How to Budget for Amazon Spending

January 30, 2023

What did we ever do without Amazon? It’s one of the wonders of the world that you can order car dip clips (exactly like they sound), books, and toilet paper from the same place. And get it within 2 to 48 hours in most cases. 

With such easy access to buying things we need and want, planning for and keeping track of those purchases can be tricky. But totally possible! 

As I work with clients, they are typically one of 2 types of spenders:

  1. Occasional Amazon spenders whose Amazon spending usually spans 1-2 categories at once.
  2. Those whose households literally couldn’t run without Amazon. They buy often and across a wide swath of categories.

Let's talk about how these two different spenders might handle their Amazon spending, shall we? Great—let's go.

For those in category 1 (occasional, specific spenders): 

If your Amazon spending is manageable and you like the idea of granularity in your Amazon spending, enter your spending like you would for any other vendor. 

If you’ve bought items from multiple categories, look at your Amazon Returns & Orders, locate your item/items, then View Invoice.

Note: In my experience, I wouldn’t say it's 100% helpful and sometimes you need to let the dust settle to see what they actually billed together.  Sometimes they say the invoice will be $X amount for multiple items, but what hits from my bank is different. The things we put up with for the sake of convenience!

If items across multiple categories are being lumped together in a single transaction, do your best to approximate how much should be tracked to each category. Exact is not necessary. 

For those in category 2 (can’t live without Amazon):

This solution is for all those who are experiencing a lot of budgeting friction trying to plan and track all your Amazon spending within other budget categories. 

The solution? If you spend often on Amazon (multiple times a week) or make large and varied purchases in a single transaction, you may consider a single budget category called “Amazon.” 

Budget dollars for Amazon spending to that single category and then track spending in that single category. 

If your purchase contains diapers, a gift, socks and a book, the spending—no matter how Amazon invoices it—all gets entered into the “Amazon” category where you planned money for just such purposes. 

Caveat 1:

You’ll just want to be very intentional about how you plan your money for this single Amazon category since there will almost certainly be overlap between your Amazon spending and other, specific categories that live in your budget. 

For example: if you buy gifts on Amazon, you also likely buy gifts at other places and have a budget category for gifts. In this possible solution you’re going to have to be okay knowing that not all your gift spending is represented in your Gift budget category since some of it lives in the Amazon bucket.

Caveat 2:

Another thing you’ll want to be intentional about is how you handle purchases that are a single category. For example, if you go to Amazon and buy only a book, does that get entered into the Personal Enrichment/Learning category, or to your Amazon category?

There’s no right answer, just what you decide to do. Just make sure you decide your strategy, and plan your dollars accordingly.

In general, I am not a fan of catch-all budget categories, because:

  1. It can be harder to anticipate all the spending you’re going to do in them
  2. They can start to be like the junk drawer in your house.

But—and this is an important but—it’s way better to actually and consistently budget that to not. And if having this general Amazon bucket helps you consistently budget and have less budget resistance, great.

In conclusion...

The reason you budget is so you can meet your wants and needs and have some left over for your bigger goals. And what you do needs to work for you since that’s the only way you’re going to want to stick with it. So, which category of Amazon spender are you? And which approach feels most helpful for you? 

Happy Amazon-ing to all of us. Oh, and if you happen to try a car dip clip, please send pictures.

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