Do You Have Subscription Fatigue?
What it is and what you can do about it.
Sometimes, you get a notification from your bank in the middle of the month about your balance. Damn, overspent again; I don’t even know where the money goes. It just disappears. You check your statement, and it’s full of $4.99’s here and $9.99’s there. It doesn’t seem like much, right?
Months can go by like this until you realize what one of the main culprits is: subscriptions. I bet you’re reading this right now thinking about how many subscriptions you’ve got. Maybe you can’t even think of them all.
Or maybe you only have one or two, if that’s the case, bravo — this article isn’t for you. You clearly possess the self-control that many (including myself) don’t have. This article is for those of you who think they might have a few too many subscriptions, or it’s out of control.
So now I’ve got you thinking about your subscriptions. You’re already on the first step of identifying and tackling the issue. Let’s dive a little deeper into the concept of subscription fatigue.
What is ‘Subscription Fatigue’
In the U.S, the average consumer had 12 paid entertainment subscriptions pre-Covid. But now, even around 70% of boomers have at least one subscription video on demand (SVOD) service since the pandemic began.
You can look at this topic from two main perspectives; business and individual. A business would say subscription fatigue is ‘a potential tiring’ of consumers signing up to subscription-based businesses; it’s more future-orientated.
But from personal experience and from what I’ve seen anecdotally, subscription fatigue is here in the present. Everyday people might say it’s “the feeling I get when a service wants to sign me up to yet another subscription,” paired with either a roll of the eye or a deep sigh.
With SVOD businesses in particular ever-increasing in 2021, we might find ourselves buried under so many different services that it becomes just as, if not more expensive than cable TV.
Why is this important?
Thrive Global and Discover partnered up in their recent research that came out with the following stats:
- Money is the #1 stressor in the U.S.
- 90% of people say that money has an impact on their stress levels.
- Half of individuals feel unable to control the important financial aspects of their lives.
- Around a third of people had romantic partnerships negatively impacted by financial stress.
Since you’re more likely to suffer both mentally and physically when you experience financial stress, it makes sense to address it, even if it’s just by being mindful about your subscriptions.
My Experience with Subscription Fatigue
Before the pandemic hit a peak here in the U.K, I had some disposable income, so I didn’t feel too bad about having a bunch of subscriptions. But I never realized how bad it really was until finances were no longer as secure as they used to be.
At its peak, I was paying over $200 in subscriptions every month. That’s not even including my cable TV or phone bill. I had them all; Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Spotify, YouTube Premium, Audible, Patreon, iCloud, Huel, the Lottery, Lifesum, Deliveroo, Ulysses, YNAB (ironically), Sync for YNAB.
Some of those are UK centric, but you get the idea.
When I totaled them all up (without hiding some from myself), I was shocked. As someone who espoused the merits of budgeting, how had I become such a hypocrite? But you forget how easy it is to fall victim to the “oh, it’s only 4.99, that’s the same price as a fancy Starbucks”.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was Disney Plus. I definitely rolled my eyes at it. Yet, I am the youngest member of my household, and still, Disney Plus managed to ensnare me with promises of nostalgia. In the end, I barely used it — I watched some National Geographic documentaries, which comes with my cable TV. Enough was enough.
When I canceled Disney Plus, I also sat down and really spent time considering all of my other subscriptions. After dealing with it, getting savvy with some of them to reduce the cost, and eliminating others, I feel much better about it all.
I went down the easy route, but if you’re feeling brave or especially tired of it all, you can go down the hard route.
How to Deal with Existing Subscriptions
So now you’re aware of what subscription fatigue is and what it can lead to in the long term. Of course, prevention is better than a cure, but a cure is still better than nothing. So here are two ways you can combat existing subscriptions.
The ‘easy’ route
I place ‘easy’ in apostrophes because, for some people, this route might not be as easy as it seems on the surface. It takes a bit of work.
Step 1: Go through your bank statements to identify your subscriptions.
You need to go through the statements with a fine-toothed comb and pick out every single one. Write them down, alongside their cost, so you can find out what your total monthly spend is on subscriptions alone.
Step 1a: acknowledge whatever it is you feel when you read the numbers.
Step 2: Find subscriptions that essentially do the same thing and consolidate.
In this case, consolidate means to decide which of the similar services you prefer and cancel the others. You can also cancel ones that you’ve realized you don’t actually use anymore. In my case, this was Disney Plus, Spotify, Audible, Huel, Deliveroo, Patreon, and Ulysses.
If your primary motivation to do this is to reclaim your financial situation, and some of the subscriptions are important to you, then look around for special deals. In my case, I was able to bundle Netflix in with my cable services for a cheaper deal, and I also got Amazon Prime half price as a student.
If your motivation is to cut down the sheer amount of monthly payments, being tired of their frequency, try to see if you can opt for annual payments instead. Going annual usually has the bonus of being cheaper in the long run too.
Doing this, I’ve cut down my monthly subscriptions to less than $70, the most expensive one being YouTube Premium (I love ad-free YouTube and music).
The ‘hard’ route
Again, I place ‘hard’ in apostrophes because some people might actually find this route a little easier to manage. It’s about wiping your slate clean.
Step 1: Go nuclear on your subscriptions — cancel them all.
It might seem a little drastic, but sometimes a clean slate is what we need. I liken this step to backing up my laptop externally and then giving it a factory reset every few years (I’ve had this laptop for almost 8 years, go Macbook Pro).
When I do that, there’s a great sense of relief, and my laptop feels new again. If there’s just too much to wade through to cancel one at a time, you can also consider getting a whole new bank card. Cancel the one where all the subscriptions come out of, and you get them all in one move.
Be mindful that card payments are different from direct debits (payments taken directly from your bank account, not using your card details). If a company fails to process a direct debit, there can be fees involved.
You’ll get emails from the companies saying they couldn’t process your payment and to update your payment method, and where you can cancel subscriptions outright as these emails roll in. But this is when you move into the prevention phase.
The Prevention Phase
Prevention is still better than a cure, so when you’re in the situation of being either subscription-free or cutting down on them, you need to maintain it. Otherwise, you’ll be cycling through the previous steps again in a year.
The key to preventing further subscription fatigue is adopting a minimalist mindset. Ask yourself the following questions:
- “Do I really need this? Is it essential?”
- “Will having this add real value to my life?”
By stopping short and asking yourself these questions before you impulsively download or subscribe, you give yourself the chance to consider the consequences.
If you’ve identified a real need and added value, then sure, go ahead and subscribe. But most of the time, you’ll find it’s only little things that tempt you back into the subscriptions, and questioning their value helps to prevent further fatigue.
Subscription fatigue is more present than some businesses realize. And since having so many subscriptions can have a large impact on our financial situation and overall wellbeing, we need to give it due consideration.
Though whichever route you may take, easy or hard, remember that acknowledging the situation is a great first step.
After dealing with my subscriptions, I felt a huge sense of relief. Some of the money I’ve saved on canceling services I don’t use anymore also gets reinvested into my personal growth (mostly books). This way, I save money and become a better me. Perhaps you can do the same.
This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Consult a financial professional before making any financial decisions.
Alexander Boswell is a Business Ph.D candidate specialising in Consumer Behaviour and uses this knowledge as a freelance writer in the Content Marketing and B2B SaaS space. Find him on Twitter @alexbboswell or his website alexanderbboswell.com