Do you remember the cost of that LinkedIn Premium subscription you opted into? What about the fee for last month’s Paramount Plus sign-up? A monthly subscription often seems inexpensive in isolation, but when you tally up the cost of multiple services or accounts, you might be surprised by the impact to your bottom line.
I identified and eliminated unnecessary subscriptions and it saved me some serious bucks. Here’s how to unlock your own monthly savings.
Paid digital services can lead to subscription bloat
In 2012, nearly 90% of Canadian households subscribed to cable or satellite TV. A decade later, that figure has fallen to 61%, according to a 2022 study from Angus Reid.
More Canadians are abandoning traditional media, like cable, in favour of on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix. Three in four Canadian adults (76%) paid for at least one subscription video-on-demand service in 2023, according to Statista. And that’s to say nothing of subscriptions for other services and apps, like premium software tiers, music streaming and more.
In the era of digital services, an excess of paid subscriptions is an all-too-common problem. So-called “subscription bloat” nibbles our wallets on autopilot, resulting in a steady trickle of money from our accounts for superfluous or infrequently used services.
The solution? Conduct a subscription audit to assess your paid subscriptions and cancel anything unnecessary. Easier said than done, I know, and I speak from personal experience.
How I saved nearly $1,800 a year
My personal subscription audit adventure began last month. While reviewing my chequing account statement, I saw a charge I didn’t recognize. After some speedy sleuthing, I identified the $15.70 charge as a payment to Audible, an audiobook platform that offers access to a library of audiobooks in exchange for a monthly membership fee.
It had been well over a year since I signed up for Audible, and while I’d initially enjoyed its library of audiobooks, I hadn’t used the service in months.
My Audible subscription wasn’t the only monthly fee flying under the radar. I found no fewer than six subscriptions I no longer used — and they totalled $149 monthly. That’s $1,788 I was spending annually on things I didn’t even care about or need!
Cancelling the unused services was liberating, but I was disappointed I’d let them ride as long as I had. I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars by scrapping the subscriptions I didn’t need when they stopped being useful.
It can be challenging to identify when a paid service’s utility runs dry, but that is precisely what makes subscription audits worthwhile.
3 steps to conduct your own subscription audit
If you’re willing to see it through, a subscription audit offers the potential for significant monthly savings. Here are the steps I took:
1. Go subscription hunting
To find an unused service sapping your finances, review your monthly bank statements, credit cards and digital wallets, like Apple and Google Pay. You can often access these itemized statements through your online account, but you may be able to contact your provider to request a paper copy.
Comb through your transactions line by line. And go beyond the last month or two; some subscriptions only renew once annually, so you may need to review an entire year’s worth of data to get the full lay of the land.
Record the names and associated costs of any ongoing subscriptions. Note any transaction you don’t recognize and contact your financial institution if you need help identifying a charge — unused services aren’t always easy to spot.
2. Identify services you no longer need
Once you’ve compiled a list of your paid subscriptions, it’s time to start trimming the fat. You might begin by considering how frequently you use each service. I nixed anything I hadn’t used in the past three months.
Frequency of use is a practical place to start, but there are other factors to consider, too.
Maybe you’re paying for a premium software tier when the standard tier would suffice. Or perhaps there’s a less expensive version of the same service from a competitor.
Reviewing your usage habits and considering cheap or free alternatives to paid subscriptions will help you identify services you no longer need.
3. Cancel the subscriptions that didn’t make the cut
You can begin the cancellation process once you know what you’d like to eliminate. But be forewarned: you may discover it’s more challenging to cancel a paid service than it was to sign up.
Companies don’t want to lose paid subscribers, so initiating the cancellation process can be cumbersome. Once it’s underway, be ready for customer retention ploys, like rate discounts.
While it may be tempting to accept a discounted offer, you’ll save more money in the long run by cutting your losses on services you don’t need or use.
Consider a subscription management app
A one-time subscription audit could help you save money, but reviewing your paid services on a routine basis — say, once every six months — will have a more significant impact on your finances. If a biannual subscription audit sounds like a hassle, don’t fret. There’s more than one way to monitor your paid digital services.
Alongside the rise of digital subscriptions are services designed to manage them, such as Bobby, Hiatus and PocketGuard.
The catch? You typically have to give subscription management apps access to your personal data, and some apps carry a fee — which will cut into your potential savings.
Whether you conduct a manual audit or leave it to an app, taking control of your subscriptions will help you reclaim your hard-earned dollars and become more intentional and proactive with your finances.
Angus Reid, “Streamed Out: Cost of living crunch prompts one-in-three to cancel streaming subscriptions in last six months,” accessed November 27, 2023.
Statista, “Share of Canadians paying for SVOD services 2016-2023,” accessed November 27, 2023.