Graphic of overwhelmed woman at laptop with 5 subscriptions overhead

Subscriptions: How to Not Throw Your Money Away…

Ever take a closer look at your bill and realize you’ve been paying for a streaming service just to get access to a show you finished watching 11 months ago? You’re not alone. 

In one recent study, 42% of consumers admitted that they’d stopped using a subscription service but forgot they were still paying for it. The same survey found that consumers spend an average of $133 more each month on subscriptions than they realize.

This is one of the reasons this model is so popular with businesses these days. While in some cases, subscriptions can be incredibly convenient, giving consumers access to helpful services — gym memberships, meal deliveries, curated boxes, content, virtual learning, software — the other side of subscriptions can mean maximizing profits at the expense of the consumer.

Part of the subscription model often involves “free trials” that quietly turn into paid subscriptions which can go unnoticed for months. Even the services you willingly sign up for usually have autopay in place, so when you no longer need the service, it’s very easy to forget to unsubscribe.

That’s why we’ve decided to share 5 tips and tricks to make sure you’re not throwing your money away on subscriptions and getting the most out of the ones you do use!

1. Perform a Subscription Inventory

View of a woman's hands making a list of subscriptions on a notepad and working on a laptop

One simple way to take stock of your current subscriptions is to keep a close eye on your credit card statements each month. If you see a charge that you don’t recognize, do some digging. You can also check whichever app store you use to investigate and cancel any app subscriptions. This handy video shows you how to do just that.

Budgeting apps like Mint and Rocket Money can also help you track your subscriptions. These can be very useful when it comes to nailing down those tricky annual charges that won’t show up on every monthly bill. 

2. Cancel or Pause Unused Subscriptions

Once you have that inventory of all your subscriptions, really ask yourself how often you use them. Some may be more obvious — that premium dating app subscription can go because you’ve been exclusive with your new boyfriend for over a month now. But what about the ones that you use off and on? Maybe you only signed up for Disney+ to binge The Mandalorian, but that’s going to be off the air for the next two years. Be sure to pause or temporarily cancel subscriptions until you will actually use them again.

3. Share Subscriptions

Now, we’re not advocating anything underhanded here. Just take a look at the fine print when it comes to “family plans.” How does that company define “family?” Do you need to live at the same address? At 60% more for a family Spotify Premium plan, you could save a lot of money just by sharing this plan with a few live-in family members.

4. Haggle Down the Price

Some subscriptions allow you to bargain down your monthly price. Cable and cell phone services are the obvious ones, but during the pandemic, even companies like Adobe allowed some of their customers to pay less for their expensive work software.

5. Do Your Homework When You Sign Up For a Free Trial

Blue Coffee Cup with "Free Trial" printed on it next to small hourglass suggesting free trial subscriptions

While those free trial offers can make you feel like you’re getting something for nothing, there’s almost always a catch. Read the fine print! Make sure you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. For example, if you’re ordering a delivery, check that there aren’t hidden shipping costs. Note exactly how long the trial lasts and mark your calendar so you know when to cancel. Finally, check reviews to see if people complain about getting tricked by the trial period! 

Doing some basic homework can really help you avoid paying for something you didn’t necessarily want in the first place.

Final Words

Some subscriptions can be a really great deal — Costco’s $120 annual membership price could be well worth it to get access to their low warehouse prices. And even if someone else might pass on a fancy gym membership, if you make it a habit to leave the house and exercise every day, you’re getting real value there.

But it’s important to make sure that you want and use all of the subscriptions you’re paying for, and that you’re not simply throwing away money through inattention.

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