Your dollars just don’t go as far these days. Sure, things are more expensive, but “buy now” buttons and shiny new services add up much faster than we’d like to believe. It’s no surprise subscription-based business models are so popular.
Monthly fees for services like streaming TV give you unlimited access to more content than you could possibly watch in one sitting, and it’s just a few bucks, right? Tap or click to see which streaming platforms are best.
You need to look at the bigger picture, though. Money is tight for most Americans right now, and we’re all looking for anything extra we can shave off our spending.
That’s why it’s a good idea to decide what actually merits the monthly hit to your bank account. Here’s how to track your subscriptions and decide what’s worth keeping.
Subscriptions: Everything counts in (small) amounts
Today, most of us own less media than ever before. Forget building collections of albums and movies, now most people have large digital collections they access through monthly subscriptions.
Unlimited access to tons of content for a cheap monthly fee sounds great in theory, but what happens if one platform isn’t enough for all your interests? Well, you end up paying for multiple services and those charges add up fast.
Netflix is a good example of an inexpensive service with lots of content. But certain shows you might want to watch like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Mandalorian” are exclusive to Hulu and Disney +, respectively. If you want access to all of it, you’ll end up paying at least $22 for three monthly fees — and that’s for the basic plans.
Streaming isn’t the only culprit here. Do you subscribe to online versions of newspapers or magazines? What about paid apps, Amazon Prime or iCloud?
To keep your bank account in the black, ditch the services you aren’t using. Once a quarter, designate some time to explore your bank statements and go through the past three months’ worth of charges.
Identify recurring charges between each statement and write them down. From here, rank them in order from the most frequently used to the least. Once you’re finished, go through the ones at the bottom of your list and consider if there are any subscriptions you can live without.
Since most services range in price from about $4 a month to around $17, you’ll find the savings can quickly add up when you cut the ones you don’t really use.
But month-to-month subscriptions aren’t all bad. Subscribing for a service for one or two months out of the year can save you money and you have the whole month to catch up on your favorite shows. Tap or click to learn how to stream whatever you want and save.
Find subscriptions that charge via the app store
Let’s say you’ve finished going over your statements and found all the subscriptions you no longer want. But somehow, it looks like you missed some of the services you use semi-frequently. You may even notice a surprise bill or two you weren’t expecting. How did that happen?
Some subscription services don’t bill you directly. Depending on how you signed up, you might be getting billed through the iOS App Store or Google Play. This means your bank statements won’t break down what you purchased through these stores, you’ll only see a flat fee.
Fortunately, there’s a way to find subscriptions in the app stores. iOS users can see their active subscriptions by opening the App Store on their devices, then tapping on the profile icon in the upper right corner. On the menu that pops up, tap Subscriptions to view, cancel or renew services.
Keep in mind you can’t edit your iCloud subscriptions here. To do that, open Settings and tap your profile name, followed by iCloud. When you’re in the iCloud menu, tap Manage Storage followed by Change Storage Plan to edit your subscription.
On Android, open the Settings app and tap Google, followed by Google Account. Here, you’ll see an option titled Payments & Subscriptions. Tap this, followed by Manage Subscriptions to cancel or renew services.
What’s worth keeping?
Your choice in services and subscriptions really comes down to three factors: utility, entertainment value and price.
Not all streaming services are equal, and some of the more expensive ones actually lack many of the benefits found in cheaper ones. Don’t forget you can always cancel the monthly streaming subscriptions and sign back up later if you still miss them.
If we’re looking at utility, services like cloud storage and shopping subscriptions, like Amazon Prime, take priority. These services do more than just serve up content — they make your life easier.
As an example, Amazon Prime charges you a monthly rate to automatically give you speedier shipping times. You also get a wide selection of free streaming music through Prime Video, free photo storage and other digital benefits. Tap or click to see everything you can do with your Prime account.
In the case of iCloud, it can even prevent you from losing your personal data (or phone, for that matter). iCloud will automatically back up your data each night when it’s plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi, and the Find My iPhone feature on iCloud.com can help you track your phone if you lose it.
With iCloud, you pay for storage space — and the more stuff you keep on your device, the more storage you’ll need. As a result, you should prioritize your backup system if you value the data on your phone. This makes it a worthwhile subscription.
If we’re talking entertainment value, this factor is a bit more subjective. Netflix, Hulu and others all have plenty of good content to enjoy. But as we mentioned earlier, you should weigh the services based on how often you use them and what content you enjoy watching.
Lastly, price is often the deciding factor. This is how you’ll decide whether to break ties with your favorite service and weigh the value of one versus another. One of the best examples is HBO NOW versus Disney +. Both offer exclusive content, but Disney + is less than half the price of HBO NOW at only $6.99 a month.
Combine the massive Disney library with the fact that HBO’s exclusives are seasonal, and you’ll have a strong case for Disney +. The decision is yours, but direct comparisons are the easiest way to decide what’s right for your budget.
We recommend prioritizing real-life services like cloud storage and shopping, followed by news and entertainment. Games, although fun, are more of a time sink. But if you’re a gamer, an Apple Arcade subscription might take priority.
All together, now
So now that you’ve decided on the services you want to keep, why not officially group them together to make payments and budgeting even easier?
A popular method of tracking and paying for subscriptions is paying for all of them on a single credit card. Each month, all your charges will hit the same card, which means you make only one lump payment.
It also prevents you from having multiple due dates scattered over the course of the month. Instead, you’ll only need to pay on your credit card’s due date. Of course, this is just one way to manage your subscription services.
There are plenty of other methods you can use to take charge of your finances while streaming what you want. A great example is paying for a subscription service on a yearly basis. As we mentioned, there are benefits to paying monthly here and there, but content providers will often cut you a deal if you pay all at once.
Disney + costs $69.99 for a yearly subscription, but a month-by-month subscription costs $83.88. The annual subscription saves you almost $14 over the course of the year. Do this for your favorite subscriptions and save in the long term. Tap or click to learn how else to save money when streaming.
Even if you’re not signed up for every single service, at least you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you’re not wasting money on things you don’t use or need. In fact, you can laugh about it all the way to the bank.
Bonus: While you’re looking at subscriptions, be sure to check out the Komando Community — The safe digital lifestyle community where you can make friends, stay informed and get exclusive access to my show. You can even try it free for seven days. Tap or click here to discover more perks.