Over the past several years, many of the goods and services that we use have become subscription-based. Over time, you’ve probably accumulated many monthly subscriptions—video streaming services, work software, fitness apps or gym membership, and more. We’re never going to tell you to cut everything for the sake of your budget—it’s not practical for the long-term—but we will always recommend routinely evaluating expenses. Subscriptions can add up over time, impacting your budget. Here are some tips for managing your monthly charges.
Tips for Managing Subscriptions
By being proactive about managing your subscriptions, you can save a lot of money. If you cancel one unused subscription that costs $10 a month, you’ll save $120/year. Might not seem like much, but what about that subscription you never use that costs $5, and that other one that costs $14.99? Before you know it, you’re saving almost $360/year, all the while managing your money more efficiently. Here are some tips for managing your subscriptions.
Use the Same Card for All of Your Subscriptions
If you use several credit and/or debit cards to pay for subscription services, it can be very hard to keep track of it all. You should use the same card for all of your subscriptions so that you can easily track and manage them. You could take it a step further and have a separate card that you only use for subscriptions. You’ll be able to look at your transactions and see only subscription charges, instead of having to wade through other charges.
Sync Your Billing Dates as Much as Possible
If you can adjust your billing date, consider adjusting your billing dates so they all occur on the same day. This means you can review subscription charges once a month instead of losing track over the month, making it easier to work with your budget. If you have autopay set up and have many subscriptions being billed on different days throughout the month, you might not notice which ones are actually being used.
All of this depends on your cash flow—if your budget doesn’t have room for subscription charges to be paid all at once, spread them out over the course of the month.
Remember Your Free Trials
Free trials are a great way to try out a service. But when you sign up for a free trial, you are almost always asked to input payment information to gain access. These free trials convert to a paid subscription once the trial period ends.
It’s so easy to sign up for free trials, forget about them, and find yourself being charged once the free trial ends. To counteract this, put a reminder in your calendar to cancel the subscription before the end date if you decide not to continue with it. Better yet, there is often the option to cancel the free trial as soon as you enter your payment information, while still having access to the service for the rest of the trial period.
Watch for Price Increases
Subscription services can raise their prices periodically. You’ll usually receive an email notification from the business. If prices are going up, take the time to really think about the service. Is it still worth it?
You might also be charged twice by mistake, or a pay increase could be applied to your account in error. This is why we recommend checking your charges monthly, fitting everything within a budget item.
Audit Your Subscriptions
It is easy to sign up for many subscriptions, forget about many of them that go unused, and continue to be billed for them. If you want to cut back and save, you should regularly audit your subscriptions. Make a list of your subscriptions and go through them, noting how often you actually use each one. Cut subscriptions that you just don’t use, or that you can do without.
A smart way to do this is to check your app store for forgotten subscriptions. Even though every smartphone is different, you can typically view all app subscriptions you are currently paying for. Cancel any that you don’t use. It’s as easy as that!
Disable Autorenewal/Check for a One-Time Pay Option
A lot of subscriptions are set to auto-renew—which is great for uninterrupted service, but can be dangerous if you forget about which subscriptions you have! You can avoid this by disabling auto-renewal—set a reminder on your calendar to resubscribe, but the subscription service will also probably remind you.
Apps that Audit Subscriptions
Manually managing your subscriptions can be a little time-consuming. If you’d rather set it and mostly forget it, there are several apps that can review your subscriptions for you. (Please note: We don't own or manage these apps. Use at your own discretion.)
Truebill is available for both Apple and Android. Its main purpose is to help you manage subscriptions, but you can also use it for general budgeting and expense tracking. Truebill connects to your financial accounts and then shows your monthly subscriptions, how much they cost, and when they’re due. It also gives you the option to cancel any subscriptions you are no longer using. The app is free, but you can opt to upgrade to premium services for a monthly fee. Truebill also offers bill negotiation services to help you lower your expenses, but the app charges your choice of a percentage of the first-year savings as a success fee—you can choose any amount from 30% to 60% when you submit a negotiation request.
Hiatus, exclusive to the Apple App Store, tracks your money and helps you reach financial goals. Hiatus also links to your financial accounts and imports spending data, then gives you an overview of your balances and debts. It contains a section that shows your recurring subscriptions and alerts you about upcoming renewals, giving you the option to cancel those that you no longer want. The app is free, but premium features are available for $10 a month. Hiatus also has bill negotiation services, but it keeps 50% of your savings as their fee.
Bobby is a free iPhone app that focuses only on subscriptions. Unlike Truebill and Hiatus, it does not import your financial data. Instead, you must manually import your recurring subscriptions. You can view your subscriptions in one place, along with their costs and bill dates, as well as the total amount you are paying in subscription fees each month. Like the other apps, you can access additional features for a fee.
Managing Subscriptions Made Easy
Keeping track of your monthly subscriptions can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. By being proactive, you can stay on top of your monthly charges, only paying for the goods and services that are actually adding value to your life.