Start with subscriptions and annual fees

Subscriptions and annual fees are here to stay, but once you start subscribing to multiple services, the costs can add up quickly.

As an experiment, I decided to look back at my family’s bills for the last year. Here are our regular recurring expenses:

  • Netflix - $16.49 per month
  • Disney Plus - $119.99 per year
  • Spotify - $9.99 per month
  • Amazon Prime - $79 per year
  • Online video game subscriptions - $95 per year
  • Digital news subscriptions - $30 per month
  • Gym membership - $40 bi-weekly (for 2 people)
  • Personal fitness classes and apps - $60 per month
  • Meditation app - $45 per year
  • Children’s apps - $40 per month
  • Grocery store enhanced loyalty program - $119 per year

This experiment was mind blowing. I had no idea my family was spending that much each month on services. It didn’t help that some of these expenses were charged to my wife’s credit card, so they weren’t always top of mind for me.

Clearly, some consolidating needed to be done. The first thing we did was cancel any apps and fitness memberships we no longer used regularly. That instantly cut our costs down by $120 a month. I also cancelled some of my yearly subscriptions, but I won’t see those savings until the next year as those were paid upfront.

If you don't want to cancel, switch from the monthly fee to the annual, if that's an option. Monthly fees are made to look affordable, but the annual fee is often cheaper than paying month by month.

More from MoneyWise

Good credit is important for your financial health, and Borrowell can help you take a turn for the better. Sign up for Borrowell to get your credit score and credit report for free!

Sign up

Work on your wireless and internet bills

Wireless and home internet services are necessary for most Canadians, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically accept what you’re paying.

I recently called my wireless provider as I felt I was paying too much. It was surprisingly easy to switch to a plan that gave me more data at a lower price. Had I not called in, I’d be paying about 20% more every month.

That said, it’s rarely that simple. Plans are constantly changing, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a better deal. Many major providers have similar pricing, so going to another one doesn’t guarantee lower prices. Occasionally, some major players will have promotions, but they’re only available to new customers for a limited time.

If you want to save, you should consider lesser-known providers such as TekSavvy or Beanfield for home internet, and Virgin Plus or Koodo for mobile. If the price they’re offering is better than what you’re getting now, you shouldn’t hesitate to switch. Keep in mind, some of these providers are only available in certain parts of the country.

Bluffing sometimes works

Many people won’t want to go through the hassle of switching their services to save money, but you could still choose to bluff. Call your current provider and threaten to leave unless you’re offered a better deal.

Oddly enough, many service providers won’t even make an attempt to retain your business as they’ll assume you’re bluffing and you won’t actually make the switch. However, if you set a firm cancellation date, your service provider might take you seriously.

They likely won’t offer you anything on the spot, but you might get a call a week before your cancellation date to see if they can win back your business. If the offer made is good, take it. If not, you could just cancel your cancellation date with no interruption to your service.

Get a $50 bonus when you open and fund your first Wealthsimple Invest account* (min. $500 initial deposit). Trade and Cash accounts are not eligible. Sign up now to take advantage of this special offer.

Get started

Don’t be afraid to switch banks

Bank fees are another thing that needs close monitoring as they can add up. Generally speaking, the major banks will charge $10 to $30 a month for chequing accounts. Although this fee can be reduced if you maintain a minimum balance or have multiple products, not everyone can meet those requirements.

Switching to a credit union can be advantageous because you’ll get the same services as a traditional bank, but your monthly fees will be around $5 to $15. Alternatively, you could switch to an online bank where you’ll pay no monthly fees at all. While digital banks may not have brick-and-mortar locations, they typically offer higher interest rates.

For many people, switching their banking information is a pain since they’ll likely need to change their direct deposit and automatic bill payment information. However, many banks give you a financial incentive, such as cash, an increased interest rate, or even gifts such as tablets to make the change. Some of these offers can make it worth it to make the switch.

Check your insurance policies

Instead of automatically renewing your insurance policies every year, you’ll want to shop around to see if there are any better offers available.

Websites such as rates.ca allow you to quickly compare dozens of home and auto insurance providers so you can quickly see who has the lowest prices. Alternatively, you could enlist the services of an insurance broker to shop around for you.

Insurance providers are constantly adjusting their underwriting policies. So, even though you may have the cheapest rate from a provider one year, they may longer have the best prices when it’s time for you to renew.

You’ll also want to double-check the policy details to ensure that you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.

As an example, when I first purchased liability insurance, I accepted all the terms that came with the policy without much thought. When it came time to renew, I read the details and realized I didn’t need commercial general liability insurance. By removing this policy, it saved me $300 a year.

Make a routine out of it

Accepting your regular payments without shopping around is never a good idea. Instead, get into a routine of checking your bills annually so you can renegotiate or cancel services as needed.

Monthly charges don’t seem like a lot, but when you add everything up, you may be shocked at how much you’re paying.

You're 5 minutes away from the best mortgage

Searching for your perfect mortgage shouldn’t be hard.

Homewise is an online brokerage that will negotiate on your behalf with more than 30 big banks and other lenders, completely free, and it only takes five minutes to apply.

If you're in the market for a new mortgage, or if you're looking to refinance before interest rates rise again, go to Homewise now and answer a few simple questions to get started.

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi

MoneyWise.ca Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

What to Read Next

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.