Do you keep close track of your small recurring monthly charges?
You likely know how much you spend on big monthly expenses (e.g., housing, insurance, utilities). But do you have any idea of the total expense of the digital services and entertainment options we have all grown to love?
The draw is so compelling and, since each individual charge seems manageable, we often sign up rather casually. Whether you’re wealthy or counting pennies, paying for extraneous services is at best annoying and at worst affecting our financial health.
Forgotten Charges We’ve Found in Clients’ Accounts
- A monthly recurring Apple charge that could not be identified
- A relatively high monthly Netflix charge that included an outdated DVD plan
- Payments for unused services or products purchased on a trial basis (such as news subscriptions or cosmetics) that were never canceled
- Charges for entertainment options that were be included in other packages
- Unused gym membership fees
- Donations that were unintentionally set up to recur monthly
Handling Forgotten Charges
- Review your credit cards and checking account activity to identify what you are spending
- Choose which digital services or subscriptions you feel are valuable
- Consider making a budget for this spending category
- Identify what you want to cancel
- Start canceling. You’ll feel good about the money you’ll be saving.
- Deal with obstacles. Unfortunately, it seems much harder to cancel services than to sign up in the first place.
- Most digital services need to be canceled online, which requires knowledge of your username and password. There are almost always ways to recover that information if it is forgotten, but it likely will require a two-factor authentication process.
- If a service or purchase needs to be canceled by phone, try to identify a form of leverage to use with the customer service representative (i.e., I’ve been a long-standing customer, but I no longer have a need for this wine club).
- Remember… you catch more flies with honey. Be nice, but firm – keep repeating your reason for cancellation and you’ll eventually get it done.
Be intentional about your spending choices
- Make a list of your digital subscriptions or services and note what each one costs. Then rank your priorities and decide how much you want to spend in total.
- Do a periodic “fitness test” to assess the value derived from each subscription.
Monitor trial offers
- Mark your calendar with the end of a trial period the minute you sign up. Then you’ll be reminded to cancel if you wish.
- List the subscriptions you want to cancel prior to the end of the trial period.
- Make sure you read and understand the terms of the subscription trial, including how to cancel it.
- Check charges made via credit card, debit, bank accounts, PayPal, Venmo, etc., to look for unexpected payments.
Consider your choices for political and charitable donations
- Review the options carefully regarding “one-time” or “sustaining” contributions before completing the transaction.
At Eddy & Schein, we know that it’s a lot easier to see the problem charges once you organize your information. If you need to practice better personal finance management, we can help. Please give us a call.