If you’re one of the 100 million Amazon customers with Prime, you’re also likely seeing more than a few Amazon transactions come through your bank account each month.
Here’s the simple workflow I use with my family to keep up with our Amazon spending. It uses two one-click profiles, each with a separate card. Transactions from both cards are automatically fed into our family Tiller-powered spreadsheet.
First, think of how you categorize expenses.
A benefit of managing your money in a spreadsheet compared to most finance tools is you’re not forced to use someone else’s category schema. You’re free to use custom categories that match your way of thinking.
Our family uses a small set of broad categories in our Tiller spreadsheet:
- We group a lot of our transactions into a “Living” category for those things we can’t live without
. Weuse “Discretionary” for optional expenses that are nice but not needed.
In the following example, we started buying 25-pound bags of Bob’s Red Mill muesli for $98. (Our local grocery couldn’t reliably stock muesli, which is a family staple.)
That Amazon order adds up to the same dollar amount as the DryGuy DX Forced Air Boot Dryer combined with a favorite new book, Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers.
The bag of muesli is breakfast food and should be categorized as a Living expense in our Tiller sheet. The boot dryer and book are categorized as a Discretionary expense.
We combine Amazon’s one-click feature, combined with a second credit card and Tiller’s Autocat category ruleset to automate a way to stay on top of it all.
Step 1: Our Amazon account has two linked credit cards.
One card happen to be an Amazon cards, but of course you can use any credit card, debit card, or checking account with Amazon.
Our first card is the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (no annual fee and 5% cash back). Our second card is the USAA Signature Visa (no annual fee and 2.5% cash back).
Step 2: We then use two sets of one-click profiles.
The first is addressed to “Living – Polson Family” and it uses the Amazon Chase card we use for all living expenses.
The second one-click profile is “Discretionary – Polson Family” which uses our USAA Signature card for all discretionary expenses.
When it comes time to place an order, we choose the right one-click profile by clicking the blue “Deliver to” link first. This gives us the option of choosing our Living – Polson Family profile or our Discretionary – Polson Family profile.
With the right profile selected, we choose “Buy now”
Because each one-click profile is linked to a different card, the Amazon transactions are easy to distinguish in our Tiller sheet, even if they’re lumped with other orders that ship that day (as this book was lumped with a boot dryer).
In this spreadsheet, I can easily tell the muesli (top line with the USAA Visa) versus the book and boot dryer (bottom line with the Amazon card).
Step 3: Automate with AutoCat
Better yet, we can automate this workflow with the AutoCat ruleset.
Most of our AutoCat rules only need a description. However, with Amazon transactions we also have AutoCat look for the account name.
If the Account name contains USAA, AutoCat with categorize it as a Discretionary expense. And if the Account contains Amazon, AutoCat knows it’s a Living expense.
Financial control comes easiest in our family if we can achieve order with the least amount of effort.
This Amazon workflow ensures that a quick decision at the time of purchase provides invaluable visibility into our Amazon purchases as they later appear in our Tiller sheet.
By the way, the same workflow holds true at big box stores like Costco. When you load the checkout conveyor belt, put your living items first. Add a divider. Then ring up your discretionary items separately with a different card.
You don’t need to worry about receipts and splits. The two transactions on two cards will do it for you. And if you’re using AutoCat, it will appear in your Tiller sheet just as you want it.
If you have workflows that make life easier with Amazon and big box retailers, we’d love to hear about it. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.