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The Amazon Subscribe & Save program can be a great way for Prime members to save money while automating a bit of life. For my family, Subscribe & Save is a way to buy items like toilet paper that we never seem to realize we’re running low on until the last minute. Here’s how the program works and how you can make the most out of it.

How ‘Subscribe & Save’ Works

Tens of thousands of items on Amazon are Subscribe & Save eligible. Basically, when you buy these items you can either buy them normally to ship with your next manual Amazon order, or you can add them to your Subscribe & Save list. This list sets up regular delivery dates — from monthly to every six months — whatever fits your needs.

One of my favorite parts about Subscribe & Save is that you can set different items to different schedules. For instance, you could have toilet paper arrive magically at your doorstep each month, but get toothpaste shipped to you every other month. The trick is to make sure you’re getting the items you need without ordering more than you need.

What Are the Benefits of ‘Subscribe & Save?’

Besides just making life easier by automating the shipment of certain items you need on a regular basis, Subscribe & Save has a few other benefits, including:

  • Discounted prices. The basic Subscribe & Save price for nearly all items is a little lower than the normal sticker price. But you can stack those savings up even more by adding five or more eligible items to your subscriptions. For some items, the savings is 15%, and for diaper subscriptions, it’s 20%.
  • Coupon options. You can add even more savings by clipping Amazon coupons when you check out. These coupons often apply to the first time an item ships as part of your Subscribe & Save cart.
  • Free shipping. Even if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, you get free shipping when you use Subscribe & Save. This also applies to small items Amazon calls Add-On items, which even Prime members have to add to a cart with at least $25 worth of goods to ship for free.
  • Flexible delivery schedules. Like I noted above, you can set items to a delivery schedule that fits your needs. And you can always update your delivery schedule if you find you’re receiving too many or too few shipments for your personal use.
  • Changeable delivery date. On top of that, if you need to bump your delivery date a few days — say you’re running low on toilet paper and need a delivery a week early, it’s no problem. Just log into your Amazon account, and change your delivery date.

How To Get the Most Out of It

Now that you know what Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is and how it works, let’s talk tips for making the most of the program:

  • Do some price checking. Obviously it’s in your best interest to get familiar with Amazon’s prices versus prices at your local grocery store, discount store or warehouse store. Sometimes the convenience of a Subscribe & Save option will be worth a slight premium, but you should aim to save as much as possible on individual units of each item that you order. And don’t just price check once. Take note of the prices of your favorite Subscribe & Save items each time you’re in the store, just to make sure you’re still getting a good deal. Note that Subscribe & Save offers almost all name-brand items. If you have a more-affordable, off-brand counterpart that you like, you’ll probably save money by going with that item, instead. But if you have certain preferred name brands for personal care, household, baby care or even food items, you may find them on the Subscribe & Save list.
  • Check your cart’s prices every month. One of the worst parts about Subscribe & Save is that prices on these items change with their Amazon list prices. This can be a little tricky, especially if the prices go up. Make a habit to log into your Subscribe & Save account each month to make sure you’re not paying way more for a particular item than you should. Amazon will tell you when you can last edit a Subscribe & Save item, which is typically several days before your scheduled delivery.
  • Add additional items just before your ship date. Loads of deal and coupon websites give lists of the best Subscribe & Save deals for that particular month (or you can download an app like Honey that will automatically check to see if any coupons are available for the item you’re considering). Check these deals out before your order’s last day to edit.
  • Always have at least five items in your Susbscribe & Save account. The best way to net 5% to 15% savings on Subscribe & Save is to schedule at least five items for regular delivery. With all the available Subscribe & Save items, it’s pretty easy to find some household basics to help you meet this savings threshold.
  • Look for coupons. Amazon offers the option to clip virtual coupons as they’re available. Again, you can often find lists of coupon-eligible items on deal sites around the web or with savings apps. These coupons typically only apply to your first Subscribe & Save order, but they can be a great way to net some initial savings.
  • Skip shipments when necessary. Perhaps the hardest part about making Subscribe & Save work for you is figuring out when to order certain items. I know, for instance, about how much toilet paper and how many diapers my family will go through in a week. But how often do I buy a new tube of toothpaste? I’m not really sure. Make your best guess when setting up your shipment times. Then if you’re not running low on an item when it’s scheduled to deliver, hit the “skip” button. This will push the item back a month, and reset its whole delivery schedule based on that shipment.
  • Edit items as you go. If you find yourself consistently “skipping” one or two items, make your life a little easier: edit the shipment times. Again, you can have your Subscribe & Save items shipped as often as once month or as infrequently as every six months. Tweak your shipment times as you go, and you’ll put less time into managing your Subscribe & Save list each month.

You can save even more by applying for one of Amazon’s credit cards. You can read here about whether an Amazon credit card is right for you. You’ll need good credit to qualify, so if you don’t know where your credit stands, you can check your credit scores for free right here on Credit.com.

Like all Amazon tools and programs, Subscribe & Save won’t always save you money. Sometimes there’s a premium to be paid for convenience. But if you use these tips, you can probably get great discounts on items you would have purchased to begin with.

Image: AdrianHancu

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