Use It or Lose It: Which Subscriptions are Worth It?

Let’s talk about subscriptions and memberships, shall we? This topic is pretty much unavoidable when it comes to discussing shopping bans, minimalism, and where our money goes in this current “convenience culture.” More and more of us are now using subscription services instead of actually shopping. Which ones are worth it? Which ones are just a slow and needless leak of money out of your account? It’s worth discussing.

Streaming Services

Confession: I’ve been binging the Graham Stephan show lately because it’s fun to look at how other people spend their money. Basically Graham is a young, self-made millionaire who enjoys humorously dissecting the budgets of millennials across the country. And one thing I notice in every budget is a line for monthly subscriptions. I get it. This is the age of streaming services! Amazon Prime pretty much runs the world of commerce! I admit, it is more minimal to stream your music than to own hundreds of CDs. I get it….

But if you’re subscribed to more than a couple monthly services, are you really using these subscriptions to their fullest? Spoiler alert, Graham typically suggests folks keep their Netflix and Amazon Prime but drop the rest. However, my family still doesn’t subscribe to either one. Even though they are both good deals, we personally like not being tempted to watch as much or buy as much. (If I need to binge-watch something to unwind after a long day, Youtube and the library are all I need!)

We did a free trial period of Spotify recently and it really was great…at first. We used it a lot on our road trip because we could download albums to our phones to listen to in the car. But once we got home, we barely used it. By the time the free trial was over, so was our enthusiasm. Imagine if we had just let it keep charging us every month.

When it comes to these services, it’s important to understand the difference between how much we think we’re using them and how much we’re actually using them. I suggest you be brutal and take a month or two and log your usage. How many times did you actually use that gym membership this month? If you only watch Netflix, why are you also subscribed to Hulu? If you only use Spotify on road trips, why are you still subscribed if you only listen once a month at home?

There is simply no reason for unused subscriptions to be draining you accounts every month. It may be easy to let it go. To do nothing. It’s only $10 a month and I might use it again. But, let me tell you, all those $10 changes can quickly add up. How much would you save if you took the time to unsubscribe from everything you aren’t using? Possibly hundreds a month for 15 minutes of your time? If you ask me, that’s time well-spent!

Minimalism is taking steps toward an all-around simpler life. This includes more than just physical clutter. This includes digital junk. This includes your inbox. This includes anything on your bank statement that is a needless charge. 

Gym Memberships

“But some of these charges are good! Some of these make me healthy, like joining a pool or a gym.” I hear you. I want to encourage healthy changes! The only question is – are you using it? It’s no secret that gyms make more money off members who don’t show up than those who do. Whether or not you go makes all the difference in the world.

The reason gyms can charge so little is that most members don’t go. People who don’t go are subsidizing the membership of people who do. So, if you don’t work out, you are making gyms affordable for everyone. If you are one of the brave few who actually do go to the gym, you are getting an amazing deal.

-Stacey Vanek Smith, NPR – Why We Sign Up For Gym Memberships But Never Go To The Gym

Personally, I’m a member of my rowing club. I pay yearly dues for access to the facilities and the training. My team meets 4 times a week. And you know how often I’m over there? You guessed it. 4 times a week! Okay, to be honest, things pop up every now and then. I do have a life and a family. But I aim to make every practice – and I usually do! I make a point to prioritize rowing and, therefore, get the most out of my membership. If I didn’t get a tremendous amount of value out of it, I wouldn’t renew. Same goes for the gym or pool or community center you’re a part of. If you have a membership, use that sucker.

I know people are busy – but you’re the one who decided to get the membership. Use it once a week at the very least. Otherwise, don’t fool yourself. Drop the membership and find other free ways to get your physical activity in. If you mostly use it to walk on the treadmill, it’s more pleasant to walk in a park anyway! Don’t be the sucker who is making the gym cheaper for those of us who actually go. (But thank you!) 

Subscription Boxes

I actually enjoy shopping, and the time it takes to track down that one perfect thing. But people are busy these days. Yes, too busy to even shop! (Or go to the gym….) So there are boxes designed for just about everything. Kids toys. Makeup. Clothing. Activewear. Dog supplies. You name it. All things that are very exciting to get in the mail!

Not gonna lie, it’d be pretty swell to get a box of new activewear delivered every month. But do I need it? Absolutely not. Are there better things to do with that $50 a month….or however much they cost if I actually want to keep the clothes. Yes indeed!

The point isn’t that these are bad things, and I’m not intending to shame anyone for trying them out. (I’m guessing you’re reading this because you want some minimal and financial inspiration, so I’m here to give it.) The point is that if I subscribe to something like this for many months, I’m blindly spending hundreds of dollars on things I know I don’t need. Stuff that it isn’t perfect, that I might not have picked for myself, that is “just okay.” And I don’t really need more clothes, especially not “just okay” clothes. Subscription boxes might be great for people who are truly too busy to shop, but for a minimalist they are overkill. 

In order for me to love an article of clothing, I probably have to want it enough to go to a store, pick off the rack because it’s soft and I like the look of it. It has to fit amazingly, compliment pieces I already own, and I need to feel great wearing it. That’s a lot of criteria, and I highly doubt any box is going to meet all of my criteria. I do my best to love the things I already own. Things I don’t love equal instant clutter. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need any more of that in my life.

Delivery Services

For this one I’d like to start a discussion. I have mixed feelings, okay? I personally know a lot of moms whose lives have been CHANGED by delivery and drive-up services. I’m not here to argue. You know how much money I saved by not wanting to shop with my kids, deal with car seats, and possible tantrums in stores?? Let’s just say – a lot. Easiest shopping ban I ever did.

So retailers must have noticed that us moms weren’t shopping as often and combatted it by making it much more convenient. This is awesome! And because of the competition and how badly they want our business, a lot of these conveniences are free! It really is great that a busy mom or caretaker can drive up to Target or Walmart and have their groceries delivered to their car for FREE! Woohoo! All I’m gonna say is, let’s be careful.

There are hidden costs in apps like Instacart. Things might cost a little more on the app than they do in the store. At least that’s what I’ve been told – I haven’t personally used it yet. But it makes sense. They have to account for the extra costs somehow.

And even if the service is truly free and the company is taking the hit for now, I still think it shouldn’t be too convenient to spend money. 

Convenience Culture

I want my spending to be inconvenient. Because it was inconvenient to earn, it should be at least a little inconvenient to spend. But retailers have bent over backwards to make it easier and easier for us to spend our hard-earned money.

Free two-day shipping. Free returns. Drive up. Drive through. Straight to your door convenience.

And we’ve come to start to expect this level of convenience everywhere. “Why should I have to go in the store and wait in line?” I’ve started to see a lot of billboards for Carvana, where you can buy a car completely online and have it delivered next-day. Sounds appealing. I hate car shopping. Just the thought makes me a little nauseous. But shouldn’t it be a little inconvenient to buy a car? A toddler shouldn’t be able to accidentally push a few buttons on my phone and the next day there’s a new car at my door. I’m being dramatic, but you get the idea.

Final Thoughts

I’m not here to tell you what’s worth it and what isn’t. It all comes down to your lifestyle, your personal values, your mission. I’m just here to make you think. To question everything. To start a discussion. To hopefully find a balance.

The subscription services that are worth it to you are the ones you’re actually using – the ones that add value to your quality of life. I highly recommend taking a look at the monthly subscriptions and membership costs that occur each month. Take a good, honest look. Ask yourself objectively: are you using them? If you’re no longer getting the full value back, take 5 minutes and unsubscribe! It’s as simple as that. Put that extra cash directly in a high-yield savings account where it can start accruing interest. Then let me know so we can celebrate!

I’d love to know your thoughts on this!

How to overcome the inconvenience of unsubscribing when something is draining our account month after month.

How to maximize the subscriptions and services we deem worthwhile.

How to wisely use convenience and inconvenience to our advantage, because I think there is room for both at times.

3 Comments

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  1. I really can’t offer any advice on this topic. The only subscription/membership we have is a gym membership for my husband, and he does go there five mornings a week. Good read, though.

  2. I can’t really offer any advice on this topic. The only subscription/membership we have is a gym membership for my husband, and he does go there five mornings a week. Good read, though.

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