A few months ago, I was in the market to purchase a new bed for my oldest son. He had graduated from a bunk bed and was now looking for a ‘real’ bed that matched his maturing personality. We spent a few hours on a Saturday afternoon driving around town to look at all of the options in our local furniture stores. We ended up going to four different stores and spending three or four hours driving from place to place before we had finally had enough. My son is both picky and indecisive, so finding something that he liked and would ultimately decide upon was difficult. Frustrated, we finally called it a day and headed back home. Determined to find a suitable solution, my wife began a search online in an effort to discover other bed styles/colors/options that would catch the eye of a pre-teen. After combing through website after website, my wife found (and my son finally agreed to) a bed from Target. It was a perfect choice for us financially, since the bed & headboard combination was $250 cheaper than the ones he was looking at earlier in the day at the furniture stores. But at $501.08 (before shipping fees and sales tax) it was still going to be a fairly expensive purchase.
Like anyone savvy with their money, I’m always searching for ways to get the best bang for my buck. Even though this bed was less expensive at Target than comparable models in the furniture stores, I still wanted to look around online to see if I could get an even better deal. When shopping online, I learned long ago that Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com) should always be a place you comparison shop against. Amazon has a few strengths that help keep the costs low:
1. No sales tax (in most states… though the government is trying to get their hands in here to make online retailers pay sales tax. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one, because it could change the game again).
2. High traffic and order volumes help drive down prices
3. Amazon acts as a marketplace for third-party retailers, effectively letting businesses compete against each other Amazon’s online platform (competition leads to lower prices)
4. Free shipping in many cases, especially if sold directly from Amazon (not a third-party). Use Amazon Prime to get free 2-day shipping!
How to search Amazon
Since I knew the name and manufacture of the bed, all I needed was a quick search on Amazon to compare the availability and pricing. Using the term South Shore Cosmos captain’s bed, I received 9 results. Here is where you have to pay attention a bit to ensure you’re comparing the results correctly to get the best deal. The 9 results were all from South Shore Furniture, but one result was actually a line that showed links to the Amazon South Shore store. Clicking this link would take you to a branded page that would highlight all of the items sold by this company. I didn’t need to browse South Shore’s page, because I knew what I wanted. Ignoring this link, I was down to 8 results. Two other results were for a queen sized bed and a twin bed. Since I was looking for a full size bed, these were also easily eliminated. Down to 6. The 6 remaining could be broken down into two groups: individual bed items (1. bed frame w/ drawers or 2. headboard, purchased separately) & complete package (bed frame w/ drawers & headboard combined). The individual items would need to be purchased together to make a complete bed, and this combination would cost $426.85. The best-priced complete package was selling for $510.00 even. Sounds like a no-brainer here – I’ll choose the cheaper version for $426.85. Now, here’s the deal: they are the same product no matter which version you select, but purchasing the individual units may cause them to ship separately. For me, this wasn’t a big deal. For you it may be. I was in a position where I could wait an extra day or two to put the bed together if needed, especially if it was going to save me some money (in actuality, I received both pieces on the same day and there was no impact at all).
Amazon shopping cart:
Target shopping cart:
Comparing Target to Amazon prices
Now let’s take a look at what I saved by shopping through Amazon. First, the cost of the bed: $501.08 at Target vs. $426.85 at Amazon, for a savings of $74.23. Right away I have saved 17% by using Amazon, and even more if you compare it against the original prices at the furniture stores. In my experience, I have found that the Amazon purchase price is almost always lower or at least highly competitive. There are some manufacturers who set the price of their goods the same everywhere, and in these situations you will find the same price everywhere you look (within a dollar or two). For example, before football season started I wanted to upgrade my TV with a new Samsung 3D HDTV. I shopped Best Buy, HH Gregg, Sears, the Samsung website, and Amazon. In each place I looked, the price was exactly the same. During one of my discussions with a salesman, he mentioned that Samsung set the price of this TV and it would be the same everywhere. It might have just been a sales tactic to make me purchase from him… I’m not sure. But it didn’t matter, because in this specific case he was right – the prices were the same everywhere.
But back to the bed. I’ve started by saving $74.23 off the top just on the purchase price alone. That is fantastic, but here is where Amazon really shines: free shipping and no sales tax! With my purchase, I was offered free 5-7 day shipping (or free 2-day shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member). Target was going to give me a shipping discount, but they were still going to charge me $43.87. By shopping with Amazon, I have eliminated that fee. With the lower purchase price and no shipping cost, I have now saved $118.10. Ok, onto the sales tax. Amazon has been going through some legal battles over this recently, and they are now being forced to collect sales tax in California, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. But if you’re not in one of these states you’ll be able to purchase whatever you want tax-free. Although that may not sound like a big deal, it can definitely add up to a sizable savings. In my case, the tax savings was $32.70 based on my Target shopping cart. So with my lower purchase price, free shipping and no sales tax, I saved a total of $150.80 off the price at Target. I’ll take that kind of savings every day!
Steps you can take to save money
So how can you use Amazon to save money yourself? Follow these suggestions to take advantage of the savings opportunity:
Always comparison shop at Amazon. To make this easier, you can download the Amazon Price Check app for iOS or Android. The next time you’re shopping in a store and see something you like, use this app to scan the item’s barcode. The app will search Amazon and bring back their results, allowing you to quickly compare prices. If you find the price is cheaper at Amazon (remember to account for no sales tax!), then purchase the item immediately through the app or place it in your Amazon Wish List to review when you get home. If you’re not an app-type of person, then remember the item you want and look it up when you’re back in the comfort of your home.
Compare the “landed cost” of the item. This means taking into account all factors associated with purchasing. The obvious ones have already been called out: price, sales tax, and shipping fees. But don’t forget to consider things like time and effort. If the total monetary cost is the only important item, I’m sure you would do a lot more shopping at Amazon going forward. But are you willing to wait an extra couple of days to receive your new purchase? For my bed purchase, I was in a position where I could wait. But what if you needed a generator for an approaching hurricane? Are you going to wait for it to be delivered by Amazon, or are you going to pay a little more at Lowe’s or Home Depot and get it before the storm hits? From an effort standpoint, think back to purchases you have made in the past of products that were bulky or heavy. By shopping Amazon, you’ll have someone deliver these products directly to your door. I’ve even heard of examples where the delivery person did a complete unpack and install of the product (in this case, it was an HDTV).
Get an Amazon Prime account. If you decide to begin purchasing from Amazon frequently (once per month or so), do yourself a favor and get an Amazon Prime account. I have a Prime account and LOVE it! It costs $99 per year, but has a few great features. From my experience, the best feature is the free upgrade to 2-day shipping. That shift from free 5-7 day shipping to 2-day shipping is awesome, and there have been times that I have received my products the next day. The next day receipts usually happen when I make my purchase on a weekday before noon or so. When I do that, I’ll often get that overnight service. Another good feature is streaming videos. With an Amazon Prime account, you can get rid of your Netflix subscription (I did) because you’ll be able to stream thousands of movies and TV shows whenever you want. You’ll also be able to borrow books from the Kindle library with the Prime account. This allows you to borrow from a selection of over 180,000 books for free, with no due date or late fees.
I know that $99 is a lot of money, but here are two ways to think about it:
1. If you get rid of Netflix and get Amazon Prime instead, it’s basically the same price so you’re not spending any additional money.
2. If you just saved $150 on a bed purchase, you can take some of that savings and get a Prime account for “free”.
The next time you’re in the market for a big ticket item, think of Amazon. Take the time to do your research, including comparisons of the total landed cost. If your item is available through Amazon, you’ll likely save yourself a lot of money. Click the “shop now” icon below to do a few comparisons on your own!