Too many subscriptions? Here’s how to start cutting them

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Subscription services like Netflix, Game Pass and Spotify allow us to consume as many movies, games and music as we want for a flat rate per month. While this seems like a great deal on the surface, the costs can add up quickly.

Here are some tips to free yourself from subscriptions that no longer bring joy.

Why reduce subscriptions?

It could be argued that subscription models are not just about consuming media, be it games, music, movies, or niche and original content. The way we treat these subscriptions often feels like we’re simply paying for access, rather than actively using the subscription.

It’s nice to have a Netflix subscription ready to go the next time a new documentary or original smash hit arrives, it’s nice to have Spotify for listening to music in your car on long drives, and it’s great to have Game Pass for times when you’re You’re not playing one of the $60 new releases that you had to buy from the store.

This isn’t true for everyone, and some prefer these services to help decide their viewing habits. You can only play what’s been added to Game Pass each month, before moving on to new titles next month, for example. Many are probably familiar with the “Netflix lock” of endlessly scrolling in search of something to watch (only to settle on something you’ve already watched or aren’t that into).

Subscription models are not necessarily bad, but they can be a waste of time and money. Ask yourself how much money you’d spend on movies or TV content per year, and consider if that beats the $240 or so you spend on a 4K Netflix subscription.

Looking at subscription models such as an annual fee can help put your expenses into perspective. It allows you to contextualize if these services are of good quality or not. Microsoft’s Game Pass costs around $180 per year, which is the price of three full-price games (at $60 each). If you’re getting three full-price sets (or more) worth your money, then the ongoing costs probably make sense to you.

But remember, when you buy three games a year, you can keep them forever with no further commitment required. Some media, like games and movies, get cheaper over time, especially on second-hand markets like eBay, so you can always buy something you love later for a bargain. This doesn’t necessarily apply to other media like music or hard-to-find Blu-Rays.

Tools to help moderate your spending

The easiest way to keep track of your subscription costs is to use a simple spreadsheet. You can turn this into a larger family budget spreadsheet to manage all of your outgoing costs, giving you a better overall picture of your monthly income and expenses. Microsoft has some available through its Office website, while Google Sheets has templates in the “template gallery” you see when you start a new document.

You can make this as complex or simple as you like, adding and removing subscriptions over time. You’ll have to keep this up to date yourself, and you’ll miss out on things like notifications letting you know when your subscription will renew (although you can add this information yourself).

Google Sheets Budget Template

The benefit of a spreadsheet like this is that it costs you nothing. You can use a service like Google Sheets, Apple Numbers, or LibreOffice Calc and keep it in sync across all your devices so you always have access to it. Add your renewal dates to a reminder app and set up alerts to make sure you always have money in your account when the time comes.

If you want something a little more specifically tailored, there are apps and services that can track your subscriptions like TrackMySubs. The service is aimed primarily at businesses, but you can track up to ten subscriptions for free (with a monthly fee of $5 for 20, with higher price tiers above that). There are built-in alerts so you can cancel early if you need to, plus charts to help you visualize your spending.

iPhone users may also be interested in Bobby, a free app that does the same thing from a mobile interface. Subby is a similar application created for the Android platform. These apps have the added benefits of automatically notifying you each time a payment is due to come out of your account, giving you the opportunity to decide whether you want I really need another month based on previous usage.

And then there are services that go way beyond simple subscription services, like Truebill and Trim. These are complete online finance management systems that promise to get better prices on your existing bills (such as internet packages or cellular plans) by taking a cut of the savings. Trim is the better value of the two, taking a 33% cut (vs. Truebill’s 40%) and bundled in a free subscription management service (which costs extra through Truebill).

It’s worth keeping in mind that there are some online horror stories about these services renegotiating bills and negatively impacting plans or taking a cut of savings customers themselves have arranged. You must give these services the “keys” to your financial life and implicitly trust them. On the plus side, they shouldn’t technically cost you anything, since your fees are recouped from your savings.

However, there are some caveats. Not all banks are supported, and some banks will already provide similar tools to manage your finances (or at least view your income and expenses). There are also privacy and security considerations to make when giving access to your finances in this way.

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How to save money on subscriptions

Subscription rotation is a great way to save money, especially if you subscribe primarily for original content. Unlike licensed movies and TV shows, original content is unlikely to disappear from the service. The only price you’ll pay is missing out on the hype and conversation surrounding a new hit, as we’ve seen with shows like squid game Y Strange things on Netflix.

There’s a limited number of hours in a day you can spend catching up on content like this, so there’s often little point in having two or more “core” content subscriptions at once. It’s best to rotate between services and catch up every few months.

If this is your first time subscribing, you can also take advantage of free trials. Some services will offer a free trial again in the future just to get you back in, or you can have another member of your household sign up next time. Subscriptions can also be bundled with other products, for example when you buy an iPhone you get a free trial of Apple TV+.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for new services that have just launched that haven’t been on your radar before. This is especially true if you have niche interests. For example, fans of horror movies should watch Shudder, fans of classic movies might like The Criterion Channel, and fans of independent movies will love MUBI. Most offer a free or heavily discounted first month, and you can re-subscribe in the future to catch up on what you’ve missed.

Another way to save money is Microsoft Rewards. This rewards program allows you to earn points by unlocking Xbox achievements and searching with Bing (among others) that you can then redeem for real-world rewards. You can redeem your points for codes that give you access to services like Spotify and Crunchyroll, sometimes for up to three months.

Lastly, some cable or home internet providers bundle subscriptions to services like Netflix with their higher tiers. It’s always worth checking what you’re entitled to with your plan to make sure you’re not missing out.

Too Many Substitutes

While services like Netflix and Spotify screamed value for money when they first launched, the fragmentation of the streaming economy has led to a worse deal for consumers over time. The result of this is that more services are creating original content and programming to compete, which means more varied and interesting programming to watch.

In terms of games, Nintendo already offers some emulation with its Nintendo Switch Online service, while Game Pass is still a great value. Now Sony is entering the streaming space, so how does PlayStation Plus stack up against its closest rival?

RELATED: PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Which is better?