Not sure how it crept up on me, but recently I realized our family is spending a small fortune on monthly subscriptions. Software, services, insurance, entertainment, fitness, and on an on it goes. A couple of dollars here and there over time can add up to significant dollars on an annual basis.
These types of recurring charges are seemingly everywhere and growing in popularity. Everyone wants in on the action. Just this week Disney announced they are pulling programming from Netflix to create, yup, yet another monthly subscription. Apparently, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and Hulu aren’t enough. Soon we’ll need Disney and ESPN too.
It’s crazy, and it’s got to stop. Otherwise, we’ll all go broke paying for these services we don’t use that much or don’t need.
Additional Costs, Lost Time.
And, once you realize you want to cancel a recurring service, look out! Shutting it down can test your meddle. Figuring out the billing service name/company for the service, who and how to contact to “start the cancellation process” and all that goes with it (user name/password, account number, etc.) will challenge even the most organized person.
And refunds? Well, the most you can hope for is about 3 months (if that). Most will tell you to pound salt and suspend the next payment.
Or, they will turn you over to a specially trained customer service rep who will try to “talk you off the ledge of cancellation” with discounts or other incentives to keep you locked in paying for something you don’t really want. This is because when someone finally leaves a subscription service, it’s usually for good.
First, all this is not saying that all subscriptions should be abandoned. Some subscriptions are indispensable – worth every penny and then some. This can be true for business tools like Office365.
What I’m really talking about are the ones where the value is small or nil. A recurring charge you simply lost track of. That is a waste of money.
Finally, here is what I am doing to cut back on unnecessary subscriptions:
- Making a list of current monthly subscriptions. This is kind of a “duh” but harder than it looks. Be sure to check all credit card, bank statements, and PayPal (other payment methods). You might be shocked how many you have!
- Rationalizing my current subscriptions. Do we really need Netflix, Amazon Prime and other video streaming services (no – we don’t). Make the hard decision and just say no to the ones you don’t love.
- Annualize payments where possible. I think it’s easier to check the real “value” of a subscription on an annual basis. Was this service really worth $XX for the year? If it is, why not pay for the year (or multiple years) up front and get a discount. And, don’t “auto-renew.” Be sure to force a decision to reevaluate the service that does not offer multi-year discounting.
- Be careful with “trials” that ask for credit card verification. This is what got me roped into a bunch of services, “try free for 30 days!” Then I’m suddenly locked into a monthly payment.
- Just say “no” to any more subscriptions. – Honestly, we have all we need. While there are many “shiny objects” out there – like the box subscriptions – just say no. “All you can eat” sounds great until you’re full or don’t like the food anymore.
Hopefully, by cutting back on the services you don’t really want or need, you’ll free up $$ for things you really want.