Managing Subscription Costs


How many subscriptions do you pay for? Be sure to count not just magazines and newspapers but also services (warranties, computer virus protection, cell phone contract, ISP, etc.), memberships (gyms, fan clubs, business associations), and entertainment packages (Netflix, cable or satellite, online game sites, etc.) Count anything for which you are billed on a regular basis, other than housing and utilities. The number might be higher than you think. And it’s likely that the total cost is higher than you think, too, especially if you make automatic payments. If subscriptions are costing more than you would like, consider these methods for determining which ones to cut out when you cut costs:

First, consider whether the subscription actually makes you more money than what you spend on it. My weekend newspaper subscription does, because I clip and use a lot of coupons. So does my high-speed Internet access, which I use for earning money. Some magazines offer free subscriptions; others offer enough coupons and money-making/money-saving ideas that they pay for themselves. Does your specialty business magazine keep you updated on news in your industry? Acting on that information may help you increase your earning potential.

Be careful about counting service contracts as money savers. As with many warranties, you may be better self-insuring. Yes, you could save hundreds – even thousands – on an emergency repair if you have a service contract, but you are more likely to go several months or even years without needing the service. (Companies wouldn’t offer service contracts if they didn’t make money on the regular payers who never use the service.) Find out if you can pay a per-use fee for repairs or technical service; if you can, it might be better than keeping up a “subscription” you may never use.

Talk with members of your household and nearby friends you to be sure you aren’t duplicating subscriptions. A friend recently told me that her household subscribes to more than a dozen magazines and that they get two subscriptions to their favorites so that more than one person can read them at the same time. I know that periodicals can become outdated quickly, but not so quickly that you can’t wait a few hours until someone else reads them! The same goes for online services – if you can share one subscription among family members, do so.

Consider eliminating subscriptions with similar content. When I had my first baby, I signed up for two or three free baby magazines. They were so much alike that I still can’t tell you which one was which. Had I been paying for them, I would have cancelled all but one. If you find some of your subscriptions starting to look too much alike, choose your favorite and cancel the rest. You can always buy a single issue of the newspaper if your son’s picture appears in the one you don’t get or pick up a single magazine at the grocery store checkout if it has a particularly interesting feature.

If you maintain a subscription for certain times of the year – for example, keeping expanded cable only to watch the NFL Channel during football season- it might be worth the disconnect/reconnect fees to subscribe only during that time. If you can, choose shorter subscription lengths for subscriptions of seasonal interest; the lower rates for longer time periods are beneficial only if you are sure you will still want the same subscription continuously for the next several years.

You may also get more enjoyment out of your subscriptions if you cut down on the number of them. For example, simultaneous membership to several online game sites might give you access to more games, but you still have only a set amount of time to play each month. Consider subscribing to one at a time and getting as much play value out of each site before you move on to another site with different games.

Before buying a higher level of subscription, look closely at what additional benefits you receive. Will you really read all those personalized reports or go to those VIP events? If not, keep your regular subscription. If you’re not sure, give yourself a set amount of time to try out the extras. At the end of your trial, be honest with yourself about whether you have used and truly enjoyed the extra benefits. Ask if they’re worth the extra expense. If not, return to a regular subscription.

Finally, if you really want to cut back on your subscription expenses but don’t want to cut out any of your favorite subscriptions, consider asking for a renewal as a gift. It’s possible that your loved ones already considered giving you a subscription but changed their minds because they don’t know what you already receive or whether you have renewed your subscription recently.

Subscriptions you purchase should be something you enjoy and use regularly. If you find that they have become yet another obligation, it’s definitely time to cut down on them. You shouldn’t have to keep on paying for something if you no longer find it interesting or helpful.

Image courtesy of Eric Rice

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5 Responses to Managing Subscription Costs

  1. SaveForHouse says:

    I like to look at subscriptions in a unique way. Let’s say my cable bill is $50/month. That’s $600/year. Let’s say I want to make $600/year in passive income to pay for my cable bill. Investing in a high yielding utility stock can get me around 6% dividend yield. 6% of a $10,000 investment is $600/year. Therefore, just to pay for my cable bill without working, I would need to invest $10,000! Put another way, paying $50/month on my cable bill is like adding $10,000 of value to the cable company, at my expense! I like cable and choose to pay for it, but in general always conscious about recurring fees and try to minimize them because of the above logic!

  2. Steven says:

    You might check the public library for your favorite magazines. My library has everything I would ever want to read. I find using the library saves costs, trees, and clutter.

  3. TopWaysToSave says:

    Besides the library so many magazines have their content online now too. Why pay when you can read most for free. Same goes for newspapers.

  4. Gail says:

    I read specialty magazines on sewing that aren’t found at my local library, but I have found that most of them are available at to buy at Amazon. My business credit card for my pattern business regularly gives me an Amazon gift certifcate that I can turn into a magazine subscription for essentially no money. the magazines I read keep me up to date with what is happening in the sewing world which is important for as I sell sewing patterns and need to know what is currently in vogue.

    It was adding up our cable bill 3 years ago that convinved me to cancel it and used the money that year for a side of beef that lasted 2 years. there are so many things to be doing with our money, I don’t see how people can keep pouring money down the cable hole especially when getting all the add on channels. Who has that kind of time to waste watching TV?

  5. Cindy M says:

    Check out freebiz. I’ve gotten subscriptions free there, though admittedly they kind of choose which mags they will offer you. I’ve received mags about antiques, modern decorating, old log homes, cooking mags, fashion mags. I’m still waiting for the US News and World Reports to come.

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