Sign up to a load of subscription services? Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth

·4-min read
Subscription services have boomed (Alamy/PA)
Subscription services have boomed (Alamy/PA)

Many of us signed up to new subscriptions, to keep ourselves entertained during the pandemic. And despite many people now spending less time at home catching up on box-sets and cooking, as lockdown restrictions ease, a large number are staying signed up to their subscription services.

Eight in 10 (81%) UK households are signed up to at least one subscription, up from around two-thirds (65%) last year, according to Barclaycard Payments.

It put the value of the ‘subscription economy’ at around £395 million – up by 23% compared with 12 months ago.

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Four in 10 (40%) people say they’re planning to sign up for more services, despite the easing of restrictions.

Entertainment platforms were found to be the most popular service people have signed up to, followed by food and meal boxes. But the booming popularity of subscriptions has also led to retailers expanding into providing a greater range of bespoke and customisable offerings.

The more novel subscriptions people are signed up to include deliveries of cheese, musical instruments, and even underwear, the research found.

People aged between 25-54 are particularly likely to have fitness subscriptions. And restaurant meal kits are popular with those aged 18-24. Meanwhile, over-55s are particularly likely to be signed up to regular services related to their pets, according to the findings.

When it comes to the age groups most likely to be signing up, people aged 25-34 years old are the most likely to have at least one subscription, at 94% compared with 64% of those aged 65-plus.

However, the older groups are catching up fast, with a 52% increase in the proportion of over-55s with subscriptions over the past year. Seven in 10 (70%) over-55s are now estimated to have subscriptions.

Meanwhile, 18-24-year-olds estimate they spend the most per year on subscriptions, at £874. This age group also claim to save the most by using subscriptions services (£338), followed by those aged 25-34 (£334).

Younger consumers were also particularly likely to say they listen to the recommendations of influencers and celebrities, Barclaycard Payments found.

A general agreement was found across all age groups that subscriptions are here to stay, with around seven in 10 believing this across the board.

For some people though, it may be time to take a fresh look at what they are paying for – as separate research from website TopCashback found that nearly half (48%) of subscription owners have continued to pay for subscriptions or memberships in the past, despite not getting value for money.

Subscribers will continue to pay for six months on average for services that they do not use regularly – wasting around £105 per person.

Half (50%) of subscribers say they have seen prices hiked in the past few months too.

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It can be easy to lose track with subscriptions, so here are some tips from website TopCashback…

1. Have a monthly review

Looking at what you use and what you don’t every month will also help you to spot price hikes. A couple of pounds extra per month might not seem much, but when it’s happening across multiple services, perhaps you’ll want a rethink or even a cull.

2. Set reminders to end free trials

If you took up a free trial, enter the expiration date into your calendar to avoid any extra charges appearing on your bank statement. Take time to read through the terms and conditions before accepting any trial period, to make sure there are no hidden charges.

3. Use it or lose it

Don’t feel guilty about ending your contract. If you express your concerns to the retailer, they may even take some money off your next bill. And if you’re still unhappy, cancel. Just make sure you won’t face charges for cancelling a subscription early.

4. Paying up-front could pay off

It may be helpful to pay for subscriptions annually rather than monthly as many firms, such as retailers and gyms, offer a discounted price to members who pay on a yearly basis. You may also be able to save money through cashback websites such as TopCashback.co.uk. Just make sure you are very confident you will be getting the use out of the subscription to warrant forking out up-front.

5. Sharing is caring

If you live in shared housing, keep track of the different services that you and your housemates are subscribed to. If two people are subscribed to the same service, you could cancel one of your contracts and split the monthly cost. As long as the company allows for multiple users on a single subscription, you will be able to reduce your costs overall.

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