Do you have subscriptions? It pays to review them frequently
In our digital world, it seems that so many of us prefer streaming music, sports, movies and pay that monthly subscription fee to get it. More and more of us are dumping print magazine and newspaper subscriptions in favor of the digital subscriptions.
Companies entice us with a low monthly rate that automatically taps your credit card or checking account. Combine those with the gym membership fee, subscriptions to software, annual fees for whatever professional society you belong to, and the fee for protecting your identity. Voila, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month.
Those expenses may not be stinging if you’ve established a budget for them and know exactly what you’re spending. But if you aren’t keeping track, they could be an unchecked expense that eats away at your checking account.
Look at streaming services. A lot of people have signed up for music as well as movies and television shows. We spend about $2.1 billion a month on streaming services.
A growing percentage of those consumers have been shifting to streaming services to cut the cord with cable television and save money. If that’s the reason, you need to make sure you are in fact saving money. Your internet bill could go up if you cut the bundle with the cable channels and signing up for multiple streaming services could put you back at the same cost.
Also, when looking at the services, make sure you’re getting value out of the service. Paying for it and rarely using the service may be a waste of money.
There are those of us who forget about the monthly $9.99 charge, and it just keeps ringing up every month. Keeping a watchful eye on those expenses means you can cancel them when you see you’re not using the service.
Be careful of the offer of “free” for a time period. It usually means you still have to put your payment information into the service. If you don’t want to go beyond the free period, then you need to remember to cancel the service. Otherwise, the service starts charging.
Having the service and not using it is like buying a gym membership at the beginning of the year to fulfill a New Year’s resolution to get in shape and then stop going but continue paying because you’re locked into the membership for a year. The percentage of those joining and quitting is quite high, nearing 70 percent.
The average membership costs $40-$50 per month. Then add the initiation fee. You may have dropped a big chunk for something you won’t use. So you don’t waste money, think long and hard about how committed you are to hitting the gym several times a week. You do have other options that won’t cost as much and perhaps will ease you into the commitment.
How you choose to budget for subscriptions is up to you. If you break expenses down into specific categories, a lot of times subscriptions and membership fees fall into the “leisure and entertainment” category. Maybe you’re into the 50/30/20 budgeting. In which case, the subscriptions and membership fees likely will be part of the 30 percent, which covers “wants”.
The key is to ensure that your checking account is growing. You may have an aversion to the concept of “budget. Many people do, according to Keith Newcomb, founder of Full Life Financial in Nashville, Tennessee.
“They feel enslaved by it,” he said, adding that an easy inspection of your finances is a way of fighting the budget phobia.
“You can simply look at your checking account and see if it’s growing, shrinking or staying steady,” he said. “That will give you a snapshot, and then you can decide how imperative it is to dig into your spending.”
If you dig in, Newcomb said take the checking account statement and do a line-item mark-up of spending: “have to”, “just wanted to”, and “wish I hadn’t”. Then, he said, budget so you don’t have a lot of “wish I hadn’t.”
You may find that the unused gym membership falls into the “wish I hadn’t” category. Or, you discover that you’ve been paying for a streaming service that you can’t even remember the login information.
“The feeling of having a bunch of items you wish you hadn’t spent money on is like having a hangover,” Newcomb said.