These days, more than ever, we all have subscriptions. Whether that be for a magazine, TV or gym membership, they're becoming more and more prevalent and that's because everybody seems to love them. We love them because it’s a way of having the things we we want without having to fork out a lot of cash, all at once, and the retailers love them because they know that, often, these relatively small monthly payments keep trickling out of our bank account without us noticing, which means they can go on for months or even years, even if we’ve got bored with the product or service we once we’re happy to pay for. Of course, the retailers make it so easy, don’t they? They often bundle in a load of free stuff to start, so that often these offers seem to good to be true, but the reality is that, once they’ve got us hooked, they make it incredibly difficult for us to cancel.
The worst culprits for this, certainly in the UK, are the mobile phone providers. Because mobile phones are so expensive, they’ve realised that by bundling a handset up with a monthly call and data plan and rolling it up into one (relatively) low monthly fee, it’s a great way of making sales to customers who otherwise could not afford them. They also often sweeten the deal by giving you a load of ‘free’ minutes, texts and data, plus access to entertainment services and other great stuff. However, you may not have noticed but, over time, the length of these contracts has grown from 12 months to 18 months to 2 years. And the real sting in the tail is that, once you’re contract is up, it will keep on rolling and they won’t let you know so, in reality, you’ll continue to be paying for a phone that, technically, you’ve already bought.
And that's really the point about subscriptions – they can be very dangerous because once you’ve signed up for them they slip under the radar and keep on rolling, nipping away at your hard-earned cash. Now let me be clear. Am I suggesting that you should never take out a subscription? No, because there are times when they can be really useful but the point is, just like a naughty puppy, you need to pay close attention to them. Make a start by following these helpful tips:
1. Use your calendar!
When you sign up to something on subscription, make a note in your calendar or set a reminder on your phone for you to review it just before the contract is due to end. And make sure you check the notice period. Some of the sneakier contracts can automatically enrol you for another year if you don’t give notice by a certain date so make sure you take this into account when setting your reminder so you don’t get caught out.
2. Consider the value you’re getting from the subscription right now
When we first subscribe to something, we tend to use it all the time, because it’s new and novel. But as time goes on, for most of us, the novelty tends to wear off so, when you do your review, think about how much value you’re getting from it right now. Remember, for the more complex subscriptions, such as for mobile phones or cable TV, often it’s not a case of whether you use it or not, rather it’s a case of whether you are benefitting from the full package of services that you’re currently paying for.
3. Consider the alternatives
It’s one thing to consider whether you’re getting value from a current subscription, but you can often save a chunk of money by casting your net a little bit wider. In today’s competitive market the retailers are climbing over themselves to fight for our business by offering us bigger and better deals so before renewing it’s always worth checking what other offers are out there. Yes, I know it can sometimes be a hassle to change provider, but more often than not the savings you stand to make will more than outweigh the hassle of switching.
4. If you’ve not used it in the last three months, cancel it!
I know that sounds obvious, but in reality most of us don’t do this because often we feel we might use whatever the service is in future and we’d prefer to keep our options open. This is particularly true with gym subscriptions (and I’ve done this myself), where we tend to think it we cancel the subscription we’ll end up being unhealthy forever. However, from a financial point of view, this is when you need to be ruthless. Either start using it TODAY or cancel it.
5. Get into the habit of cancelling & re-subscribing
Remember, if you cancel a subscription and then decide you want to resubscribe you’re often in a much better position than if you continue with your old one because you’ll again be eligible for another host of new customer deals which aren’t offered to existing customers. It’s a sad fact but most retailers care more about their new customers than their existing ones so make sure you take full advantage of this fact.
Whilst keeping an eye on your subscriptions may seem like a hassle, if you proactively take charge of them not only will you realise that it doesn’t take up much of your time, but you’d be amazed at how much money you save. You work hard for your money – make the retailers earn your loyalty so set those reminders today!
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