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I recently got an Apple Watch (Series 3 42mm, in case you’re interested) with cellular, so I can still get calls and messages when away from my iPhone. During the set up process, a prompt popped up to set up cellular service for my Apple Watch. As that was the whole point of choosing an Apple Watch with cellular as opposed to GPS only, I went through the surprisingly short set up process. It took pressing about three buttons and I was now on the hook to pay an additional $10/month for cell service. To be fair to my cell carrier, $10 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data when I’m away from my phone isn’t too bad of a price, but it’s still $120 each and every year. On top of what cell service for my other device(s) costs.
Fortunately, very rarely is one subscription too expensive by itself, but it’s all to easy to pay for far more services than you realize or need. For example, just Netflix and Apple Music will cost you more than $200 a year, and chances are, you have way more subscriptions than that. It’s not all bad, but it’s a far way from being the perfect solution for everyone.
Subscriptions Can Save You Money
In certain circumstances, having subscriptions can actually save you money in the long run. Before subscriptions were as widespread as they are today, if you wanted to listen to a song or album (legally), you had to purchase whatever song or album you wanted. Which is great if you only listen to a handful of songs, but not if you’re like me and listen to a bunch of different songs a few times before moving on to something new. A subscriptions of $10/month or so to listen to any of tens of millions of songs isn’t a bad price. The same goes for movies; if you only watch a handful of movies, then you can get by borrowing DVDs from your library when they become available. Or, you can rent or buy DVDs for each and every movie you’ll ever watch. However, if you only watch individual movies once or twice, $9/month to watch virtually any movie is an amazing offer.
Of course, for family plans the price of Apple Music and Spotify jumps up to $15/month, and you’ll likely want a Netflix plan that costs $13/month or more to stream from multiple devices. Although I still believe those are decent prices for what you get, you may want to reconsider depending on your needs.
Some Subscriptions Are Essential
Although cell service for your Apple Watch isn’t exactly a necessity for most people, cell service for your phone most likely is. With most carriers (in the US at least) offering only unlimited plans with pricing starting at upwards of $50/month for a single device, cell service can get expensive pretty fast. For example, T-Mobile’s “Essentials” plan (which is their cheapest) costs $60/month, which adds up to $720 a year, before taxes. Is that expensive? Sort of. You are getting unlimited everything, but not everyone needs that and unlimited plans are now the flagship plan that carriers are pushing you to get. But, can you live without cell service at all? Not really. The same goes for internet access for your house, which costs around $50/month. That you definitely can’t live without. Seriously; try living without using your home’s Wi-Fi and see how long you last. I’m willing to bet it won’t be too long, especially as you need that to access all of the other subscriptions you pay for.
The Subscription Model Makes Sense
Subscriptions may seem like they’re just there to make the companies more money. Which, in all honesty, is probably true to some extent but when you think about it, the subscription model makes sense for everyone. Companies have recurring costs, so it makes sense for them to charge their customers recurring subscriptions. For example, a music streaming company needs to not only pay for the licensing to the music they offer, but also for servers, electricity, employees, etc. All of those are recurring costs; companies can either choose to have their own data center and servers, in which case they need to pay for more employees to manage all of the servers and all of the other costs that come with owning servers, or they can pay monthly for access to someone else’s servers (think AWS and Google Cloud). Electricity for all of their offices, and data centers if applicable is also something they must pay for every month. And, most obviously, employees want to get paid more than one paycheck during their lifetime.
However, They Do Add Up Pretty Fast
Excluding the essential services you can’t live without (like cell service, internet, electricity, etc.), you probably have a pretty hefty monthly cost for the remaining subscriptions. For example, Medium costs you $5/month, Netflix is another $9, Apple Music adds yet another $10/month or so, which adds up to around $300 a year. But, you probably also want another streaming service like Hulu so you can watch all of the TV shows and movies that aren’t on Netflix. Things are about to get even worse, as you’ll soon need to pay for yet another streaming service as companies like Disney are making their own services on which their content will live exclusively.
Luckily, this works both ways; just like how a few subscriptions can add up to costing hundreds of dollars over the course of a year, cutting just a few subscriptions can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Even cutting out a single $10/month subscription that’s not essential will save you thousands over the course of your life.
It’s impossible to completely avoid subscriptions, but if you only sign up to the ones you really need, it’s not too terrible. Just remember to keep track of what you’re paying for, and cancel subscriptions you very rarely, if ever, use.