We live in a subscription society. And subscription services that automatically deliver what you need on a regular basis (without you needing to think about it) can be a huge time saver. Plus most subscription services offer discount pricing for your loyalty (often 5-10% off the retail price), which means they can also make financial sense. It seems that there is literally a subscription for everything, from toothbrushes to protein bars to baby gear, meaning you can get everything you want and need, on timed delivery (and autobilling).
It’s easy to let subscription services, however, get out of control. You forget to skip the meal delivery service a week you aren’t home for dinner much and spent $60 you didn’t mean to (and have a box of food you didn’t necessarily pick out). You decided to sign up for 30 days of that premium television channel and forgot to cancel it before it renewed so you got billed $9.99. Or you still haven’t figured out why there is that $4.99 the 22nd of every month on your Paypal account from some company with a name you don’t recognize.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a subscription person, that domain name you bought or your Amazon Prime subscription is probably on yearly autorenew. And monthly, quarterly, and yearly subscriptions that autobill your account could add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in unplanned expenses. Here’s how you can get in control of your subscription habit without ruining the fun.
Cancel your credit card.
I accidentally got really clear on how many subscriptions I had when I cancelled my credit card a couple months ago. Having thought I was a victim of fraud, I decided it would be better to be safe than sorry so I cancelled my card and proceeded to get about 100 emails from companies about my payment information not going through. Canceling your credit card (or closing a bank account) and opening a new one is a good way to make sure you really want something, as you’ll have to go into every website you’ve ever made an account in and update your information.
Sound like way too much work? There are other alternatives.
Use a tool like Trim.
There are multiple apps that scan your bills and find recurring charges. For example, Trim will alert you via SMS of recurring charges and even has chatbots to help you negotiate, say, your cable or cell phone bill without the awkward phone call with customer service. You can get the same thing of course from skimming your monthly statement but using an app/service that is specifically looking for charges can act as another set of eyes on your finances. (You can also use a real life person like a friend for this!)
If you don’t understand a charge on your bank or credit card statement (and the app can’t negotiate it for you), look up the company name and contact them to understand the charges, and cancel them if need be.
Adjust delivery parameters.
Many services that are subscription-based let you pause, mainly because they don’t want you to cancel. For example, let’s say you have razors on autodelivery every three months but you now have a stockpile, you could skip the next one to two deliveries without canceling your low, locked-in rate and not be charged. Just make sure to put the dates these shipments resume in some kind of calendar with a reminder a week ahead of time (since most subscriptions can’t be cancelled the day they are due because of shipping and other preparations that have to happen beforehand.) In many cases, you can even pause real life services that are autobilled like your health club membership (if you’re going away over the holidays); just ask!
Combine with others.
Sometimes it might be worthwhile to combine your efforts with friends and family. You can, for example, share your Amazon Prime account with someone who lives in the same household or create separate profiles in one Netflix account. Consider sharing a subscription to not only share costs but to share your interests when it makes sense.
Subscriptions are here to stay so figuring out how they work is a great thing you can do, for your finances and your quality of life. Here’s to parts of life, delivered!