Tech Guide

I was stunned to discover I was spending $132 a month on digital subscriptions — here's how I cut it back

Key Points
  • I spend more than $132 on digital subscriptions each month.
  • I outlined what I spend that money on, how high of a priority it is, how much time I spend on the service, and why I need to cut or cancel it.
  • In the end I saved $27 but discovering and cutting out what I don't need.
Male in a suit holding burning cash and bank card. isolated on grey background.
FXQuadro | iStock | Getty Images

With the news this week that Apple will soon launch video, magazine and news services, I started to wonder how much I was spending already on these kinds of subscriptions. If I really wanted to buy the new Apple bundle, could I afford it?

So I went through my recent bank statement for the last month and was stunned to discover I already spend $132.11 per month on subscription services like Hulu, Netflix, extra iCloud storage, digital newspapers and more. That's not including the cable and wireless bills I pay for internet access so I can use these services.

$132 a month! That's way more than I expected.

Ten bucks a month doesn't seem like that much, but these little payments add up awful fast if you tack them all together.

Here's my strategy to try to cut back: I'm going to break out what I pay for everything, and then take a look at how much I use each service and decide if I should give it up or not. I'm not going to include cable or wireless, since they're essential and I'm not planning to cut either one.

Here's the breakdown of what I'm paying:

Apple iCloud storage

  • Price: $2.99 for 200GB
  • What I use it for: iCloud has all of my iPhone and iPad backups, and also allows me to store all of my photos and view them across devices, including the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. That's a nice convenience.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: All day every day because it stores all of my backups and photos all of the time.
  • Keep or kill? I'm going to keep this one. It's too essential.

Apple Music

  • Price: $9.99
  • What I use it for: I use Apple CarPlay, and it's just so easy to speak to Siri through my car to play tunes through Apple Music.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 3 hours
  • Keep or kill? I'm torn here. If I could talk to Spotify in my car, I'd have quit Apple Music a while ago. But I think this has to go if I want to cut my costs. It's not bad, but Spotify is a better service.

Calm app on my iPhone

Shh, I'm meditating with my Apple TV.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • Price: $12.99
  • What I use it for: Trying to cut racing thoughts out of my head before bed, cutting back stress, relieving anxiety.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 1-2 hours
  • Keep or kill? I love this app and it's so well done, but I don't use it enough. Sure, it boils down to only about $6.50 an hour, but there are weeks when I forget about it or don't use it as much as I want. I'm going to keep it for now, but it's next to go if I cut costs.

Microsoft Xbox Live

Playing Apex Legends.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • Price: $9.99
  • What I use it for: To play games online, but I'm not even using it right now.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 0
  • Keep or kill? I totally forgot I was paying for this. Good thing I went through my monthly bill. Sometimes I re-subscribe when I want to play a new game online, like Red Dead Redemption 2. But I never ended up even playing multiplayer. Yikes. Canceling this one.

SiriusXM

  • Price: $27.17
  • What I use it for: I use Sirius XM every day commuting to work or just driving around town, even more than Spotify in my car.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: At least 10.
  • Keep or kill? I'm keeping this. I might try to bargain down the price since SiriusXM is pretty well known for trying to keep customers with good deals. But I'm keeping it either way.

Spotify

Spotify announced a new free version of its service on April 24, 2017, its first update to the free experience since 2014.
  • Price: $15 for the family plan
  • What I use it for: Listening to music at home, in the gym, at my desk at work and sometimes in the car. And four of my family members use it, too.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 14 or more.
  • Keep or kill? I'm keeping this. I like it better than Apple Music because it's just so good at recommending new tunes and creating playlists I love. Apple Music can do this too, but it's not nearly as accurate in recommendations. Plus I estimate I spend at least 2 hours a day on this, so the cost boils down to only $1.07 an hour...and that doesn't include my wife's usage, since she's on the family plan with me.

Hulu

  • Price: $7.99
  • What I use it for: Sometimes viewing a must-watch documentary or TV show, but not often.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 0-1 hours.
  • Keep or kill? I resubscribed to Hulu recently just to watch the Fyre festival documentary everyone was talking about. I love the service, don't get me wrong, but I just don't spend a lot of time watching the sorts of TV shows that it offers. I'm killing it. Hulu is usually the first I come back to, though, so there's a chance I'll return when a new must-watch documentary hits.

Netflix Premium

Todd Haselton | CNBC
  • Price: $14
  • What I use it for: Kicking back on the couch and watching funny shows, or movies and Netflix original TV series people are talking about.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 5
  • Keep or kill? It's crazy, I barely watch Netflix but somehow I got stuck with the family plan that my brother, mother and wife all have accounts on. That means I can't kill it without cutting them all loose as well. I do like sitting back on a Sunday and browsing through some of the shows, though. "Slobby Robby" is one I'm digging right now, and I'll catch an episode or two after work at night.

Google Nest Aware video recording

  • Price: $5
  • What I use it for: I love having eyes all around my house and in the backyard, and being able to go through and see and hear what happened while I was away.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 24/7
  • Keep or kill? I'm keeping it. $5 is easily worth the cost of entry for the ability to keep an eye on the house when I'm away.

100GB Google Drive

  • Price: $1.99
  • What I use it for: I store all of my pictures in Google Photos, so I need this extra space each month. Plus, I don't think I've cleaned out my email inbox in like a decade. I just archive everything so I can still search through them.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 24/7
  • Keep or kill? Keeping it. I love having everything backed up, and $1.99 seems cheap.

New York Times digital subscription

The New York Times on an iPad application
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Price: $15
  • What I use it for: Reading the news, doing the crossword.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 14
  • Keep or kill? I'm keeping it. I probably spend about 2 hours a day reading the news, and I like the flexibility to read the Times through the Apple News app, the New York Times app or on a website. Plus I'm a fan of the Daily Crossword.

Washington Post digital subscription

  • Price: $10
  • What I use it for: I don't spend as much time reading The Washington Post as I do The New York Times, but I probably should. Again, I love that I can get it in Apple News or through the app, and the offline save feature for saving the day's newspaper before getting on a plane is really helpful.
  • Estimate of hours per week used: 7
  • Keep or kill? Again, I need my high-quality news, so I'm not canceling this any time soon.

What can I cut?

Pink piggy bank with glasses isolated
JUN2 | iStock | Getty Images

I had a feeling this would happen. I've come to the end here and I'm afraid to cut much, since everything has a time and place in my routine.

But Hulu, Apple Music and Xbox Live are the least of my priorities right now, for a total savings of $27 a month. Maybe I'll cut my subscription to Calm, soon, but I'm going to need to meditate now that I've seen how much I spend.

Try this yourself. Sometimes just taking a look at everything you pay for might shock you into really thinking about what you need and what you don't need.

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