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Subscription Services Are Driving Americans Crazy

If you can’t keep track of your digital subscription services, don't worry. You’re not alone.

Life comes at you fast with online subscription services.

So much so, a new study claims that about 40% of subscription customers are triggering anxiety and angst in their everyday non-subscription lives.

The data comes from Sure Payroll, a Paychex company. In the report, analysts note that95% of Americans say they believe subscription-based business models “will become more prominent over the next few years, but consumers’ feelings about them are mixed.”

The report also stated that 38% of subscription services companies say, “they actually add stress to their life, rather than relieve it.”

Too much hyperbole over those Netflix and ESPN+ monthly subscription charges? Not really.

According to C+R Research, subscription service consumers estimated they pay about $86 per month in subscription costs. Try again, the report noted – the actual monthly spend on subscription services is $219 – or $133 more than customers thought.

More Than Just Money Triggering Consumer Subscription Anxiety

Signing up for services you lose track of isn’t ideal, but that’s what’s happening to subscription service consumers.

“Consumers are indulging too much in digital subscription services,” said Insurist chief executive officer Brian Greenberg. “Studies have shown that the average consumer subscribes to over five different digital services. This is a lot of time and money being spent on things like streaming music, premium TV, and online gaming.”

“When you add up all of these subscriptions, the subscription experience can cost hundreds per month,” Greenberg added.

One cause of angst is that most people don't even use all of their subscriptions regularly.

“It's not uncommon for people to sign up for Netflix or Hulu, but never actually watch anything on them because they're too busy with life and other things going on in their lives,” Greenberg said. “This can lead to wastefulness with money as well as time spent figuring out what shows are worth watching on these platforms when there's so much content available at any given time.”

America has reached the peak of subscriptions, other financial experts said.

“Every form of entertainment utility, from music on Spotify premium and online content on The New York Times to streaming service on Netflix, forking another $10 to $100 for subscription services seems to become the new normal part of living for Americans,” Fig Loans CEO Jeffrey Zhou. “On average, one consumer is paying for 12 subscriptions, which is too many.”

Another big issue is they're often marketed as "one and done” deals – when they’re really not.

“You sign up for one service, and that's it—you don't have to think about it again,” Greenberg said. "Yet this is not always true. In fact, sometimes you need to sign up for more than one service to get the full experience.”

That scenario could be as simple as signing up for a free trial of Amazon Prime Video because you like watching movies on demand, then realizing that you actually want to subscribe to Netflix so you can watch "Stranger Things."

“But then you find out that if you do that, you won't be able to watch The Office anymore because NBC decided not to renew its contract with Netflix,” Greenberg said.

Fighting Back Against Subscription Service Angst

Consumers dealing with myriad ongoing subscription services have to not only keep track of payments and passwords, but also the level of service from the provider. Simplify that entire process with some tips from consumer finance experts.

Systemize it. 

“If you have more than five subscription services, create a system to keep track of all the payments, passwords, and level of quality service from the providers,” said Debt Bombshell chief technical officer Tobias Dankworth. “This system could involve creating a document or spreadsheet where all the subscription services are listed, the dates they started and ended, the amount they paid, and the username and password for each service.”

Try a subscription tracking service like Rocket Money (formerly Truebill), Trim, or PocketGuard, which can do the job for you.

Secure your passwords. 

“Additionally, try creating a digital calendar that tells you when each subscription service is due for renewal and when the last payment was made,” Dankworth added.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t take password protection very seriously, which results in repeated passwords across many or even all of their accounts. That can lead to confusion and possibly leave the user vulnerable to data theft.

“Ideally, you should have strong passwords that never repeat, and you should change them frequently,” said Benny CEO Andy Kalmon. “I recommend using a secure password manager, like 1Password, to store them.”

Partner up. 

One way to save money on subscription services is to share the same subscription service.

“This is probably the best way to cut costs on a lot of subscriptions,” iDigic marketing manager Robin Duizings said. “For streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, you can share his or her Netflix account with a friend who's willing to share their Hulu subscription. This way, you get the benefit of two subscriptions at the price of one.”

This move also helps avoid all the headaches and messy work of remembering multiple passwords.

“You just need to handle only one account, eliminating all the hassle of multiple monthly payments,” Duizings said.