Navigating the Subscription Jungle: Free Up Your Finances Without Sacrificing Fun

30 May 2024 by Lifetime

Navigating the Subscription Jungle: Free Up Your Finances Without Sacrificing Fun

In today's digital age, subscription services have become an integral part of our daily lives. However, with convenience often comes complexity, especially when it comes to managing multiple subscriptions. By taking stock of your expenses and prioritising your needs, you can ensure that your subscriptions enhance your life without draining your wallet. This article will guide you through effective strategies for budgeting and consolidating your subscriptions, helping you find your financial footing.

Budgeting and Consolidation: Finding Your Financial Footing

Before diving into subscription management, let's take a look at the sheer variety of subscriptions available. Whether you're a cinephile who can't resist movie streaming services, a fitness enthusiast committed to your gym membership, or a bookworm with a penchant for monthly literary surprises, there's something for everyone.The first step in mastering subscription management is taking stock of what you've signed up for. Grab a cup of coffee, sit down with your laptop or smartphone, and make a list of all your subscriptions. From food delivery services to online streaming platforms, jot down everything you're currently subscribed to. Once you've compiled your list, crunch some numbers and ask yourself:

  • How much are you spending on subscriptions each month?
  • Are there any hidden costs or price increases that have slipped under your radar?
  • Are there any subscriptions you don't use enough to justify the cost?
  • Are there others that have become indispensable parts of your daily routine? 

Keeping a close eye on your spending is crucial for maintaining financial stability and avoiding any unpleasant surprises. Now that you have a clearer picture of your subscription expenses, it's time to assess what you can afford. Consider consolidating similar subscriptions or cutting out ones that no longer serve you. When it comes to budgeting, prioritising practicality over indulgence is key. Sure, that deluxe subscription box filled with gourmet treats might be tempting, but is it really worth the splurge? By focusing on what you truly need rather than what you want, you can ensure that your subscription expenses align with your financial goals. This approach keeps your spending in check and helps you allocate resources to areas that genuinely enhance your quality of life.

Sometimes, a subscription can help us be more time-efficient in our everyday lives, freeing up the time that would be spent wandering the aisles for some extra family time or a trip to the gym.

Movie & Television Streaming Costs

Television and movie streaming platforms are probably some of the first services you think of when you hear the word ‘subscription’. Taking a look at the pricing of the major streaming sites in New Zealand for television, movies, and other video content, the cost starts to add up. 

Assuming you have a subscription to all of these, that would be around $953.30 - $1,115.40 per year on streaming sites alone, not accounting for possible price increases. You may also have subscriptions to sites with more specialised content such as Shutter or Curiosity Stream to include in your budget. 

If you tally up your streaming subscription expenses and find yourself looking to decrease these a bit, there are a few ways that we can consolidate these costs:

 

Account Sharing

The first (and debatably controversial) strategy is account sharing. This could be between friends, flatmates, or family members, and spreads the costs amongst multiple people so that everyone can enjoy the platform while keeping their streaming habits more affordable. 

However, some streaming platforms view this behaviour as negative, as demonstrated in Netflix’s password-sharing policy introduced in 2023. The policy disallowed users to access the same account if they were logging in from different households, this caused a lot of outcry from Netflix users who said it isolated those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access the platform due to the high price of their services. Netflix responded to this by adding another extra cost ($7.99 per extra non-household member). Initially, Netflix saw their first loss in total subscribers in a decade (200,000 members), however, almost a year on and it looks as though everyone has learned to forgive and forget with Netflix’s member numbers increasing by 9.33 million in Q1 of 2024 alone[1].

It appears that no other major streaming services have followed in Netflix’s footsteps just yet, but given its success, it may be something we see more of in the future.

 

Taking Stock Of Your Streaming Subscriptions

The second strategy is prioritising your subscriptions. Maybe you only subscribed to Neon to watch the disappointing final episodes of Game of Thrones back in 2019 and have continued to pay for it ever since, only scrolling through when you can’t find anything to watch on Disney+. It’s always a good time to sit down and tally up what streaming services you are paying for, you might find that there are some you hardly use anymore that you wouldn’t miss (remember, you can always resubscribe again later if you find yourself wanting to watch its content). If you can’t find yourself willing to part with the platform just yet, it might be worth seeing if you can downgrade your plan to a cheaper option that will still suffice your needs.

 

Bundling Your Products

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for bundle packages. Your phone or internet provider might have a partnership with a streaming service that gives you discounted rates or a set amount of time’s worth for free. For example, a plan with Spark will save you $48 a year on a standard Neon subscription which, at $19.99 a month, gives you just over two months' worth of savings. If you have the opportunity, why not jump on the bundle deal and save yourself a few extra dollars.

 

Convenience Or Cost?

Another question to ask yourself; is the subscription really worth it?

The answer to this question varies for everyone. It depends on how you value your time, especially when it comes to food shopping, preparation, and cooking. Without turning your weekly supermarket run into a deep conversation, it's a prime example of where this becomes clear. Sometimes, a subscription can help us be more time-efficient in our everyday lives, freeing up the time that would be spent wandering the aisles for some extra family time or a trip to the gym. For some, this may be a major appeal of a food/meal subscription, while others may enjoy the process of meal planning and cooking 

Subscriptions such as My Food Bag, Hello Fresh, and FED take the weight off of these often laborious tasks to free up time for us to focus on other aspects of our lives They also have lots of other pros, including providing inspiration for new recipes, an introduction to a new cuisine, or keeping you on track with a specified diet. However, they can also come with a higher price tag.

Food subscriptions have lots of pros; including providing inspiration for new recipes, an introduction to a new cuisine, or keeping you on track with a specified diet. However, they can also come with a higher price tag.

In a study carried out by Consumer NZ in 2023[2], they found that in all cases, shopping in store was cheaper than using a subscription box. Not including promotions such as first-week discounts, both Hello Fresh and My Food Bag were around $60 cheaper than the same shop at Countdown (Woolworths), and Bargain Box was a little more reasonable at $17-24 cheaper than a supermarket shop. Participants in the study also found that they were having to do extra visits to the shops to bulk up their pantries throughout the week as portion sizes were smaller than they expected, or they didn’t have all of the pantry staples in the recipes. 

If you find that your food subscriptions are weighing your wallet down, you can always look at other alternatives to save you time and money. 

Online shopping with in-store pick-up or delivery has seen a jump in popularity since COVID, and is an effective way of cutting down time at the supermarket. It gives you the opportunity to add things to your trolley as you remember when you need them, (hopefully) meaning less trips to the supermarket in between big shops. Online shopping also saves you from the overwhelming deals that are thrust in your face as you walk about the store, mitigating the risk of impulse buying.

 

Staying Safe While Online Shopping

In a world where cyber threats lurk around every corner, staying safe online is more important than ever. Before making any online purchases, do your research and read reviews to ensure you're dealing with reputable vendors. Only input your card details into websites you know and trust, and look for the lock symbol next to the URL to verify that the payment is secure.

 

Keep An Eye Out For False Subscriptions

A common sign of credit card fraud is a series of small charges on your card before a larger amount is eventually taken out. These smaller charges are usually tests to check if the card is valid and if a bigger amount can be deducted. Often, these charges appear as payments for popular subscription services like Disney+ or Netflix, making them harder to spot. To identify these fraudulent charges, first, check your account details with the streaming service—specifically, how much you pay and when the payment is deducted. If these details don’t match up, contact your bank immediately.

 

Balancing Convenience and Cost for Financial Stability

Managing subscriptions effectively is all about striking a balance between convenience and cost. By regularly reviewing your subscriptions, consolidating where possible, and making informed choices about what truly adds value to your life, you can maintain financial stability without sacrificing the services you enjoy. Whether you're sharing accounts, bundling services, or reconsidering the necessity of certain subscriptions, these strategies will help you keep your expenses in check. Remember, the goal is to align your spending with your financial goals, ensuring that your money works for you in the best possible way. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can enjoy the benefits of your favourite services while keeping your budget intact.

 

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking into consideration any particular person's objectives, financial situation or needs. Any opinions contained in it are held by the author as at the report date and are subject to change without notice.

 

References:

 

[1] https://nerdist.com/article/netflix-stopping-password-sharing-with-price-increases/

 

[2] https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/meal-kits?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjwxqayBhDFARIsAANWRnTdK5Ffrzy6_HEMaKOS_5bbr4z9E7yR4HCt8TPLdllpYhejlOYaBEQaApfnEALw_wcB#article-hello-fresh

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