As consumers, we are over-contracted with pay-for-service subscriptions these days. Such as:
- Fitness clubs
- Home phone (ha!)
- Cell phone
- Home internet
- Cable television
- Banking plans (technically not a subscription service… but it kind of is, right?)
- Amazon Prime
- Sirius XM Radio
- Insurance Plans
- Software Plans
You may look at this list and say “That’s crazy! I’m not registered for all of those insane services! Cable TV? Home phone? Sirius XM Radio? No thanks.” – if you are one of those people, congratulations. But no offence – you still might be oversubscribed.
Most obviously, we understand that a subscription service is worth it by how much we actually use it. Assuming you’re a millennial, that mentality probably led you to skipping home phone and cable television when you started living on your own.
For the other services you have, you consider them worth it. You watch Netflix daily. You use your phone to surf and stream on the go. You try and use your gym once or twice a week. But rather than pat yourself on the back for obtaining perceived value for money, ask yourself some fundamental questions:
How much value is this adding to my life?
I’m a huge movie buff, but people are frequently shocked when I tell them I don’t have a Netflix subscription nor anything like CraveTV that would allow me to access streamed content. My answer to their shock? That it would take me away from healthy activities like hiking, working out, or socializing with friends in my home.
For a movie lover like me, something like Netflix would probably be detrimental to my being as I would become one of those marathon watchers of shows and movies and forget about the outside world. If anything, not having Netflix makes me more selective of the content I choose to watch. If I go to the movies, I’m making a purchasing decision using the best available evidence out there (Rotten Tomatoes, anyone?) to make sure that my time is well spent.
With Netflix, that goes away. I’ve spent countless hours at a friend’s place as we shuffle through the lists and lists of options to the point where content starts to become under-appreciated. Don’t like it? We shut it off. With movie-going, it’s not that simple because the purchasing stakes are that much higher. If I’m in your movie theatre, I’ve already bought a ticket with a friend (I notoriously use my free 2 for 1 coupons from my cell phone provider. That means two tickets cost me $7.50 on a Tuesday or $13.50 on any other day of the week) and invested in a bucket of popcorn. Shutting off isn’t an option and what happens is a greater selective appreciation of the content and less overall content consumption.
Do I need this much of it?
My colleagues were discussing cell phone plans over lunch the other day and mentioned that their plans ranged from 5 to 7 GB. I almost spat out my food.
Call me crazy, but my cell phone plan features a generous 1 GB of which I maybe make it to 700 MB on a month of aggressive use (it’s almost the end of November and my current month’s usage is 329 MB).
For me, I restrict my cell phone data usage to maps, checking my stocks, social media, and email. All of that requires fairly minimal data if you’re not glued to your phone. In our world, we’re already seeing a push towards becoming unplugged: some of my friends host dinner parties with a no phone rule, which is a great way to live in the now, while some getaway spots also mention the no Wi-Fi as a key selling feature. You too can become a champion of taking your life back from the throes of technology by trying to become unplugged.
Now, I am in no way a Luddite. If you require an extensive cell phone plan because you run a business, that’s fine. But if you don’t, ask yourself: what behavioural changes can you make to use less? Is watching YouTube on the go that important?
Are there free/cheaper alternatives?
You probably got Netflix to begin with because your cable TV subscription was three times the price. Why can’t the same thought go towards any other subscription service you own?
I’ve heard people pay for things like Spotify Premium when YouTube could do the same thing for you, or Audible when your local library offers eBooks free of charge. Likewise, if all you use at the gym is the treadmill and weight machines (unfortunately, I’m stuck when it comes to finding squash courts and a pool), chances are your community centre might have something too for free or at a lower rate.
By simply exploring why you have something, why you use it, and if there are better substitutes, you can optimize the services you pay for.
Don’t let yourself be oversubscribed.
ADDENDUM – My Subscriptions
- YMCA Fitness Membership ($65.54) – this is definitely an expensive subscription for fitness, but I’m there mostly for the squash courts and swimming lessons, which are not available at my local community centre. If I ever revert back to the usual treadmill and weight machine workout, I’ll wave this subscription goodbye
- Virgin Mobile BYOP Cell Phone Plan ($45.20) – 1 GB of data, 500 minutes of nationwide calling, free evenings and weekends, unlimited text, voicemail 3. Pretty standard plan. Plus it comes with member benefits, like 2 for 1 movie passes and discounts to retailers and local attractions.
- TekSavvy Home Internet ($44.01 but split with roommate) – we get 200 GB per month at 15Mbps. Not having Netflix certainly helps us lower the bandwidth usage.
- TD Meloche Monnex Auto Insurance ($162.66 a month) – Cars are expensive, but it is a luxury I enjoy. As a single male driver, it’s the best rate I could get.
- TD All-Inclusive Banking plan ($29.95 – waived with $5000 balance) – I use all the services available in the plan and have the balance to waive the rate.