Last week, I got an email saying that I’d gotten an Amazon credit of $69.84 from the Apple settlement. In my freer spending days, I spent a fair amount on e-books that someone thinks I paid too much for.
I’ve double checked my account, and the Amazon credit is there. Yay! Unlike numerous emails for free gift cards, this was not a hoax.
So that means I now have $70 to spend on my most favoritist e-commerce site in the world without spending a dime out of my bank account. While I can’t find everything I’d ever want or need at Amazon, I can come pretty darn close.
I also have an Amazon Rewards Visa, currently with about $170 worth of points to spend. One of my strategies for holiday shopping, though, is to put all of my Amazon points toward Christmas presents. Those points are spoken for, so I haven’t been tempted to use them frivolously.
I so want to use this new credit frivolously. I have spent it a half dozen ways in my head. It’s a real test of my resolve to spend more meaningfully this year. Do I spend it on needs? Wants? Presents? Myself? Little Bit? The whole family? Who gets this windfall?
Wanna help me decide?
$70 is a decent amount of money, but my wish list for what I might want from Amazon far exceeds the amount of my Amazon credit. So bear with me as I lay out my options, with the pros and cons as I see them.
Option 1: Family Game Night
When we went on vacation, Little Bit discovered a Monopoly set in our rental cottage. She loved it. I’m thrilled that she can play a game more complex than Candy Land. Unfortunately, we don’t own many. Ticket to Ride and Carcassone gives us 2 terrific board games for nothing out of pocket.
On the plus side: Fun games! Family Time! Less Candy Land!
On the minus side: More stuff in my house. Also, Little Bit just had a birthday and does not need more toys any time soon If Little Bit really wants to play games, maybe she should buy them. Finally, I understand Amazon may not be the best place to buy some of the more obscure board games.
Option 2: Indulge my Inner Bookworm
While I’ve used both my public library and Freebooksy to read a bunch of free to me Kindle books, not all of my favorite authors are covered. I have a ton of books on my wish list that I know won’t be covered with the free options in the foreseeable future. I guess that’s one of the downsides of having less conventional tastes.
On the plus side: E-books don’t take up any room. I’d get to read Stiletto, Farthing, and a couple of other books I’ve had my eye on for a while. I’d be able to cover some books that haven’t been released yet that will be huge temptations. I’d get to indulge myself, because books are a very personal purchase.
On the minus side: $70 doesn’t go nearly as far as my wish list, and I may be able to find some of the books used or free if I look elsewhere. Most of the books I want are $10 or more, which seems expensive to me. I’m also likely to lose track of the credit remaining and overspend.
Option 3: Subsidize Allowances
I give an allowance to Little Bit in cash once a week. Little Bit is allowed to spend her allowance on things she wants. She inevitably wants to spend her allowance on Amazon for toys. When she does, she gives me the cash. Usually I hold onto the cash until it’s time to spend or to give her a new allowance, which is money I don’t have to take out of my bank account. Then I use money out of the bank account to cover her purchases.
If I use the credit for her purchases that she’s reimbursing me for, then that’s net positive to the bank account.
On the plus side: Less money out of the bank account.
On the minus side: Boring. Only Little Bit gets treats. Also, it feels like this option could be hard to track.
Option 4: Family Movie Nights
Back when we had cable, we’d use those free preview weekends for Starz and HBO to record kid’s movies. I think we kept Wreck it Ralph and The Incredibles on our DVR for 18 months, and they got watched at least once a month. However, our DVR went away with our high cable bill, and now we rely on our DVD collection and streaming video for our movie fix. While we have Amazon Prime and Netflix, their selections of great family movies aren’t always as good as we’d like. We could use the $70 to either buy copies of movies we’d watch a bunch of times, like Zootopia , or to rent movies on Amazon for a couple of days at a time.
On the plus side: Our family loves movies. Frivolous extra entertainment spending is fun.
On the minus side: Netflix has an exclusive deal with Disney that should be increasing their family movie selection dramatically come September. We should probably wait and see what the Disney effect will be before buying any new movies. Electronic copies of the better new movies tend to cost $20 or so, which doesn’t go very far.
Option 5: Save It for Later Needs
As I mentioned earlier, I have about $170 worth of Amazon points saved up for the holidays, with 5 months left to go. It’s likely my total will be up another $100 or so between now and time to pull the Christmas shopping trigger. The points will take care of a big chunk of my Christmas shopping (also Jon’s birthday). It won’t cover all of my shopping though, which may or may not need to be on Amazon.
Christmas presents aren’t the only needs I can pick up on Amazon. We’ve also picked up tools, OTC medicines, and a new router on Amazon this year. With all of the things that Amazon sells, I’m sure that there will be something else that we need to buy that the Amazon credit could be used for.
The settlement credit expires in a year, but I’m not worried about not spending it. The worst case if I save the credit for later needs: it gets applied to our $99 annual Amazon Prime membership next year. It won’t go unused.
On the plus side: Cash price of Christmas shopping or Prime membership reduced.
On the minus side: Amazon isn’t always the best place to buy things, and it might tempt me to buy stuff on Amazon that would be better bought elsewhere. This isn’t a fun frivolous option.
Option 6: Kindle Replacement Fund
I have a Kindle HDX that I probably use every day. I love it. I’ve had it for 2 1/2 years. For almost 2 years, though, the screen on my Kindle has been cracked. The top quarter of the screen is no longer touch sensitive. While this is annoying, it hasn’t reduced most of the Kindle’s functionality. I can still browse the web, watch videos, read, and play most of the games I want to play. I just have to turn it upside down a little more often.
I’ve noticed, however, that recently the performance has degraded. The touch screen is less responsive than it used to be, and the machine froze up and became unusable for a few days last month. I suspect that the bugginess will continue or worsen, and I’ll want a new Kindle to replace my old one.
The good news is that the Kindle 10 looks awesome, and it’s not as expensive as the HDX was. The Kindle 10 has a nice big screen and you can expand the memory for it with micro SD cards. The bad news is that Kindle 10s start at $229, and there’s no way I’m getting it without a good protective case. The $70 won’t cover a new Kindle. It will make a dent in the cost, though, especially if I can hold off until Amazon runs it’s holiday deals.
On the plus side: I would be pretty sad without a Kindle. I love it, and I have a ton of content from my Amazon account.
On the minus side: Replacements are never as sexy as new stuff. It would cover only a portion and not the entirety.
A Frugality Test?
Part of me thinks of my new Amazon credit as a frugality test: how committed am I to minimizing having more if my first instinct when I get a windfall is to use it frivolously?
On the other hand, how much easier is it to stick to our budget if we give ourselves an occasional way to indulge?
I’m torn between two impulses: Just Say No and Every Once in a While, Say Yes. Part of me feels choosing the e-books or movies is a frugal fail. Part of me feels like indulging with the amazon credit is staying on target and will keep me from doing something more indulgent later.
At the moment, my gut says putting the credit toward a Kindle replacement is the smart decision. It’s a balance between frivolous and frugal. I love my Kindle and would hate to go without, and a nice new reliable and fully functional one would be quite a treat.
It’s the smart thing, the wise thing.
Or, in the immortal words of Queen Latifah in Last Holiday “I’m just gonna blow it!”
What would you do? Feel free to vote, point out flaws in my analysis, or offer new suggestions in the comments.
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