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Is that free shipping really free?

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(Read caption) Online vendors will try to lure you to spend more money with free shipping minimums. Ignore them, Hamm argues.

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It happens to almost everyone who shops online.

You go to a site to order a specific item that you’ve already decided on. You add that item to the cart and head to the checkout.

But wait!

The site informs you that if you add just $12 more in items, you can get free shipping on your order! Ordinarily, the shipping costs $8, but if you just add another item, they take away that fee.

You can get a $12 item effectively for just $4. That’s a deal, right?

Not really. Let’s walk through this.

First of all, you have to find an item at exactly $12 in value to maximize this deal. If you end up buying something for $20, you’re getting it for $12. If you find something for $40, you’re getting it for $32. A minor discount, but not a big one.

If you try too hard to find something that matches the “maximum value” here, you’re more likely to wind up with something you don’t even want. If you broaden your search, you wind up not getting much of a bargain and you’re buying something you didn’t intend to buy anyway.

Second, you’re still spending extra money on something you don’t need and had no intent of buying. In order to do this, you have to search around to buy another item that you never intended to spend your money on in the first place. Spending money on something completely unnecessary is never a good idea.

Unless I am picking up something that I’m absolutely sure that I need (like toiletries and so on), I consider it a waste of money to tack on something more just to get free shipping.

Sure, I might be missing something of a bargain, but I don’t consider it a bargain to wind up with something else that I don’t really need.

Leave free shipping behind. Do price comparisons that include the shipping costs and stop buying more just to “save” money.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 


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