So That’s Where Your Money Is Going: Fees You Don’t Realize Are Adding Up

You may be paying more in fees than you realize It’s easy to lose track of your subscriptions. We’ve all signed up for a free trial of a streaming service, only to forget to cancel it before the time is up. After some time, all of these fees add up, not to mention the fees for services that we meant to be paying for.

Services requiring fees

Essentials

First off, there are the essential services that you’re paying fees for. When you’re budgeting your money for essentials, it’s normal to get caught up in all of the special deals for services that you think that you need. If it’s been a while since you signed up for these essential services, it might be worth looking into whether you can save money with another plan or even if you can cut the service out overall.

Cell phone

Paying a fee for your cell phone is more or less a necessary evil at this point. When you’ve had the same cell phone provider and/or plan for years, it’s normal to forget about it altogether. Fortunately, today there are some budget cell phone carriers that offer good coverage at lower prices when compared to some of the major wireless networks.

Internet providers

For most people, having reliable internet access is as important as having electricity in your home. Paying to keep your internet running smoothly can add up quickly, especially if you live in an area with limited options when it comes to internet providers.

Cable

Though not as common as it used to be, a cable TV subscription is still considered essential for some families. It’s also common to be lured in by internet and cable deals, which appear to offer a great deal. However, if you don’t make use of your cable subscription, the cost of the “good deal” can add up quickly for no good reason. If you’re not using your cable subscription, it may be time to look into alternatives and consider canceling to eliminate the cable bill.

Subscriptions

In addition to the household essentials, there are popular subscription services that can add up quickly. Most of these items are monthly subscriptions, and while $10/month doesn’t sound like a lot, once you get a few subscriptions going...it can put a dent in your monthly budget.

Streaming services

It’s no secret that if you’ve canceled your cable subscription, you may have replaced it with one or more streaming services. These days, while you may not be paying for special package channels, you do need to have more than one streaming service to have access to the most popular TV shows. There is no longer a top streaming service — Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are just the start. Now, with newer streaming services like Peacock and HBO Max offering exclusive content, it can be a battle to choose which subscriptions should are worth the monthly fees.

Music services

While you don’t necessarily need to rack up monthly bills for music streaming services, they are appealing. With benefits such as exclusive content ad-free streaming, and the option to download, it’s no wonder so many people pay for services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

Wholesale stores

It seems silly to have to pay a membership fee to gain access to a store, but here we are. Wholesale retailers such as Sam’s Club and Costco are well-known for offering good prices on everything from big jars of peanut butter to store brand dog food. While you can save money over time by shopping at this type of store, it can also leave you with more quantity than you need.

Gym membership

Gym memberships and fitness classes can add up quickly. Some people sign up for this type of service aspirationally. You know how it goes — “if I’m paying for it, it will motivate me to get out of bed and get to the gym.” Whether you make it to the gym or not, paying for a gym membership can put a huge drain on your bank account if you’re not careful.

Ways to trim on fees

Signing up for any subscription service will surely chip away at your bank account. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can save on these recurring expenses:
  • Only pay for what you need. It sounds simple, but can be difficult to put into practice. For example, if you’re only keeping your cable subscription around for certain channels, see if you can find those channels or the content on those channels elsewhere.
  • Be cautious of free trials. Personally, I like to set up reminders on my phone and in my calendar app so that I don’t forget to cancel before my trial ends. Some subscription services will tell you which day you’ll be billed if you don’t cancel, so be sure to make note of that information if it’s available.
  • Share services. If possible, see if you can share streaming services with friends and family. A subscription to Spotify’s Family account is cheaper than two people each paying for an individual account.
  • Use fee-trimming apps. Consider signing up for apps like Truebill or Trim to take the guesswork out of your recurring charges and help you keep track of where your money is going.

Companies that can help you cut the costs

Finding yourself overwhelmed as you think about all of your monthly bills? Then you’ll probably be happy to know that there are companies out there that can help you figure out where your money is going and take back control of your budget.

Truebill

Truebill is an automated financial assistant that can help you take control of your finances. It allows you to review your subscriptions, unsubscribe from the ones you don’t need, and lower your bills if there’s an opportunity to do so.
Using Truebill is pretty simple, too. To get started, you connect the bank accounts and/or credit cards that you use to pay for your subscriptions and bills to the Truebill app. This allows Truebill’s software to analyze your transactions and identify recurring bills and subscriptions. After this process has been completed, you can view these recurring items in a “recurring” section of the app. You can also use the “TrueProtect" feature to add bills that you’d like to lower. For a fee, Truebill can negotiate with internet, cable, cell phone, and other providers to help you get better rates on the plans that you already have. If your internet and/or cable bill is connected to Truebill, you can also pay for a service that will advocate on your behalf to get a refund when an outage occurs.
Best of all, you can use the Truebill app for free. There are some services that you do need to pay money for, though. To access features including the cancellation concierge to cancel your unwanted subscriptions, you’ll need the Truebill Premium subscription. Truebill allows you to choose your price for Premium, within reason. You can pay between $3/month to $12/month, or pay an annual fee of $36 or $48 per year. For the bill negotiation service, Truebill will charge you 40% of the first year’s savings if it can successfully negotiate a lower price on a bill for you. Truebill also charges 40% of the credit amount if it can get you a refund for internet outages.

Trim

Trim describes itself as a holistic financial management service that offers personalized recommendations and savings opportunities. You can sign up for a Trim account for free and get access to:
  • A personal finance dashboard
  • Personalized spending alerts and reminders
  • Detection and fighting of overdraft fees
  • Finding and canceling old subscriptions
To get the most out of Trim, you’ll need to connect your bank account and/or credit card so that it can analyze your spending habits and identify your recurring charges.
For an additional cost, you can also access Trim’s paid features — bill negotiation, debt payoff, and Trim Simple Savings. If Trim can save you money on one of your bills, it will take 33% of the yearly amount that it helped you save. For $10/month, you can use the debt payoff feature to help build a roadmap to becoming debt-free. After you add your debts along with their interest rates and minimum payments, Trim will set you up with a financial coach. Your financial coach can help you negotiate your interest rates, optimize your payoff strategy, and build a personalized budget and spending plan.
Trim also offers an automated savings account called Trim Simple Savings. You can set up automated weekly transfers to this account and receive an annual reward of 1.5% on your balance. This feature typically costs $2/month but comes with the debt payoff feature for free.

Pros and cons of subscriptions

Pros

The set it and forget it method can be pretty great. You sign up for something, let it charge you automatically each month, and enjoy the service that you’re paying for. By signing up for some subscription services, you’re also allowing yourself to pick and choose what’s important to you rather than signing up for a larger package that you don’t need.

Cons

With recurring fees come lower bank account balances. The obvious downside to set it and forget it subscriptions is that you...well...forget it. Whether it be a free trial that you forgot to cancel or a subscription that you no longer use, it’s frustrating to find out that you’ve been paying for something unnecessarily.

The bottom line

There are countless subscriptions available today, from streaming services to meal kits and beyond. Unfortunately, as great as all of these options are, they have a habit of sneaking up on you and your bank account. To make things easier on yourself, it’s important to regularly evaluate your subscriptions to make sure you know where your money is going. You should also take into consideration how often you use the subscriptions that you pay for and decide whether it’s worth the cost. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for a service that will evaluate all of your recurring charges for you. By utilizing these useful services, you’ll be able to monitor your subscriptions and get rid of any that you no longer need in minutes.

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