How to Manage Subscriptions

We all have subscriptions in the form of online services, magazines, etc. The question is, are you fully using these services every month? If not, why do you continue paying for them? If they provide value to you, then they’re definitely worth keeping, but the trick is making the determination of “value”.

If you’re not using something actively, but still paying for it, you’re wasting your money. I want to make it easy for you to manage your subscriptions by setting up a simple “system” that requires minimal thinking.

The basic idea is that if you’re not using a subscription every month, there is no point in keeping it. In order to determine this, you need to evaluate your subscriptions on a regular basis (by making it automatic) and figure out if you’re using them — not only by asking yourself, but also by evaluating your actions.

I suggest that you sign up for all subscriptions on the same day of each month — preferably the first — and audit them monthly. If your subscriptions currently fall on different days through the month, take the appropriate actions to move them to the same day.

Try signing up for subscriptions at the beginning of the month (the 1st) and evaluating your existing subscriptions at the end (the 25th). Doing so will make it easy for you to keep track of these subscriptions, given the natural start and end period. In my experience of doing it for the last few months, I’ve found that it works particularly well for me, and I recommend it.

Why the 25th? Well, a few days (from 25th to 1st) gives you enough time to cancel a subscription without having to worry about being charged again if you forget to cancel on time; consider this “buffer” time.

So, why shouldn’t you sign up for yearly subscriptions? Many subscriptions offer discounts if you subscribe on a yearly basis, but a year is simply too long a time to accurately determine if you’re using the service and/or deriving real value from it.

I suggest you set two action reminders with due dates to keep yourself on schedule — one to evaluate your subscriptions on the 25th, and another to sign up for new ones on the 1st.

Keep this list of subscriptions in a single file so you can refer to it during your evaluation. I use Soulver for this. The benefit of keeping it in that program is that it gives you the exact total that you’re spending each month, which changes based on what you add or remove. So, the total is dynamic and current, provided you keep the document updated.

Consolidating your subscriptions to the same day means you don’t have to think about when you signed up, when it will end, and how often you need to evaluate.

By choosing to evaluate every month, you keep your list of subscriptions relevant. Having monthly reminders to evaluate your subscriptions gives you a better idea of what to keep/remove in the long term. A month is a long enough time to evaluate your actions (to see if you’re actually using a service).

Another benefit of monthly evaluations is to make yourself cognizant of the “consumption” you’re doing in that period. You evaluate what’s important to you. You’re more mindful as to what you will choose to “consume”. Asking yourself whether or not you want to continue using these services.

You might also choose to sign up for a service intermittently. For instance, I have a Netflix account that I only pay for occasionally when I know that I’ll make time for watching films in a given month. It also makes watching TV more active versus watching it passively, and the same goes for magazines, online subscriptions, online services, etc.

There’re a few benefits of having such a “system” in place:

  • You always know exactly what you’re subscribed to.
  • The time and attention required to manage your subscriptions drops significantly.
  • More mental space for things that actually require your attention. Setting up this automated system frees up valuable time and energy.
  • More mental space for creative endeavors instead of wasting it on mundane tasks.

This “monthly schedule system” can also be used in managing your personal finances to reduce mental overhead:

  • Spend an hour managing your personal finances on the same day each month.
  • Pay all your bills on the same day each month or set up automatic payments to do the same for you.
  • Reconcile your bank statements on the same day each month.

Spending 10 minutes every month to evaluate the services you’re using is a small price to pay for the time and money you’ll save over time. Not to mention, it will make you cognizant and mindful as to what’s important at a given time.

The point is to build this recurring automatic evaluation so you don’t have to think about it. Then it’s just a matter of engaging with your “trusted system“.

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