Here’s how my #YearWithoutAmazon boycott went in 2021.
It’s been a year since I decided to not spend any money at all directly with Amazon. As I’m sure many of you who regularly shop with the online giant would agree, I anticipated it would be difficult.
So I called it my year without Amazon challenge. As it turned out, not only was it much, much easier than I imagined, I also saved myself some cash!
Here are my key lessons from the year, plus the total breakdown of my savings.
Amazon isn’t always cheapest
This is something I’ve been reminding readers about for a while, but I didn’t expect to see how often this was the case.
I found most items for less or the same elsewhere
Of the 41 items I bought that I could have got on Amazon, only three were cheaper on Amazon than what I paid elsewhere! Another five were the same price. That leaves 33 items which would have cost me more if I’d gone straight to Amazon rather than shop around.
My overall saving for the year was £202.33, roughly 23.5% less than what the same items would have been at Amazon (including annual Prime membership).
Of course, this is just down to what I bought and when I bought it. Amazon is renowned for dynamic prices which can change multiple times in a day – and frequently do. So there’s obviously the chance the products might have been cheaper at other times of the year.
However, that didn’t really apply to my purchases as I only bought things when I needed them (with the exception of the odd CD). And a number of my purchases were bought when they were on sale elsewhere, so I think this cancels itself out.
Using price comparison and price history tools were really useful here, helping me find the best prices elsewhere.
Extra Amazon discounts and vouchers come with a catch
In previous years I’ve tended to use extra vouchers on purchases, knocking between £5 and £10 off the price I pay. This really can make decent prices on Amazon better than what you’ll get elsewhere.
But since most of the vouchers provided require a minimum spend (e.g. £5 off £25) or top-up (e.g. spend £60 on gift vouchers to get £5 credit). These would only have been useful if there was something I needed to buy when those offers were running. But in 2021 they weren’t.
The only offer I missed out on was a £10 voucher with no minimum spend for changing the payment card on my account (Visa credit cards won’t be accepted from mid-January 2022). Though I claimed the code (as part of testing a glitch to help you all get it), I felt I couldn’t use it to buy anything in 2021 as part of the challenge.
So though it’s worth looking out for any similar deals (and I’ll share them here for you), be careful only to use them on things you actually want and need.
There are lots of discounts and vouchers not on Amazon
It’s worth noting that though I paid less for those 33 items, not all of the listed prices were cheaper than Amazon. I was able to bring down a handful of those prices down using voucher codes or cashback sites.
And I took advantage of other promotions such as £5 back on books as part of Amex’s Shop Small promotion and boosted Nectar points on eBay at Black Friday.
Amazon doesn’t sell everything
I was also surprised that many of the things I did buy weren’t sold by Amazon. Though I actually made far fewer purchases in 2021 than normal years (in part due to lockdown at the start of the year, but also just generally buying fewer things), I spend money more than 41 times.
But they often weren’t on Amazon. Sometimes it was a specific product just not available, such as the Nike trainers and Timberland boots I picked up. Other times it was retailers who didn’t sell on Amazon, such as The Body Shop or Gap.
Amazon tempts you to buy
Yes, all retailers do this, but looking back at previous year’s Amazon orders compared to what I bought elsewhere in 2021, I noticed I would pick up the odd random thing or very cheap thing that I didn’t necessarily need.
The daily deals and lightning deals are among the worst for this. Countdown clocks and limited stock tempt you to buy. And you can scroll and scroll and scroll going through these, which isn’t a great use of your time either.
I wasn’t particularly bad at this, but I’d still fall victim from time to time – mostly with cheap Kindle books. Every day there are 99p offers, and I’d often pick these up. It’s only a quid, right?
Well, though there were some real bargains, there were also some very bad books. And to be fair the majority are still sitting on my Kindle!
And for 12 months I didn’t buy any of these books or other deals. Perhaps I missed out on the odd bargain, but I’ve not noticed so it’s unlikely it’ll have made any significant difference to my life.
I can’t put a value on this, but it’s certainly more money saved.
Amazon Prime really isn’t worth it
There are three big reasons why people sign up for Amazon Prime. Free next-day delivery, access to Prime Day sales and Amazon Prime Video. Yes, there are other benefits, but I think most of us won’t use them or just treat them as extras.
This will cost £79 a year, which at first sight seems like good value when you consider the cost of rival streaming services and what other companies will charge for delivery.
Let’s look at deliveries first. I really thought I’d end up paying £79 a year (or more) on other deliveries. If we assume £3.99 as an average cost, then it’d only take 20 orders elsewhere to get to that total.
As it happens I only paid for delivery once on purchases I could have got from Amazon (remember, I’d still have to pay for deliveries on shopping elsewhere even if I was using Amazon). The rest offered free delivery, free click and collect or I bought on the high street or supermarket.
It’s also worth remembering that Amazon offers free delivery without Prime for orders over £20, or £10 for media like books. Of the 41 items I could have bought at Amazon, 16 would have been free anyway, even without Prime.
And I could easily have combined some of the cheaper products into larger orders, which again would have been free. Overall I think only one or two items might have benefited from Prime’s free delivery.
I do want to acknowledge that the free click and collect option won’t always be suitable for some. I used this at Screwfix and Argos, so for those who don’t have these (or equivalent) stores near them or aren’t able to travel, then extra delivery charges would apply.
This one is slightly harder to gauge, but I didn’t have any problems with slow deliveries. I did force myself to think a little further ahead on some purchases (such as my nephew’s birthday and Christmas presents) so I didn’t have to rely on next-day delivery, but that was hardly any effort.
But I certainly feel after this year that there’s no need to pay annually for next-day delivery. If something really is urgent, most retailers (including Amazon) will offer a more expensive option. Again, I think even if you do pay this once or twice, it still won’t amount to what you’d have paid for Prime.
The biggest struggle for me without Amazon was missing out on most of Emma Raducanu’s US Open matches and also Crystal Palace’s two Premier League matches in late November and December.
As it happens Channel 4 broadcast the tennis final and I went in person to the Leeds vs Palace match. So I only missed out on the Palace vs Norwich game – but as I was at my in-laws for Christmas I wouldn’t have been able to see the game anyway!
There are also a number of movies and boxsets I’d like to see on Amazon, so in 2022 this is likely something I will return to Amazon for. But I won’t be paying upfront for a year.
If you only want Prime Video you can actually pay £5.99 a month, and then just sign up for the months where you have something to watch (I always advocate paying for no more than two streaming services at the same time). So full Prime Membership costs more than you need to pay.
Plus, most non-members can get a free trial of Prime every 12 months, even if they’ve had it before. So If I do this once a year and binge away I’ll be all set.
Prime Day sales and other exclusive offers
Amazon bills its annual birthday sale (Prime Day) as its biggest sale of the year, closely followed by Black Friday. Over the years I’ve made some big savings on these, often via extra discounts and vouchers provided to Prime members.
So I expected to miss out on all of these this year. But as it happens, they would have made very little difference to the things I bought.
I hardly bought anything in June, and not anything that was discounted in the Prime Day sale. And everything I bought over Black Friday was once again cheaper elsewhere or not sold on Amazon.
In fact, if I had bought anything in those sales (as I have in previous years), it’s likely some of those purchases would have been for things I didn’t really need – tempted to spend by the size of a discount.
If anything, having Prime makes you more likely to do direct to Amazon rather than other retailers and buy things you didn’t plan on buying – so you’ll spend more!
So again, I don’t think you should have Prime for a year for these extras. If you really need to you can sign up for a month at £7.99 and cancel once you’ve taken advantage of any offers.
Could you use Amazon less?
I won’t get into the why here (you can read about those in this article) – that’s up to you. But if you’d like to stop using Amazon completely or just reduce your shopping there I think most people can do this without losing money or being too inconvenienced.
My top tip is to ditch Amazon Prime as an annual subscription. Without this you’ll be more inclined to shop around and also question whether you really need to buy something full stop (at Amazon or elsewhere).
You can still sign up for the odd month when you need an urgent delivery or want to watch something, but otherwise see if you can go without.
And in turn, I think you’ll naturally just use Amazon far less. If it happens that the cheapest price is at Amazon, then you can still buy it from there, but hopefully you’ll redistribute your spending and buy less overall.
Where I saved money in 2021
For those of you keen to see what I bought and how those savings broke down, here’s everything I bought in 2021 that was also on sale at Amazon. Though I probably wouldn’t have bought all of these at Amazon if I was using it, I’d imagine a decent chunk of them would have been.
For comparison, in 2020 I made 102 orders on Amazon. A third of that total was probably £1 Kindle books, so if I’d still been buying them the numbers would have been much closer.
|Purchase||Cost||Delivery paid||Total paid||Amazon cost||Amazon delivery||Total Amazon cost||Difference|
|January||Prime membership cancellation||£0.00||£0.00||£0.00||£79.00||£79.00||-£79.00|
|Puzzle matt & jigsaw||£10.00||£10.00||£18.80||£18.80||-£8.80|
|April||Action figures (gift)||£22.85||£22.85||£39.98||£39.98||-£17.13|
|Hurray for the Riff Raff CD||£4.99||£4.99||£8.86||£8.86||-£3.87|
|Hot Chip CD||£6.99||£6.99||£12.26||£12.26||-£5.27|
|Joe Goddard CD||£4.90||£4.90||£8.50||£8.50||-£3.60|
|Michael Kiwanuka CD||£5.99||£5.99||£5.99||£5.99||£0.00|
|Young Fathers CD||£9.00||£9.00||£9.99||£9.99||-£0.99|
|October||Richard Osman novel||£9.00||£9.00||£9.99||£9.99||-£0.99|
|£10 free voucher||£0.00||£0.00||-£10.00||-£10.00||£10.00|
|December||Colson Whitehead novel||£11.39||£11.39||£11.99||£11.99||-£0.60|
|Sally Rooney novel||£7.49||£7.49||£7.49||£7.49||£0.00|
|Hugo Hamilton novel||£7.50||£7.50||£11.99||£11.99||-£4.49|
|Louise Candlish novel||£10.00||£10.00||£13.19||£13.19||-£3.19|
|Self Esteem CD||£9.99||£9.99||£9.99||£9.99||£0.00|
|War on Drugs CD||£8.00||£8.00||£8.00||£8.00||£0.00|