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Time to review your subscriptions

This is a good time to review your digital subscriptions and recurring monthly charges. It takes very little effort to save a sizable amount of money. In a space of a few hours I saved over over $300 by making a couple of phone calls and navigating through a few websites.

Monthly and renewable subscriptions that we forget about and that automatically renew are all part of a strategy companies love; we can play a similar game in return. After all, these services are trying to maximize what we pay, while offering special pricing to those less loyal than we have been.

I began with my New York TImes subscription that’s costing me $30 per month. I spotted much lower rates for new subscribers, so I called them telling them I wanted to cancel my subscription. I expected them to counteroffer to save perhaps $10 per month, but to my surprise they offered a $4 per month rate for one year, with it then automatically renewing at $25 per month after twelve months. That call saved me $312!

I also decided it was time to cancel my Washington Post subscription that was costing $90 per year when they announced a new rate of $120 per year. I was able to go online and cancel. But after I confirmed with a second click that I was canceling, a popup offered me a special rate of $80. I accepted that and a day later had second thoughts and went back and canceled once more. I was then offered a $40 rate, which I decided to keep.

Most businesses will negotiate or offer better rates because their cost of acquiring a new customer to replace you is much higher than what they can offer you to stay. I’ve been less successful with doing this with the Wall St. Journal or Bloombergs. Instead you may need to cancel and resubscribe at an introductory rate using another email address.

Of course, the companies hope you will forget about canceling at the end of their promotional rates and renew at full price. But there’s a method I use to avoid that from happening. I’ve handled the auto renewal strategy two different ways, depending on the service and what they allow.

In the case of renewable apps and some services, I have canceled the app right after buying it. Generally you have the use of the app until the expiration date and it will now no longer automatically renew.

In the case of the newspapers, where they usually cancel immediately and prorate a refund, I don’t want to cancel right after renewing, so I create and send a delayed email to myself to be received a week before the subscription comes up for renewal to remind me of the need to either cancel, accept the renewal, or try to negotiate a better rate. I also add it to my calendar.

The ability to create an email to be sent to yourself at a future date is a great feature showing up on many email services. It’s feature not only useful for this situation, but for all types of uses. I send reminders to myself about something I need to do, such as create a report or book ailine reservations 330 days befor flight day, or defer a decision to a later date. Or instead of acting on an email, I’ll have it come back to me a few days later.

To send emails in the future with Gmail or Apple Mail simply create it with whatever message you want addressed to yourself, chose the down arrow to the right of the Send button, pick the send date and click send.

I used to examine my cellular bill each January and call or check online to see if better rates were available. Often when speaking to an agent , I’ll learn of a new plan that will save money. Some of the sites such as Verizon now make it easy to go on line to see their other plans and compare your bills under each. Since I have basic plans without the extra streaming services I’ve not been able to save. Every plan seems to want to provide streaming deals instead. And I’ve purposely avoided plans with special streaming deals, because when I took a new plan out a few years ago that came with 6 free months of Disney, which I never used nor was aware of, they began charging me $6 per month after the 6 months was up. And while it was my fault for missing it took me 4 more months to realize I was being charged.

Lastly, there’s another source of savings, the streaming services we are paying for from Netflix, MAX, etc. With increasing rates, new plans, promos, versions that add advertising, and the ability to share with others, this is a column by itself for the future. My advice for now is to try to share youre services that you know you will keep for the year, such as YouTubeTV, but activate and deactivate the services that have a few films or series that you want to watch, and try to watch several of the series from one service, cancel, and then move on to another service. Streaming services are getting smarter about detecting sharing, but I’ve found some work only if you share with another in the same geographical area (YouTubeTV), while others don’t seem to care (MAX, HULU).