Loose Change is a series of blogposts by members of the UK Money Blogger community where they let loose on a financial issue important to them.
This week Bronni from Bronni.co.uk shares her frustrations with shopping subscriptions.
If there’s one thing you should give up if you want to spend less in 2020 – it’s shopping subscriptions.
Amazon Prime, ASOS Premier, Ocado Smart Pass, Missguided Unicorn Delivery, Deliveroo Plus, Tesco Delivery Saver – it seems like every online store has its own subscription pass to give you a year of unlimited free next day delivery. And they all come at a cost, from £9.95 to £79 a year.
If you’re anything like me, then you probably signed up because of a last minute situation when you really NEEDED that thing delivered next day. But was that really a good idea?
Why do companies offer shopping subscriptions?
Profit making businesses don’t give you things for free just to be nice. At the end of the day, they care more about their shareholders than their customers.
Offering a shopping subscription is a shrewd business move. If you sign up for one, and don’t use it, they’ve profited. If you sign up for a shopping subscription, and make the most of it, you better believe that the company will have recouped the costs of those deliveries because of the increased number of orders you’ll make over the year.
Let’s talk about free delivery
Have a shopping subscription? If you look at your past orders made over the year, how many of those did you ~need~ to get delivered next day? And of those orders you could have waited for, how many of those were over the threshold for free delivery anyway? It’s probably most of them, right?
I totally get it, if you want to return an item, even with free returns, you’ll never get the cost of postage back. However, if you’re paying for “free” postage, it isn’t really free at all, is it?
A constant cycle of shop-return-shop isn’t just disastrous for your budget, it’s not good for the planet either. It’s very easy for an unwanted item to be forgotten about when you’re getting so many parcels, and many returned items are never resold and go straight to landfill.
Convenience isn’t everything
Ordering through Amazon Prime is easy, right? All your payment details are pre-loaded on your account, your parcel will arrive next day, or even on the same day sometimes and you don’t need to worry about the hidden costs of delivery, either.
However, are you still checking the item you’re buying is good value? If you put any Amazon item link into CamelCamelCamel, you’ll see how much prices can fluctuate day by day. Despite Amazon having a reputation as a cheap place to shop, my 6 years of experience as a deals hunter and money blogger has shown me that more often than not, Amazon isn’t offering you the best value possible. In my opinion, there are whole categories of items at Amazon that always have inflated prices vs the UK high street. I would never buy cleaning or non-electrical DIY products at Amazon. They’re heavy, and don’t have high margins therefore the selling price is higher because of the “free” shipping.
But not using your Prime subscription is a waste of money, right? So you may as well buy a £4 tin of furniture polish online at Amazon, rather than get the exact same one at Wilko, Tesco or Asda for £1.50?
You already spend £79 on shipping for a year, always remember that.
I’m an ex-online shopaholic
And is all this convenience allowing you to make impulse purchases too easily? Are you experiencing buyers remorse, or finding that parcels are arriving that you didn’t remember ordering? There was a time in my life when I had deliveries arriving almost every day, and getting rid of these “bargain” shopping subscriptions has saved me a massive amount of money.
My experience with shopping subscriptions
In the past I’ve had Amazon Prime and ASOS Premier. Although I do like the service you get by having Prime, it never tempted me to shop more than I normally would. Two years of ASOS Premier on the other hand, allowed me to spend a fortune on fast fashion impulse purchases, none of which I still own four years later.
I used to have a severe ASOS problem. Unfortunately, I was going to dig into my order history, (I do like to overshare about what I spend) but it won’t let me scroll back past 2016. BUT, because of my Top Cashback account, I know I made at least 27 ASOS orders between 2013 & 2015. It’s harder to narrow down Quidco cashback claims by retailers, but I know there’ll be at least half that number again on there. That’s around 40 ASOS orders in three years, just over one a month and probably thousands of pounds down the drain. If I remember correctly, ASOS only started offering cashback in 2013, and before then I ordered a lot too.
Since cancelling my ASOS Premier account 4 years ago, I’ve made 10 orders. My online clothes shopping hasn’t gone up massively from other retailers, either. It was a huge enabler for me and I regret it completely.
My impulse shopping coping strategies
If mindless online purchases are getting in the way of you hitting the financial goals you aspire to, here are my tips to help stop you in your tracks.
Obstacles are your friend
The harder it is to buy something online, the less you’ll be inclined to do it. Delete your card details from your accounts, change your PayPal password, get rid of your saved items. Whatever will make you think about what you’re buying more.
Don’t be afraid to walk away
Nothing is that rare or exclusive. It’ll still be there in the morning, don’t let the buzz of the hunt distract you. It’s not 50% off, it’s 50% on when you compare it to not buying it at all.
You see someone in the street offering you £25 in one hand, and the £25 bluetooth speaker you were thinking of getting in the other one – which one would you take? Try and think of that image every time you buy something.
Pin and you’re winning
I love Pinterest. Clicking “pin” gives me that little shopping high, but no money has changed hands. I have a secret board of things I want, and it turns out, after a few days I don’t even want the things I’ve pinned to that board any more. Weird that!
This is why I think shopping subscriptions are dangerously convenient. It’s not the end of the world to wait a bit longer for your online shopping, walk into town to buy it instead or *gasp* even pay for shipping. These subscriptions are just expensive enough to make sure you don’t “waste” them by shopping elsewhere, but cheap enough so you’ll think, I may as well sign up, it’ll save me money in the long run.
Let my example teach you that no, being tempted into spending thousands of pounds at ASOS as a student and recent grad did not save me any money at all. It was totally my own fault, of course, but I can’t help but think, would I have ordered quite so frequently without that amazingly fast and free delivery?
Articles in the Loose Change series are written by members of our community. The views do not necessarily represent those of UK Money Bloggers or other members.