Digital Declutter: Streamline Your Subscriptions

June 26, 2024

The digital world has made life easier in so many ways. From online shopping to business meetings to entertainment, virtually everything is now, well – virtual! Gone are the days of browsing the shelves of Blockbuster for the perfect movie on a Friday night, or running down to the corner store for the newspaper (and a gallon of milk of course!). Even a visit to the library has become superfluous with the instant access audiobooks and Kindle downloads provide.

These days, it’s as easy as a quick tap on your phone or the click of a mouse – and your favorite movies, periodicals, books and more magically appear. Hungry but don’t feel like cooking? Meal subscription and delivery services are here to help. Need fitness motivation? There’s an app for that. Planning a trip abroad? Language learning programs will find you faster than you can say – bonjour! And what about the one that started it all: AmazonPrime, now a fixture in households across the globe, and so intertwined in our daily lives that it’s not impossible to order anything imaginable and receive it on our doorsteps within a day or two. 

There’s no doubt we’re spoiled for choice. But how much are we willing to pay for convenience? And how do we manage the sheer number of paid subscriptions and daily offers flooding our inboxes, TVs and smartphones? As the number of subscriptions we accumulate continues to grow, so too does the cost and complexity of managing them. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of streamlining your subscriptions and provide practical tips for identifying and canceling the ones you don’t need.

Oversubscribed and Overwhelmed

Let’s begin with the most popular and perhaps most used on a daily basis – media. So called “cord-cutting” was supposed to make life easier by streamlining choices and cutting down on the exponentially growing cost of cable TV.  Yet once you add up the monthly costs between Netflix, AppleTV, MAX, Paramount+, and more, the sheer number of subscriptions can be dizzying! 

We don’t typically consider the financial impact of multiple subscriptions, especially when we can justify it as only a few dollars here and there. Yet, over time, they quickly add up. And then there’s the crossover problem, whereby you’ve forgotten the password on your TV so you inadvertently purchase another subscription on your phone, thereby doubling up on your access – and your monthly cost. 

Without realizing it, you could be spending hundreds of dollars each month on services that you barely use or may have even forgotten about. Beyond the financial impact, subscription services can easily overwhelm you with a constant barrage of notifications, emails, and updates. Simplifying your subscriptions not only frees up extra cash but also helps to declutter your digital life, giving you back time to focus on more important things!

Spruce Up Your Subscriptions

What’s the first step? And how do you even begin to take stock of your current subscriptions? If you’re not sure where to begin, there are a number of companies who will complete an audit for you and help to cancel or consolidate your costs. Some of the most popular services include:

  • Rocket Money: instantly identifies your top spending categories and helps to cancel unwanted subscriptions. While it requires syncing to your bank accounts and credit cards, Rocket Money receives a high Trustscore rating of 4.3/5 stars and uses sophisticated bank-level security features to manage your accounts.
  • Trim: makes it easy to cancel unwanted subscriptions, and can even negotiate cable, internet, and phone bills for a fee (Trim works with Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and most other providers). While Trim does offer a 14-day free trial, the full fee for the year starts at $99, which may be worth it, depending on how many active subscriptions you have. 
  • Pocket Guard: aims to simplify personal finance. By syncing to your accounts, this service offers a bill payment tracker and bill negotiation feature (negotiated bills cost a fee). Their advanced bill tracker manages subscriptions and offers a cancellation option to easily get rid of unwanted services.

Digital DIY

Looking to take matters into your own hands? It’s always worth checking what you’ve signed up for directly through your smartphone. What seemed like a harmless app download at the time may have inadvertently turned into a yearlong commitment. Have you noticed that many apps require credit-card information before you can even trial their service? While you may have thought you’d be reminded when your 2-week trial was up, most apps do the exact opposite, hoping to secure your financial commitment by quietly slipping into your monthly credit card bill, or worse, charging an annual fee. If you find that you’ve been charged for the year, it’s worth sending an appeal via the App Store or Google Play Store. If it’s only been a few days after the trial period, and you haven’t used the app or service, you may be able to get a refund if you ask nicely.

  • iPhone or Apple Products: Open the App Store app, select your profile, and tap Subscriptions. You can also open Settings, choose your name, and tap Subscriptions.
  • Android: Open Payments & subscriptions > Subscriptions and select the service. You can then choose Cancel subscription or Manage >  or Pause to put the app or service on hold.

Use It or Lose It

What about the memberships and subscriptions not on your phone? With a credit card bill in hand, make a list of all the services you’re paying for, including their monthly costs. You may even consider ranking them based on frequency of use and how much value they provide. It’s natural to feel reluctant to cancel services that you’ve grown accustomed to, but remember that the goal is to optimize your bank statement and simplify your life. Consider the value they provide to you with these questions:

  • How often do I actually use this service?
  • Does it provide value that justifies the cost?
  • Is there a cheaper or free alternative available?
  • Can I live without it?

Once you’ve identified the subscriptions that you no longer need, it’s time to get to work. This can be easier said than done, as many companies have dedicated retention departments whose sole job is to keep you as a customer. Beware of compelling offers and stay strong! Although sometimes hard to find, the majority of services have online cancellation options; you may just have to dig a little deeper to find them. 

Streamlined for Success

Old habits die hard. Once you’ve completed your cleanup, stay vigilant about what new digital memberships or services you sign up for. Make a point to review your expenses on a monthly basis and reassess whether each service is worth keeping. Budgeting apps and subscription management tools (like those above) can help you track your bills and keep you honest about where your digital dollars are going. If you find there are certain services you can’t live without, try researching annual subscriptions or family plans, which often offer discounts for bundling multiple services together. 

The digital world can be overwhelming. But the variety of services and products that make our lives not only easier – but more enjoyable – is unparalleled. With a little effort and organization, you can take control of your subscriptions, cut spending, and simplify your life without sacrificing the things you love.