How to Use Amazon for Economical Purchasing- Part 1, by Sarah Latimer

Like many SurvivalBlog readers, I don’t live in the city. It is far from convenient for me to shop for any kind of specialty item because of the travel distance usually required. Even basic groceries to the “local” store requires a bit of a drive and is kept to a maximum of about three times a month. My in-person shopping is typically done about once a month in bulk and takes most of a day to make the trip to the city, do the shopping, and then make the journey home. Not only is my time valuable but the trip is costly in terms of gas and wear and tear on our vehicle, and there is the definite safety concern of an auto accident, robbery/assault, and exposure to illness when on busy roads, in congested stores, and in a city with a high crime rate.

I am far from a recluse. I enjoy people and socializing very much, but I am cautious about mixing with the impersonal masses who carry flu/cold viruses, hepatitis, and a host of other infectious diseases. When shopping, I want to get my goods and get out with minimal handling of public surfaces, and I also come home and immediately and thoroughly wash my hands with soap and water.

With regards to making purchases or finding alternatives for buying things, my mother taught me that “a penny saved is a penny earned”. So, I try to be a good steward of what the LORD and Hugh have entrusted to me to use for the benefit of our family. I am the shopper for our family. Whether we are in need of food, clothing, or tools, I tend to be the one to do the research and make the purchases. Hugh works very hard for every penny that comes into our household and we need to maximize our buying power, so I want to make wise choices in how those pennies are spent. Hugh may have some specifications for me about his purchase requests, but he knows that I will research and get the best value for his hard-earned dollar. Additionally, I shop for other family members and sometimes for friends, too. I have a bit of a reputation in my social/family circle for being “the shopper”– good at finding deals and good sources, using coupons, and identifying quality items.

We choose to buy quality over quantity. A $80 pair of shoes that will last more than a year (and maybe two years) of almost daily wear is better than buying $35 shoes that don’t breathe and only last six months. Having quality tools and durable equipment, purchased for our family’s survival in a SHTF situation, is especially important, because in that situation we can’t easily replace items. So, I watch the prices of things, but I also watch for quality and durability.

Amazon has been a great resource for our family’s prepping efforts. When we first believed God was calling our family to prepare for hard times ahead, we didn’t know about Amazon and had to source each individual item ourselves from literally hundreds of vendors. It was tough! However, in our prepping journey, Amazon became a tremendous resource for us. I just don’t know how we would have been able to prepare as easily and readily without Amazon, nor could we have saved so much money in doing so and been able to manage our repeat orders and future order plans as easily. Of course, I have my way of doing things that are geared for how our family operates, but I thought that my knowledge and experience of using Amazon might be helpful to others. This article is far from exhaustive in how to use Amazon, but I hope it will offer you some ideas for improving your current method for procuring everything from household cleaners to tools and, of course, beans, Band-aids, Bibles but not bullets. (Sadly, Amazon does not sell weapons or ammo. They are too liberal for that, but there are excellent survival-related products represented in Amazon’s marketplace and manufactured by good companies. So, if they choose to have Amazon help them market and distribute their items, I will continue to use Amazon’s marketplace and appreciate the savings and convenience.) We just have to go elsewhere for certain things, like our weapons and ammo, which is just fine. Thanks to Amazon, I no longer have hundreds of vendors to deal with; I now just have dozens.

Benefits of Using Amazon for Purchasing

Competitive pricing

Amazon has warehouses across the country stocked with products from third parties. They have built an incredibly efficient inventory and shipping system that enables small companies to inventory product in Amazon’s warehouses for Amazon to sell and ship to customers on behalf of the manufacturers. With Amazon’s large-scale shipping contracts, I find that many products are available on Amazon at the same or even a lower total price than offered directly by the product’s manufacturer, in part because of the higher shipping charges for the manufacturer. Also, you may find multiple listings for the same or similar products as well as product bundles at various prices, so you can choose what you want and what fits your particular needs and shop for the best deal. Amazon also offers some amazing special deals, limited by time, quantity, or size; I will outline some of these deals later in this article.

Large selection

Amazon offers products from many vendors from around the world and, therefore, has a huge inventory. Not only do they have the products that are inventoried in their warehouses available on their webstore, but there are products listed from third party vendors also. In this case, products are shipped from a third party rather than from Amazons warehouses, but the sale goes through Amazon. In looking at men’s rain jackets, I found 166 options of trench and rain jackets. When searching for “flashlight”, Amazon came up with almost 600,000 products. That’s a lot of flashlights and flashlight-related accessories!

Customer product ratings, questions/answers, and reviews

I find this aspect of Amazon extremely valuable. As I said before, I am not only looking for a low price but a quality, durable product that performs the function for which I am shopping. Hearing from customers who have purchased and used the product that I am considering purchasing is very helpful. Some times customers even detail how they used the product or modified it for a certain application. It has been a delight to see SurvivalBlog articles referenced at times, too.

If you don’t find the information you want to know about a product, you can ask a question about it. Buyers and the seller/manufacturer are prompted to answer your question. This may take a bit of time, but I have often received answers within a day or two.

Convenience of speedy and economical delivery

Amazon’s shipping system, as I said before, is extremely efficient, especially for items that are stocked and shipped from Amazon’s warehouses. Even items that are shipped from manufacturers or third parties rather than from Amazon’s warehouses arrive within the stated time frame and often well before the anticipated arrival. For example, I order seed potatoes two days ago that said it might take up to two weeks to reach me, but I received them today. This order was filled by a third party, but third parties have strict requirements that they not deliver product later than promised or the customer has the right to return product, and I believe that it is the supplier’s responsibility to pay for that return shipping, though I have not had this situation so I cannot say if that is always the case. I have purchased a few items from China that stated they would take up to six weeks to arrive. The reviews complained about the delay, but the best quality option was only available in this manner and so I was willing to wait for something that wouldn’t fall apart right away. The quality, surprisingly, was excellent, and because it is something I will require again and want to stock, I went ahead and ordered more in anticipation of future needs. The reviews let me know that the long delivery time was really what I should expect, so I had realistic expectations and could plan accordingly.

While the product referenced above took weeks, that is rare. The vast majority of the time I have the items I order within two or three days. Of course, I have a Prime membership, which provides free 2-day shipping on many items and free shipping on others, but you are given shipping options if you don’t have a Prime membership and can choose to pay for expedited shipping, if you want to do so. If you plan to make even 15 purchases in a year, it is my strong belief that Prime membership is well worth the price. I am certain that I break even on the cost within two months because we purchase so much through Amazon, including grocery, garden, household, clothing, camping, electronic/electrical, and other items. We have even purchased appliances quite successfully through Amazon. The Prime Pantry is a great expedited way for Prime members to get a large box of grocery and household items in everyday sizes (not bulk size products) delivered promptly for a very low $5.99 shipping price per box, and products are at prices that often are less than the grocery store sale prices. I just can’t beat that– delivery of sale priced grocery store items to my door! Of course, this does not include fresh or refrigerated/frozen items, but there are many, many grocery and household items that are available through Prime Pantry. I’ll talk about the details of this program a little later.

We also enjoy the tracking system that Amazon makes available for Prime or expedited shipping. I know what days to expect delivery trucks on the property. This is help for OPSEC purposes, of course.

Return/Refund policy

While Amazon provides a great deal of information about the products, including a description, at least one picture, a shipping weight, and more, the disadvantage is not being able to see and touch the products to examine them before making purchases. However, the ease of their return/refund policy minimizes the risk. As a Prime member, if the product is defective or they send the wrong product, they generally provide a pre-paid return shipping label and send a delivery pickup to you to get the package. (You must repackage the product, seal the box, and tape the pre-paid label to the box, but that’s it.) Refunds occur very quickly upon receipt of the product– within a few days, so you can order a replacement item that fits your needs. I have immediately communicated when I got something broken or defective and usually had my replacement within a week and sometimes less. When I have ordered the wrong size or item, I had to pay return shipping, but it was not a big expense, and I generally still saved money by purchasing from Amazon as a Prime member.

Easy Access to Your Own Purchase History

There are some products that I just periodically have to buy again and again. Being able to search on my order history for products I want to continue to use makes re-ordering very easy. They also now have actual re-order buttons that tie to your phone for reordering, but I haven’t chosen to use those yet. For now, I am content just using my order history. I want to be sure that I am still getting the best price available on the product, so looking at the actual product and then searching for it to see what prices other sellers are listing it, helps me feel confident I am continuing to get the best value for our dollar.

I understand that some are concerned about a single vendor knowing about the quantity of items they are purchasing and being targeted as a prepper. However, there is no way that they can know that you aren’t doing like I do– purchasing for more than one household. The same is true of people shopping at wholesale stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club. These are wonderful sources for bulk discount prices. Who you are buying for is not identified. Furthermore, you can make purchases and have them shipped to other people and other addresses. I often make purchases for relatives and have the items shipped to their addresses. I just have to be the Amazon account holder, have my credit card on file, and use my login. However, I can even use Hugh’s or another family member’s credit card for payment also. By occasionally using other credit cards and shipping to other locations, it is clear that there are multiple people and families benefiting from my orders. I also use both a post office box and a physical address, though many of Amazon’s deliveries require a physical address for delivery by UPS or FedEx.

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll detail how to locate and shop for items and get the good values, so stay tuned.