Online shoppers, media consumers, and app lovers are increasingly sucked into the world of recurring payments. On the bright side, subscription services offer convenience. They also establish a relationship between the company making a product and the person buying it; if you’re on the buying side, it means paying only as long as something is valuable to you. Plus, subscriptions often come bundled with perks. (Like, for example, this publication. You should subscribe!)
But they can also add up in a serious way, leaving your wallet lighter each month. Ever signed up for a free trial, then realized you missed the fine print and have been paying a monthly fee for something you don't need or use? I recently discovered, for example, that I was paying $15 per month for HBO through Amazon’s Prime Video channels, even though HBO was already a part of my cable package. How did this happen? I likely opted in as part of the setup process of an Amazon device. Once I poked around in my account settings, I realized I was paying needlessly for other stuff too.
Now is the perfect time to evaluate your subscription services. Free up some extra holiday cash, and liberate your budget before the new year.
Apple has pushed app subscriptions for the past couple years, even offering a sweeter revenue share to app makers who keep subscribers for a year or longer. But Apple has also made it ridiculously difficult to find a list of apps you’re subscribed to if you’d like to unsubscribe.
If you’ve decided that the coloring book app you subscribed to a while ago is no longer worth $5 per week or $10 per month, here’s what to do: Go into your iPhone’s settings and scroll down to iTunes & App Store. Tap on that, then tap on your Apple ID at the top of the screen. Hit “View Apple ID.” Scroll down to “Subscriptions,” the seventh option on the page. Click on each subscription listed there, and a “Cancel Subscription” option will be there.
Google’s app subscriptions can be found in a much more obvious place. If you’re on an Android phone, open the Google Play app. If you have more than one Google account, check to make sure you’re in the right one. Tap on the menu, then tap “Subscriptions.” Select the subscriptions you want to cancel.
You can also apply restrictions at the OS level of your phone to prevent you (or your child) from making in-app purchases, which can add up very quickly. On iOS, this is located within Screen Time, under Content & Privacy Restrictions. On Android, go into Play Store settings and require a passcode or fingerprint for any purchases.
Amazon’s subscription services extend well beyond paying $119 per year for fast and “free” shipping. There’s also Subscribe & Save, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, Kindle Unlimited, Audible, and more, if you can believe it. Not only did I recently discover that I was paying for HBO’s streaming service through my Amazon account, but I also learned I had been paying for Kindle Unlimited ($9.99 per month), likely because I had signed up for a 30-day trial at some point. That's $25 per month for services I didn’t need.
To check your Amazon subscriptions, log into your Amazon account and head to Account & Lists. From there, navigate to Memberships & Subscriptions. Use the drop-down tool to check out your Active Subscriptions, as well as your Cancelled and Expired Subscriptions. Choose the Active Subscription you want to cancel and cancel it.
Keep in mind that your Amazon Prime membership has a section all of its own, so you can’t manage it under Memberships & Subscriptions. Amazon also has an annoying policy where you can’t simply downgrade a service; you’ll have to cancel your current subscription and re-subscribe if you decide you want to go with a different or less expensive plan.
Play the Game Right
Amazon’s Memberships & Subscriptions section isn’t the only place you should check for services that may have slipped through the cracks. You’ll also want to check your Games and Software Library, which can be found by going to Your Account and navigating to the Digital Content and Devices box.
Facebook also maintains subscriptions for apps and games, so you’ll want to dig through Facebook’s settings to see if you’re being charged for any games you’re no longer playing. From the home page, navigate to Settings from the tiny drop-down icon or from the notification bell. From there, go to Payments. You can deactivate any subscriptions for games under “Subscriptions.”
Cloud storage and productivity apps are arguably some of the most useful subscription services you’ll attach to your digital devices. But there might still be room to reevaluate your storage needs and save a few bucks in the process.
If you’re on iOS, go to settings, tap on the Apple ID section right at the top of your settings, and from there, go to iCloud. Under “Manage Storage” you’ll be able to change your cloud storage plan. Unfortunately the only option available beyond Apple’s 50-gigabyte and 200-gigabyte storage plans is a 2-terabyte plan for $9.99 per month. (Right now I’m using 226GB of my 2TB plan, which means I’m hesitant to downgrade but I’m not close to using 2TB.)
You can easily switch up or downgrade your Microsoft OneDrive and Office 365 plan here . But again, cloud-based services like these are probably something you use every day, and that you might get roped into using again, so consider these carefully before you downgrade.
An App for That
If this all sounds like a lot of work, consider a service like Truebill or Trim , which can identify all the subscription services you’re paying for. These can be helpful in spotting other kinds of subscriptions you've forogtten about, like an ancient gym membership. Other apps, like Clarity Money , track recurring payments and flag those you might wish to cancel, whether a cable bill or a Birchbox subscription.
Sometimes, though, going old-school is actually the best way to save a few bucks. Print out your last six months of expenditures, grab a highlighter, settle in, and reap the rewards.