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Should You Cancel That Subscription? 5 Questions to Ask

So you quit those daily gourmet coffees and started to meal prep your lunches — but if you’re still hunting for ways to cut down on your spending, your subscription services and monthly memberships could be your next victim.

Like your home, your budget can start to get cluttered with forgotten recurring expenses and overlooked money drains that can really add up. (We’re talking about those services like the Headspace meditation app, Blue Apron meal delivery and the Dollar Shave Club.) If your budget is in need of some financial decluttering, ask yourself the following questions to help determine if you can part ways with any of your subscriptions.

1. Is it an aspirational purchase?

Subscribing to the New York Times. Signing up for Book of the Month. Downloading the brain-training app Peak onto your phone. Are you truly going to read and challenge your brain regularly — or do you like the idea of reading the NYT, finishing a book a month or testing your cognitive skills? Sometimes, subscriptions like these are more aspirational, than rational. And understandably, it’s exciting and rewarding at first, but then interest can subside over time.

These types of subscriptions can be forgotten about or cause false promises. Think about it like your wardrobe: You have clothes that haven’t been worn season after season, but the thought of getting rid of these items is distressing. You reconcile by promising I WILL starting wearing this, but will you? If these purchases aren’t getting enough attention, it’s probably time to hit cancel.

2. Is the excitement of receiving a package a weakness?

After a long day at work, you come home to a package sitting at your doorstop. Suddenly, everything upside down in the world is right side up! For those who love beauty produces for example, the glam toolkit has arrived and when opened, you’re greeted with Hi, Gorgeous! It’s like celebrating your birthday once a month, instead of once a year — and we could all use a daily celebration during these harder times.

You are, however, paying monthly for that brief moment of happiness. Does its contents bring you lasting joy? Or does it fade after a couple days of testing out the products that eventually get tossed into the abyss of your bathroom drawers. For a monthly pick-me-up, see if you can find a free substitute, like scheduling a virtual happy hour with a long-distance friend, doing a random act of kindness or having a family dance party!

3. Does it impact your passion or work?

For those who love to create, sites like Patreon and Medium become creative outlets and can even become a business. These are content-producing platforms where creators can put their work out into the world for fans to engage. So for those who love to tell stories and publish work, these memberships are impactful. Other platforms like WordPress or Adobe Creative Cloud are also examples of expenses that support a passion or profession.

Is the service essential for your work? Then it may need to stay in the budget, but if these types of platforms are just gathering dust, they could probably get the boot.

4. Are you afraid of FOMO?

Fear of Missing Out — a bane of our existence. What do we do because we don’t want to miss out on the fun that everyone else is having? The same can be true for subscriptions…

Let’s take Netflix for example, arguably the top streaming service. However, who else has been overwhelmed by options, while searching for something (anything) good to watch, only to abandon it one episode in? Then again, being in the dark on the “Tiger King” memes and “Stranger Things” chatter at work can feel even worse. Netflix may be nonnegotiable for you, but is there another subscription service driven by FOMO that you can wave goodbye to?

5. Does the subscription bring true value to your life?

Curious about people’s most beloved subscriptions, The Financial Diet turned to their Twitter followers to see which services are worth the price. Some of the most popular subscriptions are Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime, digital storage and gym memberships. Sometimes you just can’t negotiate an expense that has proven itself to you!

Yet, if your budget is begging for some cuts, see if you swap a service for a free alternative:

  • Trade in that fancy membership for Nike Training Club app or Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube.
  • Feed your love for reading with the app Libby, which allows you to borrow eBooks and digital audiobooks from your local library.
  • Stop buying video games and look for free games on the App Store, Steam and PlayStation Store.
  • Check to see if you have free access to a music streaming device. (e.g. YouTubeTV comes with YouTube Music and Verizon comes with Apple Music)
  • Search on YouTube for a similar service you’re interested in! It’s your greatest resource for free content.

With some introspective Q&A, you may find that you can let go of monthly subscriptions or memberships that no longer bring you joy or value. Another option is to reach out and see if you can pause your subscription until you’re in stronger place financially.

It’s easy to let these services slip by because of monthly fees that seem small, but the savings do add up! You can feel good knowing that you made the decision to eliminate a regular expense that you don’t need, so you can hang onto more of your money.

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Visit our Financial Support Center where you can find resources to help you manage and protect your finances in our changing economy.


The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.