Are Subscriptions Slowly Making You Poor?

Many services are a great value. But any subscription can be a money suck if it isn’t regularly used.
Liz Weston, CFP®
By Liz Weston, CFP® 
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You might not be spending hundreds of dollars every month for various subscription services, as some millennials reportedly do. But you may be spending a lot more than you realize.

Spend a few minutes totaling up what you spend.

Instamotor, a car-buying site, recently polled 600 people ages 18 to 34 and discovered 56 of them — nearly one in 10 — acknowledged spending at least $200 a month on subscriptions such as gym memberships, streaming entertainment services, online storage and “personal styling” (think Birchbox and Stitch Fix).

The car-buying site suggests that money might be better used to, say, make payments on a new car such as a Ford Fiesta or a Nissan Versa.

Or maybe not. Few of us are willing to ditch all of our subscriptions, regardless of how much we save. Many are a great value (and online backups are a virtual necessity). But any subscription can be a money suck if it isn’t regularly used.

Before you build a budget
NerdWallet breaks down your spending and shows you ways to save.

Are you shelling out more than you realize? Take a few minutes adding up what you spend on:

  • Streaming video (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc.)

  • Streaming or satellite music (Spotify, Apple Music, Sirius XM, etc.)

  • Security subscriptions (ADT, SimpliSafe, Frontpoint, etc.)

  • Online storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.)

  • Photo storage and sharing (Flickr, SmugMug, 500px, etc.)

  • Online backups (Mozy, Carbonite, iDrive, etc.)

  • Personal styling (Stitch Fix, Birchbox, Ipsy, etc.)

  • Magazine, book and news subscriptions (Texture, Audible, New York Times, etc.)

  • Gyms

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If you forgot you even had some of these subscriptions, they’re pretty good candidates for pruning. Others will be a tougher call. Do you really need CBS All Access after you’ve binge-watched all the new "Star Treks"? Is that occasional visit to the gym worth paying $600 a year? Could you get by with free photo storage if you stopped uploading all those fuzzy or duplicate shots?

It should take only a few minutes to cancel an underused subscription or turn off the auto-renew feature, which you’ll typically find in the billing section of your account. And that’s a great investment of your time. You may not spend hundreds a month, but shutting down a few subscriptions could save you hundreds each year.

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