Saving How to Get Your Subscriptions Under Control

Six tips for getting your subscription spending under control and maybe—just maybe—canceling a few while you’re at it.

By Lambeth Hochwald Illustration by Doris Liou
PUBLISHED 01/20/2023 | 5

Netflix. Amazon Prime. Bumble. Peloton. The Wall Street Journal. That photo editing app you downloaded for that one photo.

We probably don’t need to tell you that all these subscriptions can add up. Sure, $10 here and $7 there doesn’t feel like that much. But what about when you have, oh, 20 or so different ones? According to a 2021 poll by West Monroe, we spend an average of $273 a month on subscription services (including our Wi-Fi and cellphone services), which is up 15% from 2018.

So, what can we do to corral this “invisible” spending? Read on for six money-saving tips to help you get organized.

1. Track Your Subscriptions

The first thing you should do is figure out what you’re actually paying for. Go through your bills for the past six months or so and see what fees you’re being charged—and for what. This is especially important if you have children, as you might just discover that you and your three kids all have your own Spotify premium accounts (if so, it’s time to upgrade to that family plan). Keep track of everything you discover the old-school way (with a trusty Excel spreadsheet) or head to tip No. 5.

2. Look at the Bigger Picture

As you tally up your subscriptions, “think about what you’re spending per year, not per month,” says Bobbi Rebell, a certified financial planner and host of the Money Tips for Financial Grownups podcast. That dating app that costs $45 per month is technically $540 a year, which is a slightly harder pill to swallow. Amazon Prime? $119 per year. HBO Max? $99 with ads. What about MasterClass? $180.

3. Use It or Lose It

Let’s say you subscribe to a news site to read your fifth (no longer free) article and then forget you’re now paying for a publication you never really read. “Put the name of the news site in your calendar to remind yourself to visit it,” Rebell says. “If you still don’t end up reading the articles—or read less than five or so over the course of a month—then you should probably cancel it.” 

4. Stay on Top of Auto-Renewals

If you’re shocked to see a subscription auto-renew, you’re not alone. To avoid this, visit each paid app or website directly and simply uncheck “automatic renewal” in your profile. Then, when you’re pinged about your renewal, “the company will have to work for your business and sell the product to you again,” says Rebell. “In fact, if you don’t immediately renew, you may be offered an intro rate again, meaning you won’t have to pay the regular price.”

5. Keep Your Subscriptions Under Control

If you find the idea of doing intel on your subscriptions too time-consuming or tedious, consider downloading an app such as Hiatus, Trim or Truebill that will do the work for you. Truebill, for example, gathers all your subscriptions into one list and notes the frequency (monthly, yearly) and fee for each—it even calculates the total yearly amount of all your subscriptions together. It also allows you to keep track of payments and renewal dates and will cancel any unwanted subscriptions for you. According to its website, 80% of people using Truebill save money. 

6. Research Smart Ways to Subscribe

Bundling is the word of the day if you want to save money on your subscriptions. For example, did you know that you can bundle Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+ to get a better deal? You can also opt in to free trials, share memberships with family member and friends, or binge Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ and then cancel your subscription until another appealing show airs. And don’t forget: Some cell phone carriers offer bonus subscriptions too.

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more. 

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based writer, editor and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.


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