From TV streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) to car rentals (ZipCar) to online medical appointments (Maple), subscriptions are popping up everywhere. We love them for their convenience and variety. For a flat monthly fee, you can have an endless library of songs to listen to (Spotify) or all the ingredients you need to prepare your weekly meals (Goodfood). But subscriptions also have drawbacks. One: they can add up quickly. And two: it’s very easy to lose track of how many you actually have. So how can you better manage subscriptions and avoid subscription overload? First, we must realize the bigger issue at hand.
As more people see the cost-benefit in cutting their cable, getting rid of their cars, and trading in “ownership” for “access,” subscription services make a lot of sense. Why own something when you can just pay to use it?
Many business writers, like Kimberly A. Whitler from Forbes, have been reporting on the rise of the “Subscription Economy.” Businesses and consumers are both flocking to this type of business model. For the consumer, it means cheaper and more personalized access to services and content. For the business, it means a steadier cash flow and a longer relationship with the customer.
Subscriptions definitely seem to be the way of the future. Is your budget ready for it?
This is an obvious fact about subscriptions. But it’s still worth thinking about. Their convenience factor can make you forget not only about what subscriptions you have but how much they cost (they can often increase dramatically, without warning, after a promotion is over), when they are taken out (there are many days in a month), and why you still have them. So, if you’ve fallen into subscription overload don’t worry, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help get you back on track.
The first step when trying to get rid of anything is to evaluate the things you currently have. When doing a subscription audit, you can look back on banking statements, emails and company websites to find key information. You should determine three things. One: how many subscriptions do you have? Two: how much do they cost you? And three: how often is payment taken? After establishing the current situation of your subscriptions, you can move onto the next step.
How often do you watch Netflix? Do you really use all the products in your Fab Fit Fun box? Although you may love getting the newest movies or products, tracking your actual use will make you more objective in this decision-making process. Make it a habit to write down each time you use a subscription service for a few months. Don’t forget to share this document with others who use the subscriptions too. If a few months have passed and you still haven’t used your subscription but continue to pay for it, it’s time to move onto step three.
So you’ve established that you may need to cut back on some subscriptions, but which ones? Using the tracking information you collected, you can establish which subscriptions are never used, overlap with other subscriptions or are too costly to justify the reward. One strategy when it comes to canceling subscriptions is doing a full overhaul. Cancelling every subscription you have allows you to start with a blank slate. If you find a subscription was necessary or frequently used, you can sign up again. If that’s too drastic, other approaches are to only cancel certain subscriptions, create a rotating schedule or adjust to a lower frequency. Like purging our belongings, it can be a sentimental process to give things up but staying impartial is key.
If you’re unsure how to do it, here’s some tips for getting rid of subscriptions on your phone.
If you have an Apple subscription you can manage and cancel subscriptions through your Apple ID. On your iPhone go to settings> iTunes > App store, then view your Apple ID and find subscriptions. Here you can see all your subscription plans. Tap a specific subscription to manage it. You can also manage Apple subscriptions on your computer through iTunes. Here, click view your account then settings and find subscriptions. This allows you to edit subscriptions by cancelling or changing them.
If you are an Android user, the Play Store has a menu that takes you to your account where subscriptions can be found. Here you can update or cancel any of your subscription on your phone or through your computer using the Play Store web portal.
You have now reduced your subscriptions to only the necessities but inevitably there will come a time when you want to add something new. Instead of falling back into the habit of subscription overload, make a plan before putting in your credit card information. To avoid overload, set an amount for a subscription limit. Once you’ve hit this limit, any new subscriptions will have to be swapped out for an existing one. This will allow you to avoid overlapping needs and keep your budget on track.
As with any purging task, there will come a time when we must purge again. Since you have now successfully conquered the battle against subscription overload, it is time to integrate these learnings into everyday life. You must continually evaluate the usefulness and value of each subscription that you are paying for. Setting a quarterly, semi-annual or annual family meeting to repeat this process will hold you accountable to stay on top of your subscriptions.
One thing is certain, subscription services are here to stay. Understanding their challenges and getting into the habit of subscription inventories will become fundamental for budget-conscious consumers. It’s easy to lose track of how many subscriptions you have and see the overall impact they are making on your finances. By creating a plan that works for you, avoiding subscription overload can be an issue in the past.