How to Kill Your Zombie Subscriptions

In a 2022 survey, consumers were first asked to quickly estimate how much they spend on subscription services each month, then a while later, they were directed to break down and itemize their monthly payments. On average, the consumers’ actual spending was $219 per month, about 2.5 times as much as the $86 they originally guessed.1


 

Zombie subscriptions are auto-renewing services that people sign up for then forget about or rarely use. Some common examples include mobile phone and internet plans, television, music, and game streaming services, news subscriptions, meal delivery, language courses, and health/fitness memberships (digital and in person).

New types of services are rolling out every day, which is just one reason why subscription costs can creep up on you. But with inflation cutting into your purchasing power, getting rid of a few unnecessary recurring charges could help balance your household budget.

Conduct an audit. Some subscriptions are billed annually, so you may need to scrutinize a full year’s worth of credit card statements. Plus, if you purchased a subscription through an app store on your smartphone, the name of the service won’t be specified. So when you notice a recurring charge that you can’t identify, try looking for a list of subscriptions in your device’s settings.

Use an app. One in 10 consumers said they rely on banking and personal finance apps to track their spending on subscription services. There are several popular services that can be used to scan account statements for recurring costs and remind you to cancel unwanted subscriptions before they renew automatically — if you are comfortable sharing your financial information.


Share of consumers who forgot about subscriptions but still paid for them, by age group

Share of consumers who forgot about subscriptions but still paid for them, by age group: 55% Gen Z; 48% Millennials; 43% Gen X; 24% Baby boomers.

Source: C+R Research, 2022


Some companies make it difficult to cancel unwanted subscriptions by requiring a call, hiding the phone number, and/or forcing customers to wait to speak to a representative. If you find this practice frustrating, help may be on the way. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a new rule that requires merchants to make it just as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to sign up.

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