Subscription Fees: The Cost of Unused Subscriptions

How much do you spend on subscription fees? I’m not talking about the $21 Netflix family plan your whole family uses regularly, but the sum total of every👏🏿 single👏🏿 subscription 👏🏿you pay for in a month.

In this subscription gif, Dory is saying she doesn't want to forget to cancel her subscription so she is setting a reminder.

Whether a gym membership or streaming service, subscriptions can add up and waste your hard-earned money—the average cost of unused subscriptions is horrifying.

According to this report by CNBC:

Consumers’ offhand guess of how much they spend monthly on subscriptions averaged $86, according to a survey commissioned by market research firm C+R Research. Yet when asked about subscriptions in specific categories, the actual amount was $219 on average — $133 more than estimated.

CNBC June 2nd, 2022

The pandemic increased automation via subscription services and brands finding new ways to charge you for food, entertainment (gaming, music, movies, and TV), and even our alcohol (looking at you, Naked Wines). It’s no wonder money ends up in the same void as our missing socks.

You need to focus on two things to combat subscription fees: tracking your subscriptions and cutting down on subscription overload.

Allow me to break it down for you.

Tips for Tracking Subscription Fees

Cataloging your services is the easiest way to avoid drowning in subscription fees. You could put pen to paper and track it in a hand-written budget or add it to your monthly Excel spreadsheet. Maybe you do a retrospective of your transactions by looking at your monthly bank and credit card statements.

Admittedly, none of these help you stay ahead of the game.

How to stay on top of subscription fees

Track your bills every month and do away with any unused subscriptions or subscription fees with a money tracking app.

1. Set an alert for when free trials end

Many people get caught up in subscription fees by auto-subscribing after a free trial ends. Anything longer than a week usually gets lost in everyday life, and we don’t realize what’s happened until that first charge hits. When you sign up for a trial, set a reminder for the day BEFORE the trial ends so you can shut it down before they charge you.

2. Ask all of the questions

If you’re like me and have a joint account or two, NEVER be afraid to ask questions. We’re all adults here; we don’t discuss every purchase before it’s made. Before you go into the “stolen identity” spiral, ask others on the account if they recognize a purchase or reoccurring purchase to confirm what it is and why. Unfortunately, they may not even be aware of the charges, and you can stop the silent siphoning of funds before it puts a bigger dent in your wallet.

3. Connect your accounts to a money tracking app

The easiest method for me is connecting my bank accounts to a money-tracking app and tracking my recurring expenses.

Not all money apps and platforms are built the same, but has a built-in tab that helps me track my subscriptions. Simply navigate to the “Bills” tab and review the list of recurring monthly expenses by the date or in a consecutive list.

Dealing with Subscription Overload

It’s true; you can have too much of a good thing. Though each of your subscriptions may seem pretty make or break, there are likely a couple you can cut out today.

Here are a few of my guidelines for deciding if I need to keep a sub or not:

1. When is the last time I used it?

This is the most straightforward metric for determining whether or not I need to keep a subscription service active. If I can go a solid month and not use it, it has to go. Nothing is safe from the chopping block; language learning apps, food subscriptions, streaming services, I can toss anything if they’re not around to defend their belt. I mean, if they don’t get used in 30 days. Sorry, I’m getting back into wrestling.

2. What is the benefit?

This one can be a bit more abstract but perhaps more critical. Identify the actual benefit of the subscription service as you see it and decide whether that benefit a) still exists and b) is worth the cost. A perfect example is Netflix. Those prices are not getting any lower, and subscribers are leaving in droves. Ask yourself, “Is Netflix really THAT entertaining to me?” or “When was the last time I got into a Netflix exclusive?”. You’ll be able to tell real quick whether that $15.49 standard plan is truly worth it to you anymore. Yes, that’s what you’re paying.

3. Where else could this money go?

My final financial gatekeeper to my subscription services is considering where else I could spend this money. Now I know ‘this or that’ comparisons are challenging, but they can be a game changer. Even temporarily canceling your Blue Apron subscription or other subscription fees for a few months could be the difference you need to knock out some credit card debt or plan a vacation.

4. Is there a free version?

I grew up with commercials as a kid. Whether on television, cable, or the radio, I’m used to having “intermissions” during my enjoyment of entertainment. If you are like me or don’t mind hearing about car insurance between J Cole and HER, you might be able to survive downgrading to free (or cheaper) versions of some of your subscriptions. It will likely take an adjustment, but you deserve the money more than they do.

Now It’s Your Turn

When it comes to the cost of unused subscriptions and subscription fees, we can’t overlook the mental component. Many of us fall victim to it simply because we’re too worn out to comb through our bills (usually paperless at this point) to find where the leak is coming from. Once we discover it, the feeling of “I can’t believe I wasted so much money” sets in. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Track your transactions with a money tracking app, take the time to see where your money is going, make the necessary adjustments, and look for subscription fees you can cut out. It’s not the end of the world if you cancel a subscription. Trust me; they will welcome you back with open arms. And gladly start collecting those subscription fees all over again.

Take care of yourself and your money. You deserve it more than any of these services.

Headshot picture of the writer of this article, Kenneth Medford III, with a muted black and white filter.
Kenneth Medford III

Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.

Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.

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