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Top tips to manage your subscriptions like a pro (& save money)

Smart spending
Top tips to manage your subscriptions like a pro (& save money)
Smart spending

Living costs are going up everywhere. Even Netflix is charging more these days, which is a good reminder that it might be time to get your subscriptions under control.

With so many things now available as a subscription it’s easy to lose track. Apps, entertainment, gaming, groceries, cheese, coffee, beer. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t manage all these subscriptions carefully, your personal finances can soon get out of hand. So if you want to control spending and stick to a personal budget it might be worth considering prepaid services.

Read on to learn how to cancel any subscription and make sure you never pay for an unwanted service again.


Why you need to get serious about managing subscriptions

Companies know that a lot of people will simply forget to cancel subscriptions. And they will happily never stop billing you, so let’s get serious. Taking back control over your subscriptions has several benefits:

  1. Improve your peace of mind by avoiding surprise charges.
  2. Control spending by cancelling subscriptions you don’t really need.
  3. Increase your internet safety by using a secure payment method.

Controlling spending is key to managing your personal finances. There are many reasons for overspending and lots of good ways to avoid it.


How the subscription model can work against you if you’re trying to save money

It’s all too easy to under-estimate how much you’re spending on subscriptions and recurring payments. A seemingly low monthly fee can make it easy to sign up. Those small sums might seem manageable, but they can soon add up. They can also make it easy not to notice the cash leaking out of your account.

The average person in the US pays $273 a month on subscription services according to one recent survey. Most people significantly under-estimate how much they spend on subscriptions. And often by a lot. Some people under-estimated their spending by hundreds of dollars.

Another survey by JP Morgan Chase showed that nearly two-thirds of consumers say they’ve forgotten about at least one recurring payment service in the past year. If you’ve got a personal budget you want to stick to, manage subscriptions carefully and switch to prepaid services where possible.


You don’t always have to subscribe

Subscriptions are often a sales tactic. Companies know that people might think twice when they see a high ticket price. So they offer a solution. They chop that price into little pieces, make it a recurring payment and call it a subscription.

But many subscription services are also available as one-time payments. A classic example is Microsoft Office. Buying a standalone licence might cost £120. That can seem like a lot if you just want to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your laptop. On the other hand, subscribing to Microsoft365 might cost just £6 a month. Which do you go for?

The maths is simple. A standalone version will be cheaper if you plan on using it for more than 20 months. Sure, you may miss out on some new features, but how much is that worth to you? If you use the same version of Word for five years you would save £240 versus the subscription. Can you even think of the last update to Word that you cared about? This is often the trade-off you need to consider with certain subscriptions. How much are you willing to pay for new features?

Companies often make it easy to find their subscription offer and hard to find the standalone deal. But it’s always worth checking to see if a licence or prepaid service is available. Compare the two and see what works best for your personal budget.


Subscriptions and internet safety

One of the basic rules for staying safe on the internet is to limit sharing your payment details. Companies have lost billions of user records during the past few years to cyber attacks. Signing up for a subscription often means handing over payments details. And the more subscriptions you have, the more vulnerable you are.

Can you trust all these companies to keep your data safe? Using a prepaid card can help keep your data private for subscriptions that you need. Prepaid subscriptions are also an option in some cases.


subscriptions infographic

How to manage subscriptions

Simplify subscription management by following a few simple steps:

  1. Work out what you’re paying for.
  2. Choose which subscriptions to keep.
  3. Cancel those you don’t want to keep.
  4. Manage all your subscriptions in one place.


Find your subscriptions

Don’t know where to start with finding all your subscriptions? Don’t worry, it’s easy. First, if you use Apple or Android you can check the built-in subscription manager.

Any subscriptions you’ve signed up for on Android can be managed through Google Play. Click your profile icon and navigate to Payments & subscriptions > Subscriptions. From here you’ll see information about all the services you’re signed up for.

Apple users can manage subscriptions just as easily. Go to Settings and click on your name, then Subscriptions. From here, you can see what services you’re subscribed to, how much it costs and the next billing date.

For any other subscriptions, check your email and bank statements to look for recurring payments or receipts.


Decide what to keep

Now it’s time to channel your inner Marie Kondo. Only keep the services that spark joy and ditch the rest. If you’re looking to control spending, be ruthless. Even if you’re not worried about your personal budget, you might find subscriptions you’d forgotten about.


How to cancel any subscription

Services that you’ve subscribed to on Apple and Android devices can be cancelled directly. For Apple users, just click on a service and click cancel. And it’s the same with Google Play, where you’ll also get the choice to pause a subscription.

Other subscriptions will have to be cancelled individually. Check your emails for cancellation links or visit your profile page on the provider’s website. Here are some common examples of how to cancel subscriptions:

  1. Netflix – Simply click Cancel Membership on the account page.
  2. Spotify – Choose Cancel premium under Change plan on the account page to downgrade to a free account.
  3. PlayStation – Go to Account > Payment and Subscriptions > Subscriptions and choose Turn Off Auto-Renew.


Prepaid subscriptions

Did you know that you can pay for entertainment services like Netflix or Spotify without having to worry about recurring payments?

Using a gift card means there’s no risk of paying needlessly. This is particularly useful for streaming sites with only one or two shows you care about. Just apply the card to your account and binge The Witcher before your credit runs out. You can also do the same for many gaming services, including PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo.

Use this handy calculator to find out how much you could save by switching from automatic renewal to prepaid for your subscriptions:

Manage subscriptions the smart way

Now that you’ve got your subscriptions under control, keep it that way with a dedicated tool.

  • Personal finance apps: Apps like Truebill and Mint are powerful personal finance tools that also include subscription management. You can cancel unwanted subscriptions and their service teams will even negotiate better deals for you. For a monthly fee.
  • Subscription apps: The simplest option. These apps are dedicated purely to subscriptions and just group your recurring payments in one place, but even that is useful. Seeing how much you’re paying and when bills are due makes it easier to stick to a personal budget. They will also remind you when free trials are expiring. A popular choice on Apple devices is Bobby. On Android, one of the top options is Subby.
  • Banking apps: Some banks now include features for tracking recurring payment. Revolut offers a dedicated subscriptions management solution. HSBC has a much simpler feature called Balance After Bills that does exactly what it says.


Beyond managing subscriptions

Many of the issues discussed above also apply to costs like mobile phone contracts. Recurring payments and subscriptions are the same thing. If you’re trying to control spending and stick to a personal budget, you need to think about all your regular bills.

Check all your recurring costs and consider if there’s a prepaid service available. Paying for things like energy upfront can make your spending more transparent. This can help from a purely psychological point of view. It’s easy to lose control of your spending with direct debits.

Mobile contracts are a classic example of this. There’s a good chance you could save money by switching to a prepaid phone plan. Mobile carriers like to lock customers into contracts because it helps their profits. They don’t do it for your benefit.

A prepaid phone plan is quicker to set up, gives you more flexibility and will make it easier to keep to a budget. Buy a prepaid card, use the phone that you want and top up from anywhere in the world.

Not sure if a prepaid mobile plan is for you? Take this short quiz to find out:

In addition to considering a prepaid mobile plan, you can often also get good savings switching phone carriers.


Other secrets to mastering personal finance

A few extra tips for how to ensure your financial well-being:

  1. Save before you spend – Put your savings aside at the start of the month instead of saving what’s left.
  2. Be prepared – Try to keep some emergency funds on hand for unexpected expenses in addition to your savings. If you can, put aside three to six months of living costs.
  3. If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it – Only upgrade your car or mobile phone when you really need to. See them as tools rather than status symbols.
  4. Clip coupons – Bill Gates says that he once saw fellow billionaire Warren Buffett pay for a meal at McDonald’s with a coupon. You’re never too rich to save a few pennies!
  5. Look for deals – Don’t pay more than you have to. For example, save money on expensive overseas phone calls by finding the best international prepaid mobile phone plan.

Written by

Kristina Kalpaklieva