This summer, I started spending more money!
Kind of. Sort of. Really?
If that seems like a strange proclamation coming from someone who loves frugal living and isn’t above a little garbage picking from time to time, maybe it is. And that’s a problem.
As I continually push myself to be more purposeful with my money and more thoughtful about my spending habits, I noticed that I have an aversion to shipping charges. To the point where I wouldn’t even consider looking at something I needed or I wanted if I didn’t also see Ships Free! next to it.
How can not paying for something ever be a bad thing? It seems like basic mathematics. The less you spend, the more you save. But when I started to examine my own shopping habits, I realized that oftentimes, there’s a price to free shipping. And it’s not something I always want to pay.
Nothing’s Truly Free
Capitalism isn’t spearheaded by Santa Claus. No one is giving anything away for free. As much as I love the LOFT or any other store that promises free shipping, I can promise you that they pass the cost along somehow.
Whether it’s getting you to buy more than you need to qualify or marking up the items to begin with, they aren’t shipping your duds for free out of the goodness of their heart. Just think of how many stores qualify you for free shipping–for a low, low membership that you forget to cancel or after applying for another credit card you don’t really need. If free shipping didn’t make financial sense, they wouldn’t do it.
Free Can Cost You
It’s no secret that meeting a minimum spend is difficult. No matter why you’re trying to cross a particular threshold–whether it’s a coupon, a reward, or a free shipping promo–that threshold exists for a reason.
How many times have you found yourself $4.95 short of the free shipping mark? Or $0.97? Then, of course, there’s nothing at the price point that you want or need, otherwise it would have been in your cart to begin with. So what do you do? Either dump your cart in frustration or add another pair of shoes.
Not that I would know anything about that.
Too Much Of a (Good?) Thing
Like anything in finance, money is never just about cost. When you purchase something, you have to deal with the financial aspect of it. You also have to deal with its physical presence. That’s a really fancy way to say when you buy something, you have to find a place to put the stuff.
Let’s back up to that shopping cart scenario. You’re trying to meet the free shipping threshold, so you add just anything to you cart to trigger the promo. Great. Now you have a box of whatever you did want or need plus something you just threw in there. Now you’re spending more and adding clutter. The exact opposite of purposeful spending. But, hey, at least you didn’t have to pay for shipping. Oof.
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Supporting Who Ships What
Amazon Prime is practically synonymous with free shipping. Sadly, it’s also associate with peeing in bottles and breaking all sorts of traffic laws to get our goods to us.
While there probably is no perfect shipping company, now is a great time to support the United States Postal Service. Often times, online sellers use USPS (hello, Poshmark!). Additionally, UPS workers are also unionized, which means they should take better care of their workers. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s progress.
Shopping Small Is Worth It
One of the biggest benefits I’ve reaped by embracing shipping charges is the chance to support local businesses. When I was really averse to paying shipping charges, that basically left with me two options: shop big box or visit small shops in person. Unfortunately, that eliminated a lot of small businesses that I would love to support due to sheer geography. Throw in a pandemic, and, well, we’re down to some seriously slim pickings.
So now I’m embracing the shipping fee, and I’m loving it. Of course, it means reconsidering my budget a bit. But I can say that so far, it’s been more than worth the extra money. Thanks to a very talented Etsy seller, my toddler has been rocking masks for a few months longer than required. Because my then 2-year-old would often be mistaken for a kindergartner, we figured the easiest thing to do would be to teach him to wear a mask sooner rather than later. By the time his third birthday rolled around this summer, he was a mask-wearing pro who sports a whole collection of PAW Patrol masks.
Final Thoughts on Rethinking Free Shipping
Will I always pay for shipping? Heck no. Many sellers and stores–even mom and pop Etsy shops–offer free shipping. I will definitely take advantage of those deals.
More importantly, though, I’m not going to let the cost of shipping dictate whether or not I make a purchase. By letting shipping fees drive my decisions, I’m directing my money to places I don’t necessarily want to support and diverting it from people who need more support. Plus, I’m cluttering up my house and my closet…and you know I’m not about to recreate the Great Closet Avalanche of Yore.
So Tell Me…How does shipping costs factor into your spending? Have you ever fallen into the buy more for free shipping trap?