Personal Finance

An Intervention for Your Subscription Addiction

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Do you have an addiction to subscriptions? We live in a world where content is king, and that content comes at us in a variety of ways. One of the most popular ways people consume content is through streaming services. As of December 2021, 85% of U.S. households had a video subscription – that translates to more than 109 million households.

But there are myriad types of subscriptions, from food delivery apps to music and magazines. If you’re a subscriber to multiple services, those costs can add up quickly.

So many options … so little money, right?

You may have so many subscriptions that you have forgotten about some of them completely. If you’re on a tight budget – or even if you’re not – this can burn a sizable hole in your wallet. Have your subscriptions piled up beyond what you track or control? 

You may not be sure that you even have an addiction. But then you walk into a room and find yourself surrounded by friends and family sitting in a circle, pensive looks on their faces. This is your intervention!

How Are Your Subscription Decisions Made?

Subscriptions are not inherently addictive. When making decisions about subscriptions, people often fall into one of two groups. The first group is selective about the subscriptions it wants and gets good value from them. The second group makes decisions more impulsively. Sometimes those people forget about certain subscriptions or never calculate their cumulative cost.

“Many people for various reasons (often, but not always, emotional), avoid looking at their finances in a matter-of-fact way,” says Vicky Reynal, a psychotherapist and financial therapist whose specialties include helping clients who struggle with overspending. “Avoidance can lead to racking up expenses on frivolous items or forgetting to cancel unused services.”

Decide which of these groups you fall into. If you really think about every one of your subscription purchases, are aware of their costs, and find value in them, you may not need to make any changes. But it is important to consider that during inflation, your dollar won’t stretch as far. You may want to take a hard look at the one or two subscriptions you don’t use as much and cancel or reduce them.

If you fit into the second group, however, your finances could be suffering. That doesn’t mean you have to give up the subscription service that has your favorite TV show. But the realization that you may be addicted to subscriptions should be the catalyst for you to make some changes.

Subscription Services Are Hoping You Forget 

Free trials can be tricky because while there is value up front, if you forget to cancel the free trial, you may be charged at the end of the trial period. The costs for your subscriptions are often automatically debited from your bank account each month or annually. 

“You might be reminded of it only when you see the charge on your bank statement or when you are using the service," Reynal said. "It is unlike a store purchase in that you are making a conscious choice in that moment to purchase a service.”

Steps to address your subscriptions:

  • Make a list of all your subscriptions
  • Calculate the total monthly and annual cost
  • Ask yourself if the convenience or value of the subscription is worth it
  • Determine what you want to keep and what you can cancel

Confront Your Spending Instead of Avoiding It

There are plenty of reasons why people sign up for subscription services. They can provide convenience and value, give us a stronger connection with a brand, and save us money. But when a subscription service is appealing simply because it’s familiar and sounds good – while you haven’t really looked into the details– you may need to take a step back and reassess your habits.

Avoiding your finances can lead to spending on services and items you don’t need. In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Pretending like your financial issues don’t exist won’t make them go away. In fact, those financial woes are likely to get worse without a serious confronting of the problem and a plan for fixing it. Confronting an issue or addiction is the first goal of an intervention.

The Road to Recovery

You’ve decided to make some changes and perhaps trim back on your subscriptions. Great! Here’s some advice for forming a plan to recover from your subscription overload.

Four keys to fixing your subscription addiction:

  • Self monitor 
  • Make careful financial choices
  • Be conscious of the tradeoffs 
  • Plan how you’ll spend or save each dollar monthly

Do you check your bank accounts and keep track of how your money is spent each month? 

"As tiresome as it may be to look at your finances and re-evaluate your choices, it is more helpful than the alternative."

Vicky Reynal, psychotherapist and financial therapist

For example, some subscriptions lure you in with an introductory rate. You might pay $30 a month for the first three months, then the price jumps to $60 for each month thereafter. Perhaps you were perfectly fine with paying $30 a month, but is the subscription worth double that amount to you? Do you use it often enough to justify the increase?

Be aware that whatever you spend on subscriptions is money you won’t have to spend on something else. Want to buy a new pair of shoes? Trying to save up for a vacation? These things could be financially possible if you cancel or reduce some of your subscription services. Getting that subscription box quarterly instead of monthly can add up to big savings over the year!

Financial accountability doesn’t have to be a downer. Just think of the feeling you’ll have with some extra money in your pocket each month by trimming your subscriptions! Recovery never felt so good.

An Intervention for Your Subscription Addiction

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