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So you cancelled your cable TV in favor of streaming services—welcome to the club. Individual streaming services typically cost far less than a cable bill, often with more variety and no commercials.
While cutting the cord frees you in some ways, it can create a new burden: Now you'll have to manage multiple subscriptions with varying costs, billing dates and companies to pay, which can make budgeting more difficult. Here are some ways to manage all these monthly subscriptions.
One Bill Turns Into Many
Not too long ago, the content we consumed through our cable TV was paid for with one monthly bill in a neat and tidy package. Now, many of us have cheaper, more tailored streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime—with new options being added all the time.
They provide a compelling alternative: access to endless amounts of on-demand content, often with only a monthly commitment. But shows, networks and movie studios all have partnerships with different streaming services, so you've probably found yourself accumulating multiple streaming subscriptions just to watch stuff.
You may also subscribe to Spotify for music, Audible for books, DropBox or iCloud for storage, and so on. Subscription services that deliver you food or new products every month might also be thrown into the mix. And this is all in addition to your regular bills such as your gym membership, electricity bill and cellphone payment.
As you can see, the number of these recurring services and subscriptions can really add up, which could make it challenging to stay on top of. If you signed up for these services over time, subscriptions may be paid for by different credit and debit cards and further complicate your bill-paying process. They may even have different billing cycles, with some being paid quarterly or annually instead of month-by-month. If you're not keeping track, unexpected or infrequently billed subscriptions can bust your budget and even cause you to overdraft.
Tips for Managing Subscriptions
With so many services being subscription-based these days, it's surprisingly easy to lose track of who you owe and how much you owe them. Doing the following should make it a little easier:
- Use the same card to cover all your subscriptions. Putting all your subscription services on the same card can make it easier to track them since they'll all be in one place. If you have a credit card you don't use often, this could be a handy one to use for these payments since it will be especially easy to see the charges. Or you could get a new card just for these expenses.
- Sync your billing dates as much as possible. Some subscription services allow you to adjust your billing date. If your budget can handle it, you may want to tweak your billing schedule so all of your monthly services are billed at the same time. On the other hand, if getting billed for them all at once is too hard on your budget, you could opt to spread them out over the course of a month.
- Stay on top of free trials and cancel them when needed. Some subscription services offer free trials that will convert to paid subscription once your trial is up. Whenever you sign up for a trial like this, put a reminder in your calendar for the end date so you'll be sure to cancel it before you're billed if you decide not to continue with it.
- Pay attention to price increases. Occasionally, subscription services bump up their prices. Businesses you subscribe will usually send an email to notify you, so be on the lookout. It's also wise to keep an eye on your monthly charges in case you're billed twice or your bill amount jumps without notice.
- Regularly audit your subscriptions. If you're looking to cut back, make a list of all the subscription services you have and assess if you still need them all. Maybe you originally subscribed to Hulu for "The Handmaid's Tale," but didn't find much else you were interested in and stopped using the service. Or perhaps you entered a relationship and your new partner is willing to let you use their account. Go through your statements, list out any monthly or annual subscriptions you have, and cancel any you no longer need.
Use Apps to Simplify Subscriptions
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of subscriptions you're paying for, several smartphone apps out there make it easier to get a handle on your digital subscriptions. Here are a few to consider:
- Truebill: Available for Apple and Android, this app helps you manage your subscriptions, but you can also use it for general budgeting and expense tracking. You connect Truebill to your financial accounts, and the app will show you your monthly subscriptions, how much they cost and when they're due. It also helps you to cancel any subscriptions you no longer want. Truebill's app is free, unless you decide to pay $3 to $12 a month for the premium service to access additional features. If you use their bill negotiation service, the app keeps 40% of what you'll save over a year.
- Hiatus: This app was created to help you track your money and make financial progress. Like Truebill, Hiatus links to your financial accounts and imports spending data. It then uses that information to give you a big-picture look at your balances and debts. The app also has a section that shows all your recurring subscriptions and can alert you about upcoming renewals, and it provides a link you can use to cancel unwanted subscriptions. Hiatus also offers a service to negotiate some of your bills to lower rates, but the app keeps 50% of your savings as their fee. The basic app is free, though there is a premium option for $10 per month that offers more financial management tools. Hiatus is exclusive to the Apple App Store.
- Bobby: This free iPhone app focuses solely on subscriptions and doesn't import your financial data; instead, you manually input all of your recurring subscriptions and Bobby helps you keep track of them. You'll be able to see all of your current subscriptions in one place along with their costs and bill dates—plus the total amount you're paying each month for all your subscriptions combined. You can also include other recurring bills like internet, rent and so on. Once you see all of your subscriptions listed out, you may realize there are some you can cancel. The basic app is free, though for a few extra bucks you can add on features such as being able to add an unlimited number of subscriptions.
Keep Subscriptions on One Card
You may find it easiest to manage monthly subscriptions by putting them all on one dedicated credit card. Some cards even provide additional rewards when you use them to pay for qualifying streaming subscriptions. If you're interested in a new credit card for this purpose, such as one that can earn you cash back, try Experian CreditMatch for free. You'll find out which cards you prequalify for without affecting your credit.