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You can save money by having some household items sent directly to your door.

3 minute read

For the past year or so, I have avoided the “automatic shipping” option offered by many companies because I felt that if I needed it, I could just order another when I was running low, or — gasp — actually leave the house to go out and get it.

I felt that if I started automatic shipping, I would wind up with a surplus of items and a deficiency of money. The 5 percent savings wasn’t an enough of an incentive to keep me from this mindset. But over the past two months, I have started to shift my thinking. Why the sudden change?

Well, it started when I found out my cat, in her advanced age, needed a special prescription food. Buying it from the vet’s office proved too cost-prohibitive, so I continued to buy a nonprescription brand from the local pet store. As it happened, I kept running into the problem where I would run out of food and not realize it, leaving me to either chop up leftover meat from dinner so that I could make it to morning when I could run to the store, or a late-night run to the drug store to pick up whatever they happened to have on hand.

After about the fifth time of this happening, I looked up the cost for the prescription food if I were to have it delivered. Turns out, it was cheaper than the nonprescription brand I was buying at the store! I immediately went about placing an order.

Now, here’s the thing — I didn’t just place the order willy-nilly. I think that this is where a lot of people go wrong. Before you order, you need to anticipate how much you will use. Thankfully with cat food, I know how much I feed her each day, which makes it easier.

Next, I had to do some math. Knowing how much she ate each day, I then calculated for the week and then the month. A case of food had 24 cans, so how many days would it be until I ran out? For me, it was about 5 weeks. I just got my shipment yesterday and had one can left in the cupboard.

It has been a lifesaver for me, and I’m sure the cat appreciates it as well. And the 5 percent off is just an added bonus for me not having to worry about running out. I have now also added cat litter to this subscription list. Again, it’s something I measured the use of and need on a continuous basis.

Tips to follow before subscribing to automatic shipping

  • Start counting. Before you subscribe to something, take two weeks to a month and start keeping a tally of what you are using. Paper towels, juice boxes, cat food, baby wipes, razors, even hot sauce can all be automatically shipped via a subscription, but it’s important to understand how much you use of something before signing up.
  • Ask the question. Once you see how much you use, decide if is it worth subscribing. Meaning, are you going to save more than you would going to a big box store? Or is it worth having it delivered because you are constantly forgetting to pick more up before you run out? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to …
  • Do the math. You know how much you use and want to start automatically shipping, so it’s time to figure out how much and how often you’ll need to get a shipment. A lot of products are shipped in bulk, so it will mean a case of 12 or 24. Take the amount you use in a week and multiply it to figure out how many you will need to fill out a case. You won’t likely have an exact number, but get as close to you can to zero, or having nothing leftover. Then you will know how often you will need to have the order replenish.
  • Tweak as necessary. If you find out after your first few orders that you are still running out or having a lot leftover, make adjustments to your order. You don’t want to wind up overspending or not having enough of the items you need.

Understand that I still go to big-box stores to pick up many of my bulk items because I find it to be cheaper. And if I still lived in a big city, I would probably not subscribe as much because I could get a one-day delivery, if not within a few hours, if I needed it. But for now, having these two items delivered has been worth it. I’ll keep you posted if I decide to add anything else to my list.

What about you? Do you use an automatic subscription service for anything? Do you find that it saves you money? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel

Jessica Patel is an award-winning editor and writer living in Los Angeles. She previously served as deputy editorial director of T Brand Studio at The New York Times and as Senior Editor and Analyst of

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