the second largest water user in your home. If your clothes washer was manufactured before 1999, according to the federal government, you should consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-certified washing machine that uses four times less energy.

ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers.

Clothes washers and dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use advanced features, saving $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer and more with a washer/dryer pair.

Another cool energy-saving fact: If all clothes washers and dryers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR-certified, the savings would be more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually −equal to the emissions from 1.7 million vehicles.

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Is an energy-efficient dishwasher worth the money?

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 4:44 PM

ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology such as soil sensors, improved water filtration, more efficient jets and innovative dish rack designs to help make the cost of a new dishwasher worth the money.
ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology such as soil sensors, improved water filtration, more efficient jets and innovative dish rack designs to help make the cost of a new dishwasher worth the money.

Are you in the market for a new dishwasher? If so, you’ve probably considered an energy-efficient one.

Costing an average of $550, according to lifehacker.com, newer dishwashers generally use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle instead of 10 gallons per cycle like some older models, even if you have a working older dishwasher there could be savings you’re missing out on.

RELATED: 5 cheap purchases that cost you more in the long run

Before investing in a new dishwasher, you may want to compare energy savings of different models by reviewing their yellow and black EnergyGuide labels provided by the federal government.

Here are some of reasons why an energy-efficient dishwasher might be a good idea:

Advanced technology

Dishwasher technology has improved dramatically over the last decade, according to ENERGY STAR, a federal program that certifies consumer products that meet certain energy efficiency standards.

ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology to get dishes clean while using less water and energy.

  • Soil sensors test the degree of dirt on dishes throughout the wash and adjust the cycle to achieve optimum cleaning with minimal water and energy use.
  • Improved water filtration removes food soils from the wash water, allowing efficient use of detergent and water throughout the cycle. The final clean-water rinse helps clean dishes more thoroughly.
  • More efficient jets use less energy to spray detergent and water over the dishes when cleaning.
  • Innovative dish rack designs maximize cleaning by strategically situating the dishes.

ENERGY STAR effect

Standard-size dishwashers that have earned the ENERGY STAR are, on average, 12 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than standard models.

  • Trim your utility bills — If you have a dishwasher made before 1994, you're paying an extra $35 a year on your utility bills compared to owning a new ENERGY STAR-certified model. Replace one of these old dishwashers with ENERGY STAR and save enough money to pay for dishwasher detergent all year.
  • Save on water — A dishwasher built before 1994 wastes more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. A new, ENERGY STAR-certified dishwasher will save, on average, 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime.
If you have to keep your older dishwasher, here are some tips on still saving energy and money.
  • Buy an electricity usage monitor for about $20 to measure the energy use of your dishwasher, according to bankrate.com. These monitors work with any appliance that runs on 120-volt electricity.
  • A faster way to save money and help home appliances work longer is to improve your home by caulking and weatherstripping it, according to a different article on bankrate.com.
  • If your dishwasher is still running pretty well, replace the filters instead.
  • Soak your dishes in hot water with a few drops of dish detergent for about 5-10 minutes. Then clean them with a towel, sponge or steel wool, depending on the dish, to reduce detergent residue.

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Is an energy-efficient fridge worth the money?

Published: Friday, November 03, 2017 @ 4:03 PM

Gail Peterson, Boynton Beach, looks at refrigerators Wednesday with sales counselor Walter Fron at Rosner’s Appliance in West Palm Beach. “My fridge is dying,” Peterson said. Fron explained the upcoming Florida state sales tax rebate on Energy Star appliances during her visit to the store.
Thomas Cordy
Gail Peterson, Boynton Beach, looks at refrigerators Wednesday with sales counselor Walter Fron at Rosner’s Appliance in West Palm Beach. “My fridge is dying,” Peterson said. Fron explained the upcoming Florida state sales tax rebate on Energy Star appliances during her visit to the store.(Thomas Cordy)

Refrigerators have seen a huge bump in energy efficiency since 2000, according to Lifehacker.com. They now use 40 to 60 percent less energy than back then. 

With fridges costing an average of $1,100, is it time to flip your fridge?

Here are some of the reasons you might want to consider and energy efficient refrigerator:

If you have a fridge more than 20 years old

In terms of maintenance for an older refrigerator, there isn't a lot that can be done to ensure the fridge lasts longer, nor would it be worth the price of trying to make it last a little longer. The best you can do is ensure that your current refrigerator is maintaining a temperature between 37 and 40 degrees. Make sure all foods and liquids are covered because uncovered foods release moisture, causing the compressor to kick on more often which uses more energy.

If your current refrigerator was built in the 1990s or earlier, then it's definitely worth buying a new one. You'll save between $100 and $200 a year in energy costs, according to EnergyStar. If it was made in the last 10 years, you're only looking at energy savings in the range of $5 to $20 a year.

If you're in the market for a new fridge

For energy efficiency, classic top-freezer refrigerators use less energy than side-by-side or french-door types.

According to EnergyStar, a top-freezer fridge costs $45 a year to run, a bottom-freezer refrigerator costs $70 a year and a side-by-side fridge costs $75 a year, so going with a top-freezer fridge will save substantially more compared to bottom-freezer or side-by-side fridges. Of course, the size of the refrigerator, its defrost type and whether the model has a through-the-door ice dispenser can lead to large variations in enerygy use.

An energy calculator is available at EnergyStar.

Which fridge type is the most energy efficient?

The most energy-efficient models aren't necessarily the most expensive, according to bankrate.com. Refrigerators that use the least energy can have relatively modest prices, partly because they're smaller and have fewer features.

The easiest way to compare is to read each model's black and yellow EnergyGuide label which includes a sliding scale that shows the appliance's estimated annual operating cost within the range of costs of similar models. EnergyStar provides this Product Guide for comparisons on annual energy savings.

Rebates and recycling programs by local utility companies and government tax incentives also can help lower the upfront cost of new energy-efficient appliances. Recycling your old fridge can prevent old refrigerant and foam from adding to carbon pollution, according to EnergyStar.

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7 clever ways to cut the costs of buying your first home

Published: Wednesday, November 01, 2017 @ 9:32 AM

Here are seven tips to lower the cost of your first home Work on your credit score way ahead of time Crowdsource your down payment See if Uncle Sam will help Find a housing counselor Pick a real estate agent based on where you want to live Choose a home where you could stay five to seven years Don't get distracted

Being a first-time home buyer makes you a newbie, but it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be naive about purchasing a home. 

RELATED: House hunters, here are 5 secrets to getting the best home loan

While you might not be the “Property Brothers” your first time out, you can still have some clever tools and tips to reduce those costs.

Here are seven tips to lower the cost of your first home:

Work on your credit score way ahead of time. 

Reducing your mortgage interest rate by even a fraction of a percent point can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

One key factor: your credit score. According to Kiplinger, a score of 740 or higher will set you up to obtain the best interest rates. Check your credit report months - or even years - before you're sold on the idea of buying your first home, giving yourself plenty of time to boost your score. "What you don't want is to have to address a bunch of mistakes on your credit report while actively looking for a home and trying to get approved for a mortgage loan," HSH.com vice president Keith Gumbinger told Kiplinger.

To see just how much impact this step could have, enter information on your current and target credit scores into the CFPB's explore interest rates tool.

Crowdsource your down payment. 

If you're comfortable accepting money from friends and contacts, House Logic suggests crowdsourcing to accelerate financing your down payment. Sites like Feather the Nest can walk you through the process.

See if Uncle Sam will help. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of home ownership programs for those who meet specific income or location requirements. You may qualify for assistance with down payment and closing costs, for example.

HUD also offers deep discounts for people in professions like law enforcement or firefighters when they buy in "revitalization areas." The Veterans Administration can guarantee part of a home loan, help veterans secure a competitive interest rate or waive down payment and private mortgage insurance requirements.

The city of Dayton is facing questions about its handling of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. FILE(Staff Writer)

Find a housing counselor. 

HUD-approved housing counselor can give first-time home buyers entirely independent advice on whether a particular set of mortgage loan terms is a good fit.

Pick a real estate agent based on where you want to live. 

A neighborhood expert can often find you the best house at the best price in a way your friend who's a realtor or the agent who lives where you do now can't. "You want people who have worked and have experience directly in the areas you're looking in," Mia Simon, a Redfin agent in Palo Alto, California, told U.S. News and World Report. When you're a first time buyer, never hesitate to use real estate agents, since it costs you nothing. The agent will help structure and present your offer and can troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Choose a home where you could stay five to seven years.

"You're going to spend thousands of dollars to get into the home. To get out of it is going to be equally expensive and may possibly cost more when you do it in less than five years or in a down market," Keith Gumbinger, vice-president of HSH.com, told Kiplinger.

Don't get distracted. 

Aspects of properties for sale that may seem important to you aren't always important to your bottom line. U.S. News recommends concentrating on home features that would be expensive or impossible to change, like not enough bedrooms, an undesirable location or a floor plan that makes it hard to get around. Don't get sidetracked by things you could easily and inexpensively change after the sale, like an odd decorating scheme, dirty carpet or cabinet hardware.

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