‘It’s a slippery slope’: Most consumers underestimate monthly subscription costs by at least $100, study says

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The amount of money you drop on subscriptions may be more than you realize, recent research suggests.

More than half of consumers (54%) underestimate how much they spend monthly on subscriptions by at least $100, according to a survey commissioned by market research firm C+R Research. For 24%, the difference was $200 or more.

On average, consumers spend $133 a month — about $1,600 a year — more than estimated, the study showed.

“It’s a slippery slope with subscriptions because it just happens automatically and you’re not actively making that purchase every month,” said certified financial planner Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York.

With the explosion of subscription services over the last decade, keeping track of them can be challenging. For just media and entertainment offerings, the average number of paid subscriptions per consumer was 12 in 2020, according to Statista. Millennials had the most: 17.

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Because subscriptions are often automatically charged on a debit or credit card, it’s easier for users not to notice the cost. Most people (86%) have at least some, if not all, of their subscriptions on autopay, the survey showed.

Meanwhile, 42% said they have forgotten they were still being charged for a subscription they no longer use.

Lost track? There’s an app for that

“It’s the rare person who doesn’t have at least one sneaky charge they’ve forgotten about,” said Kathryn Hauer, a CFP with Wilson David Investment Advisors in Aiken, South Carolina.

For anyone who wants to get a better grip on how much they are spending and on what, it’s worth considering an app such as Truebill or Mint that allows you to track your subscriptions. Many banks or credit card companies also allow you to see your recurring charges all in one place through your account.

Keeping closer track of your subscriptions also can help you budget better so you’re not overspending.

“It really comes down to organization,” Boneparth said.

The more organized you are around cash flow, the more you can identify what you want or don’t want to spend your money on,” he said.

The survey for the study was conducted in late April and early May among 1,000 consumers.

Sophie Tremblay

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