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Subscription Service Waste

Oct 8, 2021

Subscription Service WasteFrom food subscriptions to Disney+, this blog post will explore how by not monitoring the subscription services you subscribe to, you could be unknowingly wasting hundreds of dollars a year on services you are not utilizing. This post will serve as a guide for members to be aware of how subscription fees can sneak up on you, as well as how to keep subscription services from blowing a hole in your budget.

In many ways, the pandemic caused people to rely on subscription services more than ever before, for everything from clothes and food, to entertainment, to dog treats. With lockdowns and fears of getting sick influencing many of our habits over the last two years, people turned to subscription services to fulfil whatever needs they might have, from the comfort and safety of their own homes. According to The Washington Post, studies have found that most U.S. consumers have at least two to three subscription services they utilize. However, what many people don't realize is that while subscription services are easy to sign up for, and in many instances provide us with something we think is useful, if you are not careful, you could find yourself wasting hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on subscriptions you are not even using.

One of the main ways subscription service fees can sneak up on you is through free trials. Most often, you sign up for the service on a trial basis to see if you like it. However, the service makes you put in credit or bank card information, so the payments are automatically deducted from your account. Oftentimes, subscription services will rope you in with promises of a "free trial" or a deal like "get three months of Premium free!" to get you to put your card information down. In addition, many subscriptions auto-renew, meaning consumers can waste hundreds of dollars a year on products or services they are barely using because the fees are taken out of your account automatically, and without alerting you. Often the only way people even realize they are paying for a service they are not actually using is when they notice money disappearing from their account and remember it is going to a service they used twice and then just forgot about. 

Here are some helpful tips to make sure you are not wasting your hard-earned money on subscription services you no longer use:

  • Set an alert. As soon as you sign up for a free trial, take notice of when the trial ends, so you can set a calendar reminder the day before to review if you actually want to keep the service.
  • Look into apps. If you don't have enough time to cancel your account before you get charged, there are apps like TrueBill and PocketGuard that can help you track which subscription services you have, how much you are paying each month, and provide a convenient way for you to cancel the service if you want to.
  • Check your bank statements. Either annually or once every six months, go through your bank statements and look at all of the subscription services you pay for and assess whether you really need each service.

You should also be thinking about what role each subscription service plays in your life. Below are some questions to ask yourself when you are thinking about getting or canceling a subscription service:

  • Do I really watch a lot of content on Hulu/Netflix/HBO Max to justify the price per month?
  • Are there only one or two shows that I really like on those networks, or do I spend most of my weekly viewing time on that service?
  • Is there another (legal) way for me to watch that show I really like without having to pay for the monthly cost of the streaming service?
  • Would it cost me less just to buy the full season on Amazon Prime or Apple TV for $15 a season, as opposed to paying $6.99 a month for the entire time the show is running when I only watch that one show?
  • Is it more cost effective for me to keep Amazon Prime, because I save time on my deliveries and money on products I want?
  • Do I find that I waste less food and am not going out as much when I get my Blue Apron delivery each week?
  • Is it easier for me to have Chewy deliver my dog food every month so I don't forget/have to lug the food home from the store?

If you find that there are some subscription services you really cannot live without, plan for how those services can fit into your monthly budget for food/entertainment/personal care. Additionally, if you find that one particular service might be too expensive, see if there is a lower priced alternative that will provide you with the same quality product at a better price.

While subscription services can be both fun and helpful to have, if you are not careful they can become a burden to you and your wallet if you do not take steps to monitor how much you are spending each month.

Erin Elis 
Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union
eellis@PFCU.COM
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