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5 Solutions to Sneaky Expensive Subscriptions

Updated: Jan 4

Updated post: 9/5/23

Original post: 12/19/22


Subscription-based services spiked over the past few years, largely due to covid holding some of us hostage to our homes. Statistics have shown that “Growth in new subscriptions immediately increased during the first few weeks of the COVID period, ranging from 20%-40% higher than the pre-COVID timeframe.”


Now that the world is seemingly returning to normal, it’s time to hunt down the subscriptions secretly sucking money out of our pockets.


Pro Hack for Couples: Review subscriptions with your spouse. They will have subscriptions you are unaware of, and vice-versa. Deciding what to do moving forward will require a conversation.


According to C+R Research, “More than half of consumers (54%) underestimate how much they spend monthly on subscriptions by at least $100.”

Graphic via C+R Research SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE STATISTICS AND COSTS
Subscription Costs

42% of people from the same C+R Research study claimed they are still paying for a previously forgotten subscription. That is over $1,000 a year that could be spent during the holidays, to fund a vacation, or be invested. Luckily, some great tricks and a few easy-to-use apps can help you track and budget your subscriptions.


The most common subscription-based services used by Americans are, by far, streaming services. Of these, the ten most popular are music or video streaming services, most of which are similar. However, according to Statista, the average number of paid subscriptions per consumer was 12.


 
 

Solution #1: Use tech to identify your subscriptions

If you're hard-pressed for time, consider apps and services that quickly identify subscriptions and allow you to make quick decisions


Cut subscriptions using technology

We started with ScribeUp, a free Google Extension. We have four primary credit cards, and it took me 15 minutes to connect my accounts to ScribeUp and review my current subscriptions. ScribeUp connects to Plaid to review your transactions and uncover recurring payments.


Cutting subscriptions

My wife and I discussed what we wanted to keep and remove. We saved just under $400 using ScribeUp, canceling some subscriptions, and taking advantage of an offer to continue to subscribe to NY Times, which cut my subscription cost in half.


The NY Times was not the only service to offer a better deal in the cancellation process; others did the same.


Pay close attention to dark patterns while doing so. The NY Times was far more transparent than other services I encountered. After the promotional period is up, the cost will change. Dark patterns are not unusual in e-commerce. Folks need to remember when free trials and promotional periods conclude and notice the regular billing change to the subscription. And this is not easy to do, which is a good reason to review your subscriptions annually.


Automatic renewal terms
An example dark pattern. Notice what happens to the cost of the subscription after the first year.

Apple subscription settings

Apple subscriptions are not easy to identify using these services. However, there is a hack you and your spouse can use. Go to your settings and search for subscriptions—any subscriptions you have and the associated details will populate. Remember that your spouse needs to do the same exercise on their phone!


We saved around $200 for the upcoming year by reviewing these subscriptions.

Multiple credit cards have free services that identify subscriptions to help you save. Take the time to explore whether this is the case for you.

We chose not to pay for any services to identify our current subscriptions. However, these services are available that could better fit your needs. CNBC did an excellent review in their article Here are the best subscription trackers to help you stay on top of recurring payments.


Solution #2: Pick your favorite streaming service


If you know what you like and have a favorite streaming service, see if they offer a long-term subscription discount. Save money by committing to your favorite streaming services and eliminating the ones you seldom use.

 

Your financial life in a spreadsheet, automatically updated daily. Build your budget, now.

 

Solution #3: Explore long term subscription discounts


Long-term subscription discounts are also a great tactic for music streaming apps, given that most music releases on all platforms. It is most cost-efficient to pick your favorite music streaming app and delete the rest… (Just make sure you remember to unsubscribe before deleting, so you do not continue to be charged!)


Solution #4: Take advantage of free trials


Take advantage of free trials to determine which subscriptions are best for you. Free trials are a great way to help you decide which streaming services or other subscriptions are right for you, and you would be surprised how many companies offer them.


However, be aware there is often a catch with free trials. Be sure to read the fine print. As we shared before, a dark pattern is an automatic enrollment in a subscription after a free trial ends, and folks end up paying for subscriptions they have forgotten. To help avoid this, set a reminder on your phone or mark your calendar to remind yourself when a free trial is coming to an end so you can decide if you want to remain subscribed or end the trial at no cost to you.


Solution #5: Rotate your streaming services


A good way to save money on television streaming services is to subscribe to one streaming service at a time, switching services every month, allowing you to keep track of a single payment each month and the freedom and variety to switch streaming services often.


With many television shows and movies being offered on multiple streaming services simultaneously and often rotating amongst them, it is unnecessary to pay for numerous television streaming services simultaneously. However, it is evident these subscriptions add up. With the average American spending over $200 monthly on subscriptions, often for services, they do not use, it is time to stop this frivolous spending.


Make your New Year resolution to keep track of and budget your subscriptions; it may help you save thousands.

 

Learn More


Couples who learn more, save more, and spend more on what is important to them.


For engaged and recently married couples who want to manage money and the home as a team.


Self paced online courses for couples designed by national financial therapy and financial planning experts


Winning ideas from experts to manage money and the home as a team. 2023 Plutus Award Finalist: Best Couples or Family Content


🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Apple.

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Citations


All Top Everything. (2022, October 2). Top 10 most popular subscription streaming services. All Top Everything. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.alltopeverything.com/most-popular-streaming-services/


Best budgeting apps for 2022: The ascent by motley fool. The Motley Fool. (2022, April 29). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-finance/best-budgeting-apps/


Gold, C. (2019, December 26). 2020: The year of subscription service growth and iteration. Multichannel Merchant. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/2020-year-subscription-service-growth-iteration/


The impact of the global pandemic on Subscription Growth Sales: Recurly. Recurly, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://recurly.com/research/pandemic-impact-subscription-growth-rates/


O'Brien, S. (2022, June 2). Consumers spend an average $133 more each month on subscriptions than they realize, study shows. CNBC. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/06/02/consumers-spend-133-more-monthly-on-subscriptions-than-they-realize.html


Personal Finance Guides & Financial Advice | US news money. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance


U.S. households spend over $200 on monthly subscriptions. how do you compare? The Motley Fool. (2022, June 16). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-finance/articles/us-households-spend-over-200-on-monthly-subscriptions-how-do-you-compare/


Subscription Service Statistics and costs. C+R Research. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.crresearch.com/blog/subscription-service-statistics-and-costs

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