One of the quickest ways to improve your cashflow is to cancel services you don’t use.
We’ve all got them – services we signed up for but never use. We might have taken on a streaming service just to watch particular show. Or we strongly overestimated our commitment to a year-long gym membership. Perhaps we’re still carrying obstetrics services on our health insurance. Or regularly using a tiny 25GB of our excessive 100GB mobile phone or internet plan.
Whatever the reasons, it’s a no brainer to cancel services you don’t use.
But why don’t we?
Subscribing to identity
Subscriptions and memberships can have a powerful hold on us, according to behavioural scientists Jennifer Savary and Ravi Dhar.
“Quitting an ongoing subscription can threaten the stability of the self-concept by signalling a change in identity,” they concluded in their study on subscription choices published in the Journal of Consumer Research. This is more likely if you have low self-esteem or are going through a tough time and need additional stability in your life.
Over eight studies, Savary and Dhar found that when people have low self-concept they are more likely to retain subscriptions that have the potential to signal a positive identity, compared to people with high self-concept.
Perhaps at least some of your own subscriptions and memberships are based on this kind of signalling? Gym memberships can definitely fall into this camp – we keep our unused membership year after year because we want to believe that we are the kind of person who takes care of their health. Or we stick with a subscription to TIME magazine because we want to believe we are the kind of person who reads such things.
Regardless of your reasons for hanging onto services you don’t use, it’s definitely time to get rid of them – if you can. Take a deep breath, centre yourself and let’s go.
Fees and charges
Before we get into it, let’s quickly discuss the dreaded cancellation fees and charges. If you’re cancelling any service outside your agreed sign-up period, there shouldn’t be any charges. It will just be a matter of giving the organisation the required notice period (check your terms).
However, if you signed up for the gym for a year and you want to cancel six months in, you will most likely have to pay your membership out. This might also be the case for subscription services like magazines, workshops and online tools.
The only way to avoid paying out your contract is if you find someone to take it over. That might be easier than you think – ask around at the gym to see if anyone has a mate looking to join. You can also post in a community group to let people know it’s available. It might be attractive for someone to take on your membership as it means they don’t need to sign up for the full term.
Check with your gym (and other memberships) to see what the cancellation fees are and always call to discuss your options. While the written terms may be very black and white, talking to someone can often find leniency.
Find out more at the ACCC.
Many people signed up for online subscriptions during the pandemic. And if you’re like me, as the world has opened up, you may be paying monthly fees and no longer using them. They can seem small at the time, $5 or $10 here and there for a bit of entertainment, but add up fast.
Whether it’s a magazine, newspaper, online service or an app, we’ve all got one or more subscriptions that are just not giving us value for money. Keeping your Binge subscription going after you smashed Mare of Easttown in a weekend does not make good money sense.
Going forward, it’s a good idea to keep a list of all your subscriptions as you start them, and to set a calendar reminder to cancel a subscription or free trial. That way you’ll always remember to cancel services you don’t use.
Boss tip: if you sign up for a free trial that converts to ongoing fees via your credit card, you can actually cancel your subscription the day you sign up. You’ll still be able to access the trial, but you won’t be charged beyond the free period.
Think Kindle Unlimited, online fitness classes, fees for clubs and newsletter patronage. Perhaps you signed up for a free trial, but you’re now getting charged. I had one online yoga app which offered a free trial for a full 12 months before kicking in with a charge of $15 a month – the longer free access made it easy to forget.
To help you find your subscriptions and memberships, go through your bank or credit card statement for the past 18 months and identify monthly or annual charges. This is helpful, but it may not tell the whole story.
Some services bill through a third party, such as Amazon, Apple and Google, which may be bundled together as one charge – making it easy to miss them on statements. Ongoing payments via PayPal are also notorious for this.
Go to your settings on each app store and review what you’ve signed up for, including free trials that you forgot are coming to an end.
Finally, look for any other services you can eliminate. It might be “extras” on your health insurance, excess data on your mobile internet plan, or something as simple as stopping receiving paper statements. Many providers offer a small discount if you get your statements online instead.