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There’s nothing that can spoil you quite like an Amazon Prime membership can. When we took our son home from the hospital with no more than a dozen diapers and some wipes, our Amazon account ensured we wouldn’t go without—and we didn’t even have to leave the house for a proper supply of diapers and wipes, a nursing bra, and other newborn essentials. When I took a recent trip to Norway, the things I bought on Amazon eased my pre-trip jitters. Heck, the site even saved me multiple trips to area grocery stores when my grandma asked me to find her a particularly obscure syrup.
Amazon has proved to be a vast and convenient place to get many essentials and, yes, the occasional impulse buy. For better or for worse, there’s something about one-click shopping, subscription options, and two-day shipping that just draws you in.
Still, through the years (and the many, many hours logged scrolling through Amazon), I’ve learned that there are some things that are actually more expensive on my beloved shopping site. Here’s what I always go elsewhere for.
I’ve searched high and low for deals on paper plates and plastic utensils on Amazon to no avail. The few times I’ve found what seems like a good deal, like these paper plates that cost just 5 cents per unit, it falls under the umbrella of Amazon Pantry, which does not have the same free shipping policy as the rest of the site does—even for Prime members. Unless you subscribe to Amazon Pantry for $4.99 per month, you’ll pay $7.99 for shipping. For me, this has always cancelled out any price break, so I stick to Dollar Tree or Party City for these items.
Though you can find some IKEA furniture and accessories on Amazon, these items are generally more expensive, since they’re not being sold straight from IKEA. Take this IKEA Kallax bookshelf for example: On Amazon, it’s $189; at IKEA, the same shelf is just $67.99. “IKEA is not selling products on Amazon or any third party sites at this time. Any IKEA product on Amazon now is being sold by a reseller,” US Corporate Public Relations Manager Mona Liss told PEOPLE. If you need a new, affordable dresser, head straight to IKEA.
Hand sanitizer, toothpaste, Chapstick, and Pepto Bismol all have one thing in common: They’re generally cheaper at your local drugstore than they are on Amazon. In order to get a good deal on these items on Amazon, you have to buy in bulk. If you do find singular items like this lip balm, they generally fall under the umbrella of Amazon Pantry, which costs $4.99 per month or $7.99 to ship.
Most people don’t need 10 tubes of chapstick or a family pack of over-the-counter medicine, and chances are the latter will expire before you can use it all. Instead, leverage the sales and member coupons your favorite drugstore or grocery store.
According to Cheat Sheet, the best deals to be had on batteries are at places like Costco and Sam’s Club. Plus, since Amazon has a number of third-party sellers, it’s can be more difficult to verify the original source of these items—and poorly manufactured batteries can cause fires and even explode. Buying batteries on Amazon might be a move that’s simply not be worth the risk.
As a creative person, I love the idea of beautiful wrapping paper and have been known to spend entirely too long perfecting gift packaging. Still, I draw have to draw the line somewhere, and that’s where price comes into play. Wrapping paper is expensive—even on Amazon, usually around $19 for three rolls. Save yourself some money by buying gift wrap at Home Goods. They have a beautiful selection at a fraction of the price, usually around $2 or $3 per roll.
Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, this one technically only applies to grocery items through Amazon Fresh, an add-on subscription that costs $14.99 per month and qualifies you for free shipping over $50. There’s the obvious up-front expense, but the truth is that you’ll get better deals on most food items at brick-and-mortar stores like Trader Joe’s.
Bananas, for example, are just 19 cents at TJ’s, compared to 36 cents on Amazon. As an aside, a friend recently told me that the chicken she ordered through Amazon Fresh was frozen when she received it—a big inconvenience, considering she wanted to use the chicken right away. Some things are better bought in-person.
When you’re making something—whether it’s a DIY project for a friend's wedding or a homemade card for your child’s teacher—it’s much easier to feel inspired when browsing the aisles of a crafting store. If you shop on Amazon, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, stores like Michaels and JOANN Fabric have fantastic loyalty programs that regularly offer at least 20 percent off select items and sometimes even your entire purchase.
My dog eats special grain-free, vegetarian food. It’s expensive—about $50 per bag at Pet Goods—and something we can’t skimp on, because he has very real allergies to other kinds of dog food. Yes, his food is roughly the same price on Amazon, but Pet Goods often has sales and a loyalty program that entitles us to a free bag of food after a certain amount of purchases.
There are certainly deals to be had here—especially through Amazon’s private labels Rivet, Stone & Beam, and Pinzon—but my problem here lies with quality. When buying furniture, aesthetic and comfort are my biggest concerns. The risk that the item won't live up to my expectations simply isn’t worth it—especially when retailers like Overstock offer frequent sales, coupons for 15 percent off, and free shipping promotions that are just as convenient as Prime on sometimes higher-quality pieces.
Clothes sold on Amazon are more often a miss than a hit. There are exceptions, but a lot of the offerings are poorly-made knockoffs of what they promise, so you cant trust quality, sizing guides, or prices. As far as branded clothing, they can sometimes be pricier than they are in-stores—selling through a third-party can hike up prices, and the items won't be available for coupons and promotions. If you do choose to shop for clothing on Amazon, only buy brands you know and trust, avoid third-party sellers, and make sure you're familiar with the return policy before you buy.
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