As I walked up to the house, I noticed a box on the front porch. Not exactly an earthshattering event in our current world. Packages of all shapes and sizes arrive at the house seemingly every day, but this particular green box was one I hadn’t seen in a while.
They finally got me.
Near the start of the pandemic, we gave weekly DIY meal subscription service, Hello Fresh a try. The food was generally fresh, tasty and a nice change of pace from our typical routine at home. It was a little more labor intensive than we liked at times and the packaging seemed wasteful, but all in all, not a bad service or value.
Eventually, we grew tired of it and decided to pause the service, simply logging into the app on our phone and skipping the next several weeks of meals. After repeating this process several times, we agreed it was time to cancel the service. Like many subscription services, you couldn’t cancel the service via the app.
So, just to be safe, I skipped a few more weeks.
I’d attempt, and fail, to remember to login to the site and cancel it when I was in front of a computer.
Skip a few more weeks.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Until one fateful day, the green box is back on the front porch.
This morning, as I began to write this blog, I finally went in and canceled the service altogether.
From that experience, and a recent conversation with a client (hat tip to TK!), I realized that we are far from alone in this phenomenon. Monthly subscriptions for food, streaming services, health care products, pet food, streaming services, home security, music and did I mention streaming services have become ubiquitous in our society. In fact, according to this report the average consumer now spends $273 per month on subscription services, up 15%, or $430 in additional spending per year, since 2018.
This isn’t all bad. In many cases, these services have added convenience to our lives. If properly managed, they actually help us to save money on things like cable bills, pet food and a wide array of other products and services.
But many are useful for a time and then their usefulness fades. Or, we subscribe to a service to watch one particular show, maybe using a free trial, and forget to cancel before the automatic monthly charges kick in. In most cases, these charges are just small enough that we might miss them in reviewing our monthly credit card or bank statement.
The message here is fairly simple and not uncommon. Making it a priority to take time and do something about it is another story. Is it worth the time? According to this Marketwatch piece, 84% of us underestimate what we spend on digital and other subscription services. This can be especially impactful for Millennials and Gen Z who have a higher likelihood of racking up these costs while in the most important years of building their financial foundation and developing proper savings habits.
This doesn’t mean one should become a technological minimalist or give up services that truly provide value. It simply means we should make these choices intentionally and ensure nothing has slipped through the cracks.
While some services, such as Amazon Prime and some subscription-based apps on our mobile devices may be charged annually, most of these services charge on a monthly basis. It’s worth the time to look at our most recent monthly credit card and bank statements to make sure we’re aware of what’s being charged each month. Going through the apps on our phones and other devices to remind us of what we may be paying for there on a less frequent basis is an equally worthwhile exercise.
What do you think you spend? Take a few moments to find out for sure and reflect on what value you’re getting from that spending. It’s another step in making sure we’re using all the amazing technology in today’s world to enhance our lives, not allow it to use us to enhance someone else’s.