12 tips of Christmas #2 – Take your subscriptions off autopilot

Recurring expenses like subscriptions and memberships can be hidden killers when it comes to saving money.

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The lowdown

You can get a subscription for pretty much anything these days, from groceries to movies – even plants. While they make things super easy, they're also super easy to lose track of, since they just magically come out of your bank account each month.

But are subscriptions actually good value? Even if you're just paying a few dollars each month, the costs can really start to add up over a year.

Whether you need to cancel, downgrade or jump on a friend or partner's account to get a better package, looking at those monthly recurring expenses can help you easily reclaim a few hundred dollars a year.

Here's how you do it

Review your monthly transactions and highlight any monthly subscriptions. For example: streaming (Netflix, Stan, Foxtel), cloud storage (iCloud), music streaming (Spotify), gym memberships, audiobooks, news sites, software services, services linked to Apple or Samsung, etc.

Cancel anything that you're not using – and be ruthless. If you haven't used something for more than 2 months, it's probably worth cancelling. You can always sign up again down the line if you miss it. You can generally cancel online, without having to make a phone call – so do it right away.

Don't miss these tips

Switch to a family package or pay yearly. Many subscription services offer a family discount, so if you live with other people, whether they're family or housemates, you can switch over to a family plan and save up to $30 a month compared to if you all paid separately. Both Netflix and Spotify allow you to have up to 6 users on the 1 account, for only a couple of dollars more than an individual subscription.

Set calendar appointments for any free trials you sign up for. It can be a great idea to use free trials, for example if you're thinking about cancelling one of your TV apps, why not try a free trial of Disney Plus or Kayo? Not quite ready to hand over your dreams of getting a summer bod? Why not try a gym subscription like ClassPass where you can just pay per visit? That way you know how much you'd actually use the subscription before the free trial ends.

Don't pay for more than you need. Finally, check what level your subscriptions are. For example, Netflix charges $16.99 a month for HD TV, but if you're only watching on an app or tablet, you'd probably be just fine with the $10.99 basic SD plan.

Check back each day in the lead-up to Christmas to get our latest expert personal finance tips.

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