Are subscriptions killing your bank balance?

An eye-watering 81% of households now regularly use at least one subscription service. Here’s how you can keep track of your subscriptions.

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Paying for online shopping using a credit card

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The subscription services industry is currently worth £395 million according to research by Barclaycard. It’s an eye-watering figure, and it seems more of us are signing up than ever before. But is your Netflix and takeaway habit killing your bank balance?

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How many of us use a subscription service?

The number of people using subscription services rose by 39% in the year to July 2020. They’re now so popular that 81% of households regularly spend money on at least one subscription.  

The explosion of the subscription market is partly thanks to lockdown. Eager to make the most of the trend, more than 20% of retailers that didn’t already have a subscription service in 2020 designed one, as most of the nation stayed behind closed doors.

How much do we spend and on what?

According to Barclaycard, subscribers spend an average of £620 per year. The most popular subscription services, along with their breakdown in popularity, are:

  1. Entertainment (46%)
  2. Food and meal box services (16%)
  3. Technology (14%)
  4. Beauty and grooming (12%)
  5. Books and literature (11%)
  6. Flowers and gardening (11%)
  7. Health (11%)
  8. Pets (11%)
  9. Restaurant meal kits (9%)
  10. Alcohol (9%)

TV streaming services have strengthened their position as a result of lockdowns. It also looks like food subscriptions are here to stay as nearly a fifth of Brits are now subscribed to plans. Food subscriptions have been particularly convenient over the last 18 months. So it’s no surprise that more than a quarter (27%) of adults now get half their meals from such services. 

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How can you keep track of your subscriptions?

More and more businesses are seeing the plus points of getting us to subscribe. In fact, it’s an area that retail experts predict will grow by 30% in the next 12 months alone. 

With that in mind, it’s up to us, as consumers, to keep an eye on our subscription expenses. Of course, the reality is that it’s much easier said than done (especially when those introductory offers end). 

So, with that in mind, here are four ways you can effectively keep track of your monthly subscription spends.

1. Check your phone

If you’ve signed up to a service through an app on your phone (or tablet) you can view (and cancel) all your subscriptions there. 

If you’ve got an iPhone, head to settings and then click on your name. Go to subscriptions in the menu and they’ll be there. If you’re an Android user, you’ll need to go to Google Play, click on your profile and choose payments and subscriptions

2. Use an app

Thanks to open banking, there’s a good range of money management and budgeting apps available that will track your spending across all your bank accounts.

Many of these (such as Emma) will have a feature that highlights recurring payments so you’ll always know where your money’s going. 

3. Go through your bank statements

It might be old school and it might take time, but it’s a sure-fire way of getting to grips with all your subscriptions. 

It’s also a good opportunity to see what’s in your account at the end of every month, which could even inspire a bit of budgeting

4. Make a note

If you’re anything like me, you might give magazine subscriptions as gifts. But subscriptions you’ve paid upfront for the year are easy to forget about. This is why it’s a good idea to write down what you’ve subscribed to, how much it was and set a reminder for when renewal or cancellation is due. 

When the time comes, you can then simply and quickly decide whether to renew or cancel. 

Remember that magazine subscriptions, in particular, are likely to be listed under the publisher’s name rather than the magazine title. 

For more help and practical budgeting tips, take a look at these seven budgeting tips for beginners and this great budgeting template to keep your finances in check.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be considered so you should consider taking independent financial advice.

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