6 tips to help you control subscription spending

Six tips to reduce your subscriptions and maybe—just maybe—cancel a few while you’re at it.

By: Lambeth Hochwald

Millie, a content program about women and money, is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Your streaming service. Your fitness membership. That photo editing app you downloaded for that one photo.

We probably don’t need to tell you that all these subscriptions can add up. Sure, $10 here and $7 there doesn’t feel like that much. But what about when you have, oh, 20 or so different ones? According to a 2022 survey by C&R Research, we spend an average of $219 a month on subscription services.

So, what can we do to corral this “invisible” spending? Read on for six money-saving tips to help you get organized.

  1. Track your subscriptions

    The first thing you should do is figure out what you’re actually paying for. Go through your bills for the past six months or so and see what fees you’re being charged—and for what. This is especially important if you have children, as you might just discover that you and your three kids all have your own premium accounts for the same service (if so, it’s time to upgrade to that family plan). Keep track of everything you discover the old-school way (with a trusty spreadsheet) or head to tip No. 5.

  2. Look at the bigger picture

    As you tally up your subscriptions, “think about what you’re spending per year, not per month,” says Bobbi Rebell, host of the Money Tips for Financial Grownups podcast. That dating app that costs $45 per month is technically $540 a year, which is a slightly harder pill to swallow.

  3. Use it or lose it

    Let’s say you subscribe to a news site to read your fifth (no longer free) article and then forget you’re now paying for a publication you never really read. “Put the name of the news site in your calendar to remind yourself to visit it,” Rebell says. “If you still don’t end up reading the articles—or read less than five or so over the course of a month—then you should probably cancel it.”

  4. Stay on top of auto-renewals

    If you’re shocked to see a subscription auto-renew, you’re not alone. To avoid this, visit each paid app or website directly and simply uncheck “automatic renewal” in your profile. Then, when you’re pinged about your renewal, “the company will have to work for your business and sell the product to you again,” says Rebell. “In fact, if you don’t immediately renew, you may be offered an intro rate again, meaning you won’t have to pay the regular price.”

  5. Keep your subscriptions under control

    If you find the idea of doing intel on your subscriptions too time-consuming or tedious, consider downloading an app that can do the work for you. Some of these apps will gather all your subscriptions into one list and notes the frequency (monthly, yearly) and fee for each—they might even calculate the total yearly amount of all your subscriptions together.

    Some also allow you to keep track of payments and renewal dates and will cancel any unwanted subscriptions for you—just be warned that they could have a fee to use them, so weight that cost against what you’ll be saving.

  6. Research smart ways to subscribe

    Bundling is the word of the day if you want to save money on your subscriptions. You can also opt in to free trials, share memberships with family member and friends, or binge a series on your streaming service and then cancel your subscription until another appealing show airs. And don’t forget: Some cell phone carriers offer bonus subscriptions too.

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based writer, editor and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

Three things to do:

  1. Learn about money-saving apps to help you manage your finances.
  2. Read these tips on how to save for a vacation in six months.
  3. Create a budgeting plan that will improve your financial fitness.