Aside from eating too much shortbread, one of my favorite holiday traditions is a money move that's reliably cut down my monthly expenses by hundreds of dollars. It's called a subscription audit, and it's saving me more than $200 per month going into 2023.
Here's how it works: Every December I spend about 30 minutes reviewing my credit card statements for underused subscriptions, whether that's apps on my phone, streaming TV services or newsletters. Then I cancel them, one by one.
Subscription expenses can be as small as $1 per month, but they quickly add up, too: The average monthly spend on subscriptions grew to $273 last year, according to a survey by consulting firm West Monroe. And nearly 90% of those surveyed underestimated the total cost of their subscriptions, often by hundreds of dollars.
I'm no exception, as underused subscriptions seem to accumulate such as barnacles on my balance sheet throughout the year.
But with my annual end-of-year subscription audit, I shaved $209 off my monthly budget by canceling or reducing subscriptions. Here's a look my savings:
- fuboTV: $79
- Substack newsletters: $40
- Adobe Creative Cloud membership (reduced plan): $36
- AMC Stubs: $24
- Audible: $15
- Criterion Channel: $11
- Nintendo Switch Online: $4
Subscription audits help me shed unnecessary costs, of course. But more important, they force me to think about whether each expense is for something I truly need. I can't say I ever thought about whether my Nintendo Switch Online membership was worth the cost — even when using it — until the end of the year when I did my annual audit. When I finally thought about it, I realized I could live without the service.
Some cuts were obvious based on my changing habits, such as canceling my AMC Stubs membership. The $24 movie subscription covers three screenings per week, but I've seen fewer movies in the theaters this year than usual, so it wasn't worth it.
In the case of fuboTV, I originally signed up for live sports. But then my wife got live sports through a free Hulu subscription that she got as an add-on with her new cellphone plan, so I no longer needed fuboTV.
Other cuts I'd simply file under "duh," such as a subscription for the Criterion Channel that I had thought I'd canceled earlier in the year. I simply overlooked the line item in previous billing statements.
Another tip if you're on the fence: Companies often offer discounts when you try to cancel, so you can reduce costs without losing any service. Alternatively, you can save money by switching to a cheaper plan with fewer services, as I did with my Adobe Creative Cloud membership.
All told, I will save over $2,500 next year, and it only took 30 minutes.