Taking 10 minutes to go through my bank statement saved me $468 a month without any real sacrifice

Taking 10 minutes to go through my bank statement saved me $468 a month without any real sacrifice

February 16, 2021
  • I needed to cut costs in 2021, so I committed to cancelling the majority of my subscriptions.
  • I was paying for services I no longer use or overpaying for premium accounts I don’t need.
  • By cancelling anything I don’t use on a weekly basis, I saved $468 per month.
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Like so many others, my lifestyle changed drastically in 2020 — and with it, my finances.

At the end of the year, I decided to do a complete budget overhaul that involved going through all of my monthly expenses with a fine-toothed comb. I wanted to take stock of all the ways my spending changed and hopefully figure out how to cut costs significantly in preparation for the new year.

I found several ways to cut costs, and the most meaningful way I was able to cut back was by cancelling most of my subscriptions. I didn’t even realize how many monthly services I was paying for, and in the end, I was able to save a whopping $468 a month. 

How I went through my fees and subscriptions

I logged into all my accounts and started scrolling. I had to make sure to log into every account I use to pay for anything, including my checking account, credit cards, and my PayPal account. I chose three months to comb through just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

One by one, I scrolled through all of my charges on each account for the months of September, October, and November, looking for recurring charges and fees. Each time I found one, I wrote it down along with the amount.

Once I had all my recurring charges written down, I logged into the various accounts associated with each one — for example, my QuickBooks account or my Audible accounts — to check on my subscription. Even if I knew what the charge was for and wanted to keep my subscription, I still logged in to make sure that I was at the correct membership tier.

I was paying for services I didn’t use and overpaying for ones I did

I made a rule for myself that I had to cancel the majority of my subscriptions, and that any service I didn’t use at least a couple times per month would be on the cancel list. As it turns out, I was paying a lot of small monthly fees — $1.99 here, $3.99 there — for apps and services I never use anymore.

I cancelled my subscriptions to a couple of Amazon Prime video channels I hadn’t watched in a while, a handful of apps I don’t use anymore, a Skype subscription I no longer need now that I don’t live abroad anymore, and the Audible subscription that I use but not enough to justify the fee.

I also cancelled some subscriptions I really like but decided I can’t afford. When I moved back to the US at the start of the pandemic, I didn’t have a lot of winter-appropriate clothing or many beauty products. I signed up for monthly subscriptions to a clothing box and a makeup box. While I really enjoyed receiving those, I no longer need new clothes or makeup, and the fees weren’t cheap. I also cancelled my Instacart Express membership — while delivery is convenient, now that I have a car, I can use the pickup option.

By logging into all my subscription accounts, I was also able to see where I was overpaying. For example, I found out I was paying an extra $5 per month for a family account on Spotify when I only need an individual account. I also downgraded some of my magazine and Patreon subscriptions.

In the end, I cancelled 11 of 22 subscriptions and downgraded another five, saving myself a total of $468 per month — room I desperately needed in my budget. I wasn’t expecting to save anywhere near that much, which just goes to show how easily these subscription services can creep up on you.

How I’m making sure I don’t overpay for subscriptions again

After going through this whole process, I realized I needed a system in place to track and manage my subscriptions so I don’t end up paying for things I don’t use again.

I signed up for the free version of Truebill, an automated app that helps you track your bills and cancel subscriptions. After connecting my various accounts, I was surprised at how many subscription services it was able to identify — including one I’d forgotten about because it bills annually. The app notified me that the annual subscription would be billing me again in a few months, and I was able to easily cancel. Without Truebill, I would’ve ended up paying that subscription fee.

There were some recurring charges that Truebill didn’t catch, though, so it’s not a perfect system. For me, combing through my bank statements each month to stay aware of where my money is going is still worth it. It only takes me about 10 minutes per month, and it almost always results in me cutting costs here and there.

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