My Year in Amazon Purchases: What did I lose? What did I gain?

Hello. My name is Sophia and I am an Amazon Prime user. No, there are no affiliate links. You’re safe here.

In this year of madness and misery, one thing I have strived to avoid is filling the growing void with mindless consumerism. I am relatively frugal. I avoid unnecessary purchases and care about keeping what I own for as long as possible. But 2020 has tested all this resilience and I am panicking about how it might have affected my purchasing this year.

Am I buying things I need? How many impulse buys have I made? Were there bad purchases? Were there purchases I made in good faith that were ultimately bad purchases? Has this year changed me for the worse?

I  started asking myself these questions quite recently. Like… 2 months ago. So I can’t tell you that I have changed my habits just yet. Also I don’t even know what habits I need to change. So as my end-of-year self-reflection period, I would like to share my Amazon consumerism and how I feel about it. But I would also like to use it to revisit the various tumultuous periods of my year. Let’s discuss how much money I gave Mr. Bezos this year, what I spent and what I gained.

This is my year in Amazon purchases.

So right off the bat.

I spent £921 ($1,246) on Amazon in 2020 and bought 58 things.

This is horrifying. I genuinely did not think it would be that high. When I asked my husband what he thought the final number was, he said £300 and my soul just left my body.

I was in such disbelief that I made a spreadsheet to verify my notebook scrawls. And yes, that number is correct. Here, I made you a bar chart:

March is a big boy.

It might be worth focusing on the elephants in the room…

The big boys.

2020 began with whispers of what was to come. Many people in the UK were unaware (or willfully ignorant ahem, Boris, ahem) of the virus. That wasn’t the case with me because I have a sibling and many friends in China because, up until very recently, I used to live there. Really. So I was aware of things but admittedly not changing my behaviour in response to them.

However, my spending behaviour did have little leaps throughout the year. And these leaps began with a cosmic jump in March, when the UK lockdown kicked into gear… at least 3 weeks later than it should have. I spent £324 ($438) in March alone. I am a basic basic little human. And no, it wasn’t all toilet paper or pasta. Like many people, I lost my job around this time. I had only recently started that job too so I was pretty bummed. The world was spinning, everything was confusing, people had too much toilet paper… so I bought a PS4. And Final Fantasy 7 Remake. And a can opener.

I have no regrets.

Videogames were my salvation as I watched the world burn while stuck at home with no income after finally getting a job. I had been doing a course up to that point so yeah.. I needed a month just to get my bearings. And the FF7-Remake was great, weird ending and all.

But I did need to think about employment. Benefits weren’t an option for me so I decided to stay involved with the company that had had to let me go because I was in this weird middle space where I had been on a work trial and they hadn’t quite hired me yet and so they hadn’t really fired me. There was a lot of confusion. So I just bought a fancy headset and attended all the Zoom meetings anyway. Hence the small blip in April. And I knuckled down to weasle back into my job somehow.

And, if you look at June, weasling paid off because I had to do some shopping! I am a teacher and needed to buy things to become an online teacher. So I bought a laptop raiser, keyboard, mouse etc… I also bought some Cod Liver Oil tablets, some novels and leggings. All necessary purchases and generally a very happy time for me. If the March spending was all focused on the escapism I needed to get through a confusing time, the June spending is all about getting back into the real world. The period between these months were very difficult for me. I am sure many people can relate. Life at this point just had a big ol’ asterisk next to it saying “circumstances subject to change”. So I was very proud of myself and grateful that I had secured a job, even if it was only part-time. It was great.

But 2020 hasn’t just been about returning to normality, it’s been about reassessing what “normal” is and where my priorities should be. I started journaling this year. I started recording my sleep and blogging more regularly. I gave up dairy. I decided I want to sew and bought a bunch of stuff for that in August and September. I got especially reflective in September, around my birthday. My gratitude over getting a job and getting to a place of stability led me to wondering what I want from life. And I kid you not, I bought a tripod and lavalier mic because I might want to transcend this little writing space and start making videos. You’d get to hear my voice! How exciting for you.

Then I had an awful acne breakout and most of November and December was spent getting emergency supplies to deal with it.

So that was where all my money went and why.

It can’t’ve all been good…

Let’s be more specific.

I went through each individual purchase and labelled it “Bad Buy”, “Worth it” and “In good faith”. A “Bad Buy” is something bought on impulse that I probably should have considered more seriously before buying. A “Worth it” purchase is something I bought that I used and am glad I bought. And “in good faith” purchases are things I bought with the intention of using them but either haven’t got around to it or I did use them and they didn’t end up how I wanted. For example, I bought ginger sweets to help with motion sickness before lockdown. Then lockdown happened and I haven’t travelled. Then I did travel for work and the sweets did not work. So that’s a “good faith” purchase. They taste nice though.

Here’s a chart:

This chart makes me happy.

Obviously I want the blue section to be bigger than that and for the red section to be gone. But I think I did pretty well! So… this post seems kind of pointless now. And is turning into a humble brag. Sorry.

The major criticism here is obviously my own subjectivity. It’s possible you don’t think a PS4 was worth it and maybe that is true for you. But I have used my PS4 every single day since I bought it. I use it to watch TV, play games and go on YouTube. It has replaced my Sky Box entirely. My remote is now a controller. I measure “worth it” along these lines. Have I used it and has it added value to my life? And I am very pleased that over 70% of my purchases did.

My good faith purchases do concern me though because some of them could become bad buys if I don’t find a good use for them. This section is not all ginger sweets. It includes a lot of sewing equipment. I wrote about my desire to learn how to sew earlier in the year and I still do but, as with many things in life, my desires are often derailed. And I worry that my overly eager investment in things that interest me end up being giant wastes of money and time. They leave me feeling guilty about my lack of commitment to myself. This year I bought a phone tripod and lavalier mic, because I hope to put my Media degree to good use and make videos in 2021. And if I don’t achieve that and my sewing ambitions…well…. the good faith purchases end up being bad buys.

The actual bad buys were examples of these. I didn’t spend a lot of money on them, about £13 ($18) in total. I bought calligraphy pens (June) and henna cones (July). These were two separate impulsive events in which I decided I would become a hand-lettering queen and henna artist respectively. It’s not the first time I have invested in potential hobbies I would like to pursue in life. And I often spend before I do anything. It’s why I have drawers bursting with artist paraphernalia, crochet yarn and now… sewing and camera equipment.

So if we combine the good faith and bad buys in a sort of worst case scenario. I would have wasted 24% of what I spent on Amazon this year, which amounts to over £200 ($272). And what’s left of my soul is tugging itself out of an unresisting body. I cannot afford to waste that much money in a year on thoughtless tat. So, that drives my goals for 2021. The good faiths must enter the blue.

In the year 2021…

Going back over my total spendings for 2019 and comparing them to 2020 would have taken a lot more time than I had this week. But at least I have a number to work from. I hope to spend less next year and to focus on the goals I have set myself rather than buy things I don’t need or may never use.

And finally, I would like to add that this post is not in celebration of Amazon as a company. And I hope it doesn’t come across as such. I don’t intend to make this a yearly post where I revisit my spending on Amazon, because I hope to drastically reduce them in the next year. Amazon has come under rightful criticism for its poor business practices and treatment of workers and while I don’t think a boycott is the solution, reducing my own consumption is a small first step I hope to take. Amazon is a behemoth because our desire for convenience made it so. I think reflection on this and small changes to behaviour from Amazon customers can have an impact. Also… governments really need to make them stop being shitty. So I hope to lend my little voice more to such efforts.

So there we have it. 2020 was an unpredictable, infuriating, horrible little year. And 2020 being over doesn’t mean lockdown will be over, nor that the virus will disappear. It doesn’t mean I will get to finally have my wedding party or that my brother will be able to visit the UK. But despite 2020 being cursed, it did make me reassess what I want from life. It changed my priorities and shifted my focus on to what makes me happy. So I enter 2021 a little less listless.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on my Christmas post. So thank you for that! I hope you’re all as happy to see the back of 2020 as I am.

See you in 2021!

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