Take Back $273 Every Month

People don’t want to pay for Netflix (NFLX) anymore.

Last week, the company announced it had lost 200K subscribers during the first quarter of the year—its first quarterly subscriber loss in over a decade. The stock plunged 35% on the news.

You know what? Maybe this is a sign that people are finally paying attention to the money they spend on subscriptions. I would call that a good thing.

A 2021 study found that Americans spend $273 per month on subscription services. That’s real money. (Redirect it, and you could be more than halfway to maxing out an IRA.)

And yet, most of the people surveyed underestimated how much they were spending, whether it was on Netflix, Birchbox, Amazon Prime, or digital apps. If you’re not paying attention when you click, click, click on Amazon, it’s possible to subscribe to things without even realizing it because Amazon’s default setting for certain items is “Subscribe and Save,” not “One-Time Purchase.”

Many of these subscription payments are annoying, unnecessary expenses.

  • So, let’s talk about how to get rid of subscription payments you don’t want or need…

First, take inventory. Pull up your recent bank account and credit card statements and go through them line by line. Highlight all the subscription payments and tally up the total.

Second, ask yourself, “Am I using this service/product/whatever enough to justify the expense?” Sometimes the answer is straightforward. Maybe you signed up for the Dollar Shave Club but realized you hate the razors. Or you signed up for HBOMax just to watch mega-rich people on Succession, and then realized you don’t need four streaming services (because no one does).

For other subscriptions, you have to make tougher decisions. Say you signed up for Trunk Club, Nordstrom’s clothing subscription service. You like the clothes, and it’s convenient. But the automated nature of the service means you’re spending more on clothes that you otherwise would. The cost is eating into your discretionary income. Worse, it’s crowding out your ability to save… which means Trunk Club has to go.

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Third, run through your cancel list and actually cancel those subscriptions. Best case scenario, you pull up the company’s website, open your account, click “unsubscribe,” and poof! Your subscription is cancelled.

Other times, unsubscribing is an infuriating trip through hell. About six or seven years ago, I signed up for a credit monitoring service through USAA and Experian. At first, it was a pretty good service. I could open the USAA app on my phone to check my credit score, view a copy of my credit report, and get a breakdown of my spending. I think it charged me $8.95 a month.

After a while, it moved the service off the app, and I had to go to Experian’s website to get the information. Apparently, I had a username and password for Experian, but I couldn’t remember them. And even if I had, without the convenience of the app, the service wasn’t worth $8.95 to me anymore. But it made it impossible to unsubscribe.

Now, the payment was linked to my USAA credit card, and I was only using that card to pay for this service. So, I thought—well, I’ll just call up USAA and cancel the credit card, and that will take care of it. The people at USAA really didn’t like that. I got a whole song and dance about how cancelling the credit card could lower my credit score, which was true. But what did I care? My credit score is pretty much bulletproof. So, I cancelled the card.

I’m not saying that was the optimal route. It just goes to show that you may have to jump through some asinine hoops and talk to a lot of customer service representatives to cancel unwanted subscriptions. Still, it’s worth doing.

As it stands, I don’t have much in the way of recurring payments, which I think is a habit of highly effective people. So, think hard before you sign up for this stuff. Somehow, I doubt you need a subscription to the “cake pop of the month” club.

Jared Dillian
Jared Dillian