RWA Series – Subscriptions

Vector subscription business model concept in flat style – pricing plan for app or website service

A few weeks ago I started an adulting series called RWA (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic). The first post focused on Writing using a technique called Bullet Journaling. Today’s post is the second in that series, focused on Arithmetic and Subscriptions.

Subscriptions are those things you sign up and are automatically billed for each month. You don’t even have to think about renewing the service because the company automatically does it for you (by way of an invoice or more frequently an automatic payment from your bank account or credit card). Items that fit this category are: Spotify (music), Netflix (movies), Audible (books), iCloud Storage and the recently popular subscription boxes (wine clubs, book of the month, beauty products). Just about every company has a Subscription model these days and why not, it’s easy cash for them!

The subscription model is a booming field. In recent years, this market has grown by more than 100% a year, increasing from $57 million in sales in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016. This is from a recent article in Stanford Business Journal that also predicts that, “Everything you purchase — from transportation to entertainment to groceries — will soon come with a monthly plan.”

Sure, the costs are nominal; but, this discussion is not about being able to afford the service or not. I’m sure most people reading this could sign up for 10 or more of these monthly services and still be ok financially. I say JustSayNo because once you get sucked in, it’s hard to get out. Gym membership anyone? 🏋🏽‍♀️🏋🏽‍♀️🏋🏽‍♀️

Do you remember that infomercial from back in the day about a popular cooking device that had the popular slogan, “Set it and Forget It.” That’s EXACTLY how I think about subscriptions. Often times we sign up for products/services and either use it VERY SPARINGLY or completely forget about it altogether!

When it comes to expenses, they can of course be need vs want; but, the actual payments themselves can also be PUSH vs PULL. When expenses are PUSHED, you consciously send your money somewhere for something you decide you want. For example, I saw Michelle Obama on the Today Show and decided I would like to read her new book, Becoming. As are result of that conscious decision, I purchased her book. Under this scenario, I have just given my money to someone for a product I chose.  Conversely, when expenses are PULLED you unconsciously send money to someone for something you may or may not want to experience/enjoy or chose. Sure, the monthly charge appears small (i.e. $9.99/month for Spotify); but, the real question is are you using the service and getting value from it or do you keep it around as a nice-to-have or because of a “just-in-case” philosophy.  As in, just in case there’s a new movie, book or album I want to partake in this month…

For needs (rent/mortgage, long term disability insurance, student loans, car insurance), I’m completely ok with the PULL technique – it saves me time and energy on things I know I have to pay anyway; however, when it comes to wants (entertainment, luxuries) I prefer to PUSH at intervals I consciously choose.

Didn’t there used to be a time when people wanted to decide where their money went and for what? Now, we’re ok letting complete strangers decide for us?? 🤔 Are they smarter or more in tune with our actual needs, wants and desires than we are? A popular finance blog, MoneyCrashers lists the cons of popular product-based subscription boxes this way:

  • Overbuying – While a subscription box usually costs less than buying all the items in it separately, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t buy all those items if they didn’t come in your box.
  • Unclear value – You get a different assortment of products every month, and you don’t even know what they’re going to be.
  • Problems With Returns – Sometimes companies won’t return/exchange items you don’t use. Most often people just don’t bother.
  • Difficulty of Quitting – As long as the fee is low enough to make it seem like a good deal, it won’t seem worthwhile to cancel the service.

There is a such thing as a subscription hoarder. According to GQ magazine, people spend more than twice as much on subscriptions as they think they do. The average initial estimate was $79.74 per month. The actual average was a whopping $237.33 per month. When companies uncouple your payment from your enjoyment of their product, it’s easy to forget you ever paid.

I currently have one monthly subscription- Netflix – and that’s because we actually use it. On everything else, I consciously choose to pass. Don’t get me wrong, all subscriptions are not bad; however, the adulting tip of the day in this RWA series is that when it comes to subscriptions, choose wisely!!!

What are you paying for every month?

Amazon Subscribe & Save

I’m all for life hacks – those are the things people invent, make up or just do, to get rid of mundane tasks in their lives. One extreme example, wearing the same outfit everyday, was made famous by the late Apple CEO & billionaire Steve Jobs, adopted by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and was recently reported on as a trend by The New York Times (for men and women). I also heard a scaled back version of this very same concept from one of the CIO’s at my company: He went out and purchased 10 sets of the exact same (color) socks and wears the same one everyday. He also took brown completely out of his wardrobe and wears only black & gray as his base colors (reduces the need to own and maintain different color shoes, belts, etc). His morning complexity is now greatly reduced!


I’ve told you before that one life hack I implemented in my own life is to not pay any bills (my bills do get paid … it’s all just automated). Well, I have another tip for you today! Amazon’s Subscribe & Save is just what is says: you pick an item that you use A LOT, like one you use everyday and can’t live without – and tell Amazon to automatically send it to you at the interval you specify (i.e. 4 weeks, 5 weeks, whatever works for you!). You will get discounts up to 15% off each order! As an added bonus, they have even have coupons specifically for products that offer the subscribe & save feature. (some product’s aren’t setup for Subscribe & Save)

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 7.04.53 AMCan you think of any products that may fit this category? How about toilet tissue?? Soap? Deodorant? Toothpaste? Lotion? Why even spend time thinking about these things? Automate this part of your life!!! … Set It and Forget It! In fact, an article from one of the blogs I read daily inspired this post and listed the following 10 things to order automatically: pet food, dishwasher tablets, diapers/wipes, coffee pods, toilet paper, cooking oils, vitamins, furnace filters (serves as a great reminder), shampoo/conditioner and cat litter. The hardest part is figuring out what frequency to pick for each item. Amazon shows you the most common frequency selected by customers (i.e. every 3 weeks) but keep in mind, this will vary by household. I would air on the side of caution with this selection and pick the next highest one (4 weeks in this case). And always remember, you can change the frequency at any time. If you’re nervous about this, start small and then ramp up as you get more comfortable with the program. You may, for example, decide to start out with one extremely basic item, like toilet paper and see how that goes.

So of course, there may be times that local stores like Sams, Costco, Wal-Mart, Target may have these items cheaper, and/or on special as reported here; BUT; ask yourself these questions: How long do you spend looking for and identifying these deals? When you do find a deal/sale, how much are you actually saving? How much gas do you need to use traveling to/from these places? Is this worth your time? Or would you rather spend your valuable time thinking about or doing something more productive???

Happy Subscribing & Saving! ~Bri

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