Are Your Monthly Subscriptions Worth It?

Lots of Americans pay for monthly subscriptions that can range from less than $10 to more than $100 per month. These include goods like cosmetics, food and drink, pet items, and wine clubs and gourmet edibles, as well as services like credit monitoring and streaming apps.

If you’re trying to cut down your monthly budget, prioritize spending or pay down debt, it may be the time to take a look at the monthly subscriptions you’re paying for and decide if you still want them.

[READ: Hate Budgeting? Here’s How to Reframe It]

To understand how to weigh the value against what you’re paying, we asked three experts for their insights.

Auto Pay Is Convenient but Can Encourage Overspending

Emily Irwin, head of advice relations at Wells Fargo Bank, said in an email that this arrangement comes with pros and cons.

“Because autopay ensures that our bills are paid on time, the benefits can be many — creating a history of on-time payments for the purposes of building good credit, avoiding late fees and charges, and general convenience,” she said.

However, a potential downside of autopay is that we “set it and forget it,” which means that we’re not paying close enough attention to our recurring charges, and, as a result, may be paying for subscriptions for goods or services that we no longer use or want, she added.

To that point, Irwin said subscriptions for services are the easiest to forget about because there isn’t necessarily something tangible to remind you of your purchase.

[Related:This Is the One Thing Americans Refuse to Stop Spending On]

To weigh the cost vs. benefit, she suggests first identitifying the purpose of the subscription by asking these questions:

— Are the subscriptions meant to support or promote your safety like identity theft protection, credit monitoring or virus protection?

— Do they provide health benefits, like gyms, yoga studios, fitness or meditation apps?

— Or, are they simply for entertainment, like e-books, music or streaming services?

If there’s an event that prompted you to register for the service, such as financial fraud or a computer hack, then it probably makes sense to continue that service for at least 12 months, Irwin said.

Club Subscriptions Can Really Add Up

Clubs that offer subscriptions for wine, cheese, pet toys, candy, cosmetics and more are nifty packages that arrive at your home monthly. They can be a nice treat, but what’s the point when too many clubs are costing you too much money?

“I think fun boxes are a good investment if they introduce you to something new or if they save you time and money,” Trae Bodge, shopping expert at Truetrae, said in an email. “For example, food, beauty and health-related boxes are fun because there’s a sense of discovery.”

“You have the chance to try a bunch of things at once and hopefully find some new favorites,” Bodge said, but added that there could be the chance for overkill. “Do you really need new workout apparel every month? Probably not,” she said.

[Related:Wants vs. Needs In Your Budget — How to Tell the Difference]

Some consumers buy monthly subscriptions as a way of treating themselves. Bodge said treating yourself periodically is fine but “the benefit is negated if it creates financial peril.”

Monthly Subscriptions Can Become Excessive

Kris Calef, owner of, said in an email that when consumers are paying for goods they don’t actually need, use or consume, that can be a deal-breaker.

“But when you care about what you eat or drink and have found something you really love, well worth its price, giving it up can become a source of frustration,” he said.

“You’ll be better off cutting or lowering other expenses or working a bit more and continuing to treat yourself and your loved ones,” he added.

If finances are an issue, there’s always the option of limiting the number of subscriptions to keep only the best ones or pausing them for a while and restarting when the situation improves, he said.

There are also situations in which, although you love the subscription goods, you receive larger quantities than you actually need and they pile up.

“At some point, it makes sense to pause and resume when you’ve exhausted the products you’ve already received or decrease shipment frequency,” Calef said.

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions

A manageable way to keep track of your subscriptions is to set an annual calendar reminder to categorize them by type, then review their aggregate charges in detail, Irwin said.

“Push yourself to reflect if you’ve regularly used those subscriptions over the last three months or challenge yourself to consolidate subscriptions,” she said. Then, cancel any you don’t use or that duplicate others. In addition, look into whether you can bundle any subscriptions to save money.

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