Overwhelmed by subscriptions? Here are 8 tips to save money.


Subscriptions are supposed to be convenient. Instead of shelling out for each TV series you stream or manually writing a check every month to the gym, you allow the nice companies to take money out of your account automatically. Thoughtful, right?

Our subscription-based economy has a dark side. People are paying for things they don’t use or need, and they are struggling to unsubscribe when they want out.

The costs and terms of many subscriptions change frequently, especially for one of the most popular subscriptions: streaming services. In January, Amazon started showing ads to existing Prime Video subscribers unless they paid more to get rid of them. Netflix cracked down on password-sharing to increase the number of paid subscribers last year. Now Disney, which owns Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, has updated its terms to prohibit sharing and will try to push those people to pay this summer.

To protect your money, regularly audit your subscriptions to make sure you’re still paying the same amounts, and only for things you use and love — such as newspapers.

Find your hidden subscriptions in app stores

There is a high probability you are paying monthly fees for things you have already forgotten you signed up for. The longer a free trial — such as three months of Apple TV Plus with a new device — the easier it is to forget about.

You can go through your credit card statement to see which companies are charging you, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. While most recurring payments are automatic deductions charged every month or as a lump sum once a year, a growing number of services bill through a third party, such as Amazon, Apple and Google. They can be bundled together as one charge, meaning they are easier to miss on statements.

Go to your settings in each app store and review what you have signed up for, including free trials that you forgot are coming to an end.

On an iOS device, go to Settings, tap on your profile on top, then tap “Subscriptions” to see what you are paying for through Apple. Make sure the option for “Renewal Receipts” is turned on so you get emails reminding you that you pay for these services. On an Android device, go to the Play Store, then tap the menu icon (the box with lines in the upper-left corner) and look for “subscriptions.” And on the Amazon website, use the “accounts and lists” drop-down menu next to the search bar to click on “memberships and subscriptions.”

Unsubscribe. Don’t take no for an answer

Outside of the app store subscriptions, cancellation can get messy. Every company is different, but start with a straightforward search of its name and “cancel account” to find the online options to unsubscribe.

To ensure you aren’t tricked into another billing cycle, remove any credit card information from your account if you are able. You should still have access to the service until the date of the next payment. If you are struggling, call a customer service representative and do not let sales pitches get in your way. If you are being charged for a suspicious subscription you don’t remember and can’t find contact information for it, report it immediately to your credit card company.

If you have an app for a paid service such as Netflix, remember that deleting it will not cancel your payments. You must do it manually.

If you’re specifically trying to end your Amazon membership, go to your account page and select the drop-down menu under “Membership.” You’ll see the option to get a heads-up before it renews, and can hit a button that says “End membership.” Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Continue to cancel.”

Keep a record of everything and set reminders

To avoid being caught with unwanted payments in the future, keep track of all subscriptions. Check your bank statements regularly, keep a list or spreadsheet of all your subscriptions as you start them, and set a calendar reminder to cancel a subscription or free trial when you’re done with it (set it for at least 48 hours before you will be charged). Some banking and budgeting apps include tools to find recurring payments automatically.

Calculate if a subscription is still worth it

Many subscriptions are only good deals if you use a service a certain amount, especially when they’re not the only option for paying. For example, you don’t actually need a Prime subscription to order products from Amazon, and many things arrive quickly without one. (Use this quiz to calculate if you’re getting enough out of your Amazon Prime subscription.)

If you pay for something like Uber One, the company’s $9.99-a-month subscription option, look through your last year of trips and orders to see if you used it enough to make the discount a better deal than paying a la carte. Same goes for memberships like Grubhub Plus.

Make sure you’re paying for the correct tier of subscription for each company and not more. For example, if you’re using Netflix, make sure you’re paying for the minimum amount you need now that the company has cracked down on sharing.

Share, negotiate or take a break from accounts

Keeping or canceling aren’t your only options for saving money on things such as subscriptions.

A surprising number of payments are negotiable, most notably cable and cellphone service fees, which can usually be lowered with a phone call and a threat to switch to another company. Car insurance and credit card interest rates can also be haggled down. The best time to bargain is after your initial contract is up.

Another way to pay less is to share your subscriptions — in the proper, legal way, of course. Look into any family plans and read the fine print for how that company defines family or household — terms that regularly change. Does your mom need to live at the same address to share a streaming account, or just be your mom? If having more people on a streaming account lowers the cost for everyone, it might be worth switching.

Some companies, such as Spotify, allow you to pay more to add up to five additional family members, or just $4 more if you want a two-person account. And if you’re absolutely going to keep using it for a long time, many subscriptions offer discounted rates if you pay for an entire year up front. (Set that calendar reminder for 11 months from now!)

If you’re on the fence about giving up an account forever, some companies will let you pause an account instead of canceling it. And services including Netflix make it possible to quit and come back without losing your watch history. You can also cycle through similar accounts, using one streaming service one month, then pausing it and switching to another.

Comparison shop on delivery apps

The glut in grocery and restaurant delivery services means you have multiple options when it comes to paying someone to bring you a fresh or frozen burrito. The prices across apps can vary, even for the same restaurant or grocery store.

To find out what apps are best for your bank account, and for local restaurants, check out our breakdown of where your money goes with each service.

Before shopping for groceries, look at prices on apps such as Instacart or Amazon Fresh to see how they compare, calculating in any delivery fees. Also try the stores’ sites directly and see if they offer pickup or delivery. For restaurants, prices can also vary between apps, so open a few and check your favorite entrees before purchasing.

If possible, see if the restaurant is taking orders directly. Even if the prices aren’t lower, the business will probably be able to keep a larger share of your payment when not using an app like Grubhub. Some companies, such as DoorDash, that offer subscriptions are basically prepaying a delivery fee. If you don’t order enough through a single app to make this a deal, skip it.

Bring your cloud storage bills back down to earth

Somewhere along the line you ran out of free iCloud or Google storage. Or maybe you signed up for multiple services and are paying for more space than you need. This is a two-step money saver that might also help streamline where all your important documents and photos live.

First, figure out how much storage you need. Audit your Amazon, Google, Apple, Dropbox and Microsoft storage (we’re talking personal files, not pro-level storage). They all have easy ways to see a visual breakdown of how much storage you are using and for what types of files. A photo or video collection is usually one of the biggest chunks of cloud storage. You could be surprised to find some unexpected space hogs, such as an automatic backup of all your text messages including photo attachments. Try backing up to a computer instead of the cloud, deleting past backups and clearing out old message attachments.

Prune where you can, then shop around for the best price for however much storage you’re using and reasonable upgrade options as you grow. In theory, you could spread your files across a few services at no cost, but that might lead to forgetfulness and heartbreak down the road. For some people, the right cloud storage option is whatever is tied into their phone.

Find the free alternatives

Consider swapping out paid entertainment with some free options. You can use your library card for free streaming services, e-books and more, all through the internet. We break down our favorite free alternatives to popular subscriptions here, from watching to listening.


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