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A DIY Guide to Unsubscribing and Saving

02.27.20
By: Holly Benedetto

Driven by the rising cost of cable TV and increased number of commercial breaks, cutting cords used to be the cost-effective option to lower your monthly payments. Comparably when it comes to finding deals, online shopping provided an easy way to compare prices and get the best value without having to drive between stores. In a short amount of time, our media and entertainment options have evolved from a collection on a shelf to a cloud-based library at our fingertips – for as long as we pay the fee. As it is, subscriptions surround us. Our daily lives have shifted from making a one-time purchase to continually paying for content that promises to be the most convenient, most up-to-date, and, at one point, the most comprehensive. 

As the competition has grown, many of these larger companies have splintered off into individual apps with individual costs. Consider how many of the following services may call you a subscriber:

  • Video: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Sling TV, YouTube Premium, HBO GO, ESPN, Philo TV, PlayStation Vue, pay-per-view

  • Audio: Apple Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora Premium, iHeartRadio, Sirius XM, YouTube Music

  • Gaming: Twitch Prime, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Now, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass, Nintendo Switch Online, Apple Arcade, EA Access

  • Lifestyle: gym membership, local club membership, wholesale grocery membership

  • Information paywalls: news sites, news aggregate apps, magazines

  • Mystery boxes: beauty, fashion, collectibles, personal care, food and drink, pet supplies, pop culture, books, and more

  • Auto-ship: Chewy, Amazon, or Walmart

  • Individual support: Patreon, campaign contributions, site donations

Subscription models center their business around convenience, so once the payment is set up, you usually never have to visit those pages again. Automatic payments are charged to your account however often the service renews and your product or service is delivered without a second thought.

Since many of these services seem affordable at only a few dollars per month, they may not be factored into your monthly budget, even though they can add up quickly. Unless you receive SMS account alerts or check your statement frequently, many of these charges are able to slip by unnoticed, slowly chipping away at your balance.

In order to find out which subscriptions are potentially draining your account, try the following:

  • Search emails for receipts. To make sure you don’t miss any invoices, go back twelve months through your email history. Some subscriptions recur monthly, quarterly, or annually. It’s easy to overlook and downplay a charge that happens less frequently. There may not be an email receipt for every payment, but the initial sign-up confirmation should contain the details you need for your budget.

  • Review bank and debit card statements. To get an idea of where your money goes, see exactly how much you’re being charged for each subscription. Promotional rates will expire over time, prices can increase yearly, or you may have accidentally opted into an additional service without realizing the extra cost.  You also may have forgotten to opt out of a service that originally started as a free trial.

  • Check your credit card bills. Putting a recurring subscription payment on a credit card may seem like an easy way to build credit and gain rewards, but unless you pay your balance in full every month, those “few dollars per month” can be costing you extra in interest charges.

  • Track your packages. Keep a running list of the boxes that show up on your doorstep over the course of several months. Some subscriptions can fly under the radar by shipping less frequently or auto-ship more regularly than you need.  

With this information in tow, use a spreadsheet to organize your data. List the service name, cost, frequency, and whether or not you’ve used the product in the past 3 months. Consider checking when you subscribed in the first place and how often you’ve used it since then, adding up the total price of the service so far and weighing the value you’ve gotten against that price.

When you finally decide which services to cut (and there will be at least one you can live without), make sure that your subscriptions are actually cancelled and not just paused or skipped. Some services will entice you to stay by letting you skip the next month’s delivery or putting a freeze on your account. These temporary breaks will automatically renew after a period of time, sometimes without warning. Read the fine print for each service and check your email or account preferences to ensure that your subscription is truly over. For an added layer of security – and to avoid temptation – delete payment information from your profile.

If the fear of missing out is a contributing factor, research family plans and group discounts for the services you enjoy most. Chances are your friends and loved ones would appreciate the savings as much as you would!

Once you’re finished, make a note in your budget. Evaluate what to do with the newly freed up cash: to save, invest, or spend on other, worthwhile purchases. Depending on how many services you unsubscribe from, you could be saving yourself hundreds of dollars per year! Cut the cord on cord-cutting alternatives and practice active budgeting in your daily life. How much will you save?