Category Archives: Saving

How to Better Track and End Automatic Sneaky Subscription Services

What better way to lose money than forget that you’re paying it? Many subscription models bank on two fundamental principles to squeeze extra payments from their customers. First, these companies hope that you’ll forget about that recurring credit card charge. Second, they make canceling a hassle, and hope that customers will give up instead of canceling their service.

Subscription services appeal to our love of convenience. Thousands of companies now offer a variety of subscription services. Companies such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Hungry Harvest deliver ready-to-make meals or produce to your doorstep for a recurring weekly or monthly charge, while other niche companies offer a variety of useful services. Have a dog? Bark Box will deliver treats and chew toys. Need to shave? Dollar Shave Club delivers shaving products straight to you at a discount. Pretty much anything you need can be delivered to your door.

Subscription-based companies hope you’ll love their product indefinitely…but that’s likely not the case. And when you’re ready to cancel, they hope that you’ll forget so they can squeeze a few more deliveries and earn those extra few dollars out of you. Here’s how to better track and end automatic subscription services.

Identify all Subscriptions Services Now

Before adding any more, sit down and identify all the subscription services you currently use. While most of us have entertainment subscription services (cable, shows, phone, music), you may currently enjoy others including some of the following:

  • Food: Blue Apron, Imperfect, MunchPak, MistoBox, Bon Appetit
  • Clothes: Stitch Fix, Kidbox, Trunk Club, Wantable
  • Pets: Kitnip Box, Bark Box, Rescue Box, Loot Pets, Pooch Perks
  • Personal Hygiene: Dollar Shave Club, Sudz Club, Smile Box
  • Creativity: Kiwi Crates, Darby Smart, Sketch Box, Creation Crate
  • Niche: Vella Box, Hippie Holiday, FabFitFun, BeautyArmy

Once you’ve identified them, quickly chart which services are weekly, biweekly, monthly, every three months, every six months, or yearly. Gather all the info, and then get ready to…

Read all the Fine Print

Before you agree to any subscription service, it’s imperative to read the small print. How often will your card be charged? When will it be charged? How do you cancel? When do you need to cancel to avoid an unwanted delivery? Know the rules before you sign up, or review the rules if you’re already signed up.

Immediately Make a Calendar Note

While knowing when the company will charge your card for their services for budget purposes, it’s more important to know when you need to cancel. So for example, if the company charges your card on the 15th of each month, but you need to cancel two weeks before this charge, you should make a note on your calendar that you’d need to cancel the service on the 1st of the month. You could also set a helpful reminder with Alexa or Siri. Forgetting this information would lead to an extra delivery or a late termination fee. Highlight this date so it pops and set it as a recurring notice. Review your calendar monthly to decide if you need to cancel any subscriptions.

Just Do It

When you decide to cancel, do it immediately. Don’t hem or haw. Be prepared to endure a maze of pressing buttons and waiting to talk to someone on the other end. Unfortunately, many services don’t allow customers to simply click and unsubscribe from their services; it’s part of their business model.

Trim

Trim exists as an AI assistant that works on your behalf to identify and cancel unwanted subscriptions and negotiate lower rates when possible on monthly services like cable. It was developed to help individuals stay on budget. Users must link accounts such as credit cards, so do your research to determine if Trim would be right for you. Reviews span the spectrum from great (saved the user money) to horrible (attempted to negotiate cable bill without user’s approval). The program is currently free to download, but will take a percentage of profit if it successfully lowers a bill.

On a final note: many companies offer discounts when you sign up if you subscribe on a three month, six month, or yearly basis. Watch for these subscriptions as the charges are easier to forget when they only happen twice or once a year. You may save on the monthly deliveries, but it’s easier to miss the cancelation period.

We Are Donating Everything We Save This Year To Charity

Donate Everything You Save To CharityWe never feel like we give enough to charity, and there are great reasons why we should donate more, so this year, we’re going to take everything we save and give it to charity.

To clarify, we’re not going to take everything we earn and give it away, we’re just thinking of a creative way of finding more money to donate to charity.

How Will We Calculate

Any time we save money that we would have spent, we’ll tally it up and give it to charity. There’s a difference between spending less and actually saving money.

You’re simply spending less if you’re shopping for a TV and decide to go with a $500 version instead of the $800 version. You still spent money, you just spent less of it. That’s not real savings.

Contrast this with the example of bringing that $500 TV to the register and it ringing up for $400 because of a special sale that you weren’t aware of. You were fully prepared to pay the $500, so the $100 savings is very real.

Our First Donation Of The Year

The first instance happened this week when I was getting ready to file my taxes. I use TurboTax, which this year would have been $69.99 for the federal return + $36.99 for the state return. I was fully prepared to pay that because what other choice do I have? Luckily, someone at work had a code that made it totally free. So I made a $106.98 contribution to charity on Saturday night.

There are a few categories that I can think of right now where we’ll be saving money this year.

Using coupons when we shop online. Anything we were going to buy but a quick Google search results in a price drop is a perfect candidate.

AmEx Offers. Sometimes there are offers for “save $10 when spending $20” at a store. If it’s somewhere I shop anyway, that is real savings for me.

There will be others that pop up throughout the year, like random $15 off Google Express orders that we use.

Which Charities We’ll Donate To

There are charities we support every year, but I’d like this money to go toward new causes. With all of the recent changes to our country, we feel it’s important now more than ever to put our money where our mouth is and support social causes that we think are important to the fabric of our society.

The first payment of $106.98 went to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I can’t think of a charity more deserving of our money, whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

I am really excited to start this adventure, and it motivates me to be extra vigilant in finding real opportunities to save money.

What do you think of my plan? Can you think of other situations where I’ll find real savings?

How to Save Money On Restaurants

How to Save Money On RestaurantsFor harried singles and families, dining out has become a lifestyle necessity. Drive-through fast food and counter service eliminate food shopping and preparation time by providing hot and tasty, if sometimes unhealthy, ready-to-eat meals for people on the go.

But for those on a tight budget, eating out can be costly. And if you are dining in, the time factor may cut into other scheduled activities. Due to high-calorie menu choices and the cost of eating prepared foods, many people are trying to reduce their excursions to fast food and family dining restaurants. Here are a few tips that can help:

Cut Back

You may be surprised to find out the number of meals you eat at restaurants each week. Include coffee stops and purchased snacks. Set a goal to reduce your total prepared food or meal count by a certain amount. For example, if you dine out twice a week, try to cut back to once weekly. You will soon notice significant savings in your budget if you eat at home more often.

Stick To Your Entertainment Budget

When you calculate money spent on food when tied to other activities, like bowling and video rentals, food costs can skyrocket. Look for cheaper ways to have fun and bring a packed lunch that can be fun and nutritious instead of settling for fast food, which, let’s face it, is often greasy and gross. You can also attach restaurant spending to the grocery budget. Set a specific monthly amount for eating out, whether you consider it entertainment or an auxiliary expense to leisure activities, and don’t go over the limit. You’ll appreciate newfound control over food and money, two indispensable commodities.

Exchange Dine-In For Takeout

Sit-down dining often leads to the temptation of ordering beverages, appetizers, and dessert, along with tax and tip, running up a sizable tab. Instead, make a run to the supermarket for rotisserie chicken or pizza. Eat at home with homemade salad and ice tea as you savor the hefty cost saved by skipping the restaurant.

Eat Light Occasionally

Rather than eating out, make it a veggie and dip night with a fun dessert or pack a cooler with sandwiches and lemonade for a picnic. Get frozen custard afterward for a special treat. Soup, chili, and casseroles with tasty bread are more great light meals to enjoy.

Share Meals

Most entrees these days are large enough for two, so share a meal by dividing food in half or ordering two different sides while sharing the main item. You can also use this method with the help of coupons that you can find online at sites like Groupon or at some restaurants’ websites. Use a coupon and split the remaining cost with a friend or family member. You can also share a huge appetizer with bread or a side and skip the large entree to cut the cost.

Eating out doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Try tips like these to continue dining out while reducing the cost of prepared food and perhaps some calories, as well.