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Amy Iverson: It's time to get a handle on your monthly subscriptions

The cost for streaming subscriptions like Spotify may not seem like much, but if you have multiple recurring subscriptions, those prices can add up.
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With the announcement this month of Disney’s subscription streaming service, Disney +, I am basically begging the company to take my money. At less than $6 per month with access to hundreds of hours of new and old TV shows and movies, it seems like a no-brainer to sign up.

But haven’t I said this before?

I remember thinking the same thing when Netflix offered me the ability to stream its catalog of movies instead of receiving DVDs in the mail. I jumped at the chance. But what started as a $7.99 per month subscription has steadily increased over the years. Now I pay $12.99 per month so that members of my family can watch on two screens at a time in HD. (There is also a premium Ultra HD plan option for $15.99 per month). Netflix is now loaded with so much original, award-winning content, I’m not sure I ever want to go without it.

I didn’t want to pay for a DVR from my cable company, but I was missing a lot of seemingly must-see TV. So I decided to sign up for Hulu, another streaming service to get access to current TV shows. I pay $5.99 per month and suffer through ads for Hulu content, which now includes thousands of TV shows, movies and award-winning original content. I’ve put off subscribing to the $11.99 per month option to get rid of commercials, but am seriously considering it more and more each day.

Our family has had an Amazon Prime account for years now, and the yearly fee has more than paid for itself considering the benefit of all the free shipping that comes with it. I didn’t fully utilize Amazon Prime Video at first, but am now fully engaged in several of the shows coming from its original programming. At first, I paid $79 per year for all the benefits that come with Prime, but again, those prices have gone up. Subscribers now pay $119 a year, which is still cheaper than a Netflix subscription.

And I just remembered I have an Apple music subscription, pay monthly for additional cloud storage, an Xbox Live account and who knows what else. Don’t even get me started on all those free trials that start charging you after a certain amount of time if you don’t remember to cancel.

It’s time we get a handle on monthly subscriptions, but that can be tough if we don’t even know all the services we’ve signed up for that charge us every 30 days or so.

The first step is to visit the website of each of your credit card and banking accounts to check for recurring payments. If this seems too laborious, use a free website like Trim or the free app Truebill. These services need access to your banking accounts (they both use highly secure encryption to keep information safe) and can quickly show you all subscriptions linked to any account you have.

Android and iOS phones also have the built-in capability to show many of your subscriptions. For Android, go to the Play Store app, tap the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines in the corner) and then Subscriptions. This shows all the apps you may be paying for on a regularly scheduled basis. You can choose to update or cancel these payments or keep them just how they are.

For iPhone, go to Settings, click on your name and then iTunes & App Store. Tap your Apple ID and then View Apple ID. This is where your subscriptions live, and you can then decide if you want to keep paying for them. If you don’t have any subscriptions, the option won’t even appear.

And don’t forget to check your Google and Microsoft accounts for long-forgotten subscriptions to things like YouTube Premium and Skype.

Last year, the Waterstone Management Group analyzed 2,500 Americans’ budgets in regard to subscription services. When they gave people 10 seconds to estimate how much they spent on monthly subscriptions, the average guess was $79.74 per month. After giving the participants 30 seconds to think more about it, on average they raised their estimation to $111.61 per month. After the in-depth analysis of their subscription budgets, researchers found people were forgetting about everything from subscription boxes and gaming services to cloud storage and fitness apps. The actual average amount each participant was spending each month on subscriptions was a whopping $237.33, a far cry from the $80 estimate each first gave.

It’s worth your time to get a handle on your monthly subscriptions.