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How to Control Your Monthly Subscription Costs

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I have a love/hate relationship with monthly subscriptions for products and services.

They are so convenient. 

Until they aren't.

The new business model for many services that we use is a recurring monthly charge.

Signing up is usually a no brainer because it's “only” $1 or $5 or $10 per month.

By itself, the price is not very high and seems completely doable.

But when you sign up for a bunch of services it can quickly add up.

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The Pitfalls of Monthly Subscriptions

Often, you pay monthly subscriptions to gain access to a platform or a service.

This are much different from a physical product because a service is kind of invisible.

To use an online service, you need to log into the website or use the app to access it.

Since your subscription is not for a physical thing that comes to your door – you can very easily fall into the pitfall of forgetting that you actually subscribe to the service.

Examples of services that you may pay a subscription for are:

  • tv channel subscriptions
  • fitness app subscriptions or gym memberships
  • online course subscriptions
  • photo editing sites
  • cloud drive space
  • or even shopping subscriptions to things like Amazon Prime.

Ho You Use Your Subscriptions

Often what happens with the things you subscribe to is one of four scenarios:

  1. You love the service and use it every day – in which case, it's working for you, so keep it!
  2. You try the service for a month or two and then move on and forget to cancel the monthly subscription.
  3. You have the best intentions of using the service more so you keep paying the monthly fee.
  4. You forget all about it and don't cancel.

Scenario 1 – You are using the product or service.

Good for you! 

This is how it should work. You pay for the monthly subscription and use it all the time. 

It's a win-win.

Scenario 2 – You try the product or service and move on.

In this scenario, don't forget to cancel your monthly subscription.

You've already made the decision that you don't like the service.

Easy.

Scenario 3 – You have good intentions so you don't cancel.

This is where most people lose money on monthly subscriptions.

Maybe you signed up for something that aren't quite ready to use yet.

It happens all the time.

Companies offer some really great deals throughout the year (think Black Friday) to entice you to sign up.

So, you do because you know a price like that isn't going to come around again.

But maybe you just weren't really ready to buy.

Or maybe you signed up because you wanted to use the service but life got in the way – as it has a way of doing.

Whatever the case, if you are not using your monthly subscriptions – if they are not adding value to your life – then they are costing you money.

Scenario 4 – You forgot that you subscribed and keep paying.

This is the worst.

You are not using it but you are paying for it.

And it can be particularly dangerous if you are on a yearly subscription.

Because the renewal date can creep up on you – and if you don't cancel, you are stuck for another entire year!

How to Manage Your Monthly Subscriptions

The key to reduce expenses and save money is to take some time to actively manage your monthly subscriptions.

The first thing you want to do is get a handle on what you subscribe to on both a monthly and a yearly basis.

Write all of these down on a sheet of paper.

Next to each monthly subscription, write down the amount you pay each month also the amount times 12 – so you know how much it is costing you for a full year.

Also ask yourself these questions for each service that you use:

  • Do I really need this service?
  • Can I get this functionality with a different service that I already use?
  • How much is this costing me for a full year?
  • Can I downgrade my plan? Or can I upgrade my plan and eliminate a different service?
  • And taking a page from the KonMari method – Does it bring me joy?

Depending on your answers you can start to make some informed decisions as to whether you should keep the service or let it go.

Common Monthly Subscription Costs

Here are some of the more common monthly subscriptions that many of us pay for.

Music

There are so many great ways to listen to music these days.

  • Apple Music,
  • Amazon Music, and
  • Spotify

I completely enjoy my monthly music subscriptions but it is easy to duplicate the functionality.

If you have Amazon Prime then you have access to Prime Music.

But you might also be paying for other music subscriptions.

I know it gets complicated because every technology platform has it's own thing.

Of course Apple Music is going to work great on Apple devices. So, even if you are an Amazon Prime member you might also subscribe to Apple Music.

Similarly, if you are on a family plan – you might not be able to make a switch because everyone in the family plan is all set up on the platform that you subscribe to.

Movies

There are so many ways to consume movies these days.

It's fantastic – but overwhelming.

Again you have to ask yourself the questions about what subscriptions make the most sense for your lifestyle.

It may be great to have unlimited movies and TV shows at your fingertips but it might be cheaper to actually rent the movies you want to watch rather than take on a monthly subscription.

It really depends on how often you watch movies.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a great investment.

If something happens to your computer hard drive – it gives you peace of mind to know that all your important documents are stored out there in the cloud.

Good options include:

But you may be subscribing to more storage than you need.

Determine which ones you need the most.

Gym Memberships

We all have the best intentions of going to the gym but if you haven't been working out then you may be wasting money on that gym membership.

The thing is that exercise is important to living a healthy lifestyle.

So if your gym membership isn't motivating you – maybe you need to find an alternative that will.

Think about how often you can realistically get to the gym – how many workouts per week can you actually fit into your schedule?

If you can only get there once or twice a week – then maybe you can find an exercise class to join instead of an unlimited membership.

My point is to put your money towards a workout option that you will actually use.

Subscription Boxes

Who doesn't love a good surprise?

A subscription box is like having a present delivered to your door each and every month.

But these come with a monthly cost.

If you love and use what you get, then by all means continue. But if you have unused items piling up, then it may be time to reevaluate.

Recurring Orders

Recurring orders of things that you use up regularly can save you the time of running to the store when you run out.

I use recurring orders a lot.

We are a house of coffee drinkers so I have recurring orders of k-cups through sites like Keurig.com.

Chewy.com is great for food and treats for our little shih-tzu.

Grove Collaborative is another service that I plan to try. They offer great prices on all-natural cleaning products for your home like Mrs. Meyers and Method brands.

All of these make it really convenient to get what you need. But if you don't take the time to manage these orders you can wind up with lots of surplus.

By now you are probably seeing a theme here.

You need to actively manage your monthly subscriptions. 

If you put them on “set it and forget it” mode then you will wind up paying more than you want.

Things for Your Blog

Lots of services for your blog are on a monthly subscription model:

Many of these are necessary to running your business. But it is also important to take a look at these from time to time to make sure you are on the right plan and using the right provider for your needs.

Don't Forget Your Yearly Subscriptions

Even more sneaky than monthly subscription costs are yearly subscription costs.

These are kind of stealth in the way they take hold.

When you pay for something monthly – at least you see the charge every month.

But with yearly subscriptions you only see that charge once a year.

Talk about out of sight out of mind!

Not only that, it is easy to forget when a yearly subscription is coming up for renewal. Before you know it, you are on the hook for another year.

Cut Your Monthly Subscription Costs

Sticking to a budget is hard work.

You have to actively manage your finances and your spending habits.

While you do need to pay for monthly subscriptions to keep your life running smoothly, it is important to be selective.

Choose to keep the ones you really need or love and streamline the ones that you don't.

Happy budgeting!

Be sure to download our Managing Your Monthly Subscriptions worksheet and use it to help you take control of your recurring costs. Simply fill out the form below.

Alternatively, you could use a service like TrackMySubs to keep track of your monthly subscriptions costs – but it, ironically, is a monthly subscription as well. 😉

Pin this article to your favorite board on Pinterest to refer to later.

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