#HackIt | Budgeting | Lifestyle | Personal Finance | Article

To Hack With It: How to Save Money on Subscriptions

by Sophia | 13 May 2021 | 7 mins read

At some point, we might realise that we’re paying a little too much for our subscriptions. Whether it’s Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, or the newcomer on the scene, Disney+, we’re living in a world where media on demand is the rule now rather than the exception, and cable TV is a thing of the past.

Sure, nine dollars  a month sounds doable, but stack up the multiple subscriptions you have and you’ll soon realise that you’re paying a lot more than nine bucks a month on your various subscriptions.

It might be prudent to cut down on these subscription services where we can — or at the very least, find ways to pay as little as possible. That means taking advantage of company benefits, or finding interesting workarounds.

It’s not just music or TV

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how much you’re actually paying for with all your subscriptions, it’s important to highlight that “subscription services” don’t just mean streaming platforms for music and movies.

If you’re a working adult in full control of your finances (and your fate!), you’ll likely also have these other “subscriptions”:

  • Gym memberships
  • Subscriptions to publications (online or print, it doesn’t matter)
  • Productivity or self-help apps (e.g. meditation)

The true cost of your subscriptions

Seeing things broken down for you month by month can be deceiving. You’re not actually able to comprehend the dollar amount you’re giving up year on year. So, let’s crunch some numbers!

Assuming you’re a full-fledged working adult with ongoing subscriptions to the following services, and you’re not hopping on anyone’s family plan:

Subscription Cost ($) per month Cost ($) per year
Spotify – Individual Premium 9.90 118.80
Netflix (split with 3 other users) (19.98/4) = 4.995 59.94
Amazon Prime 2.99 35.88
NY Times subscription 17 204
Gym membership 65 780
TOTAL: 1,198.62

$1,200 is a huge amount of money to pay yearly for all your subscriptions.

But we’re not saying that you’re better off without these subscriptions. It’s your money after all and you should be able to use it on the things you enjoy.  But that staggering amount could actually be funnelled towards other uses, such as savings, paying down debt, or even investing.

But if you’re determined to keep to your subscriptions, then you might want to consider how you can hack your way to a smaller dollar amount.


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How to Finally Start Saving Money

Hacking your subscription services

Taking a leaf out of our colleague’s notebook (who’s been paying little to no money at all for her own subscriptions, both present and past), here are five ways you can save money on your own subscriptions, ranked from the easiest to hardest to achieve.

1. Utilise your company’s budget if possible

More often than not, and depending on the size of your company, you might be able to hop on existing subscriptions to publications that are relevant to your organisation.

For example, working in a finance company might get you free access to Wall Street Journal or The Business Times, so as long as you’re working in that company, you may not  have to pay a single cent to get past those pesky paywalls, whether you’re conducting research for work or just reading for leisure.

2. Sign up for an account in a country where the exchange rate is cheaper

Subscription services are charged differently in different countries simply because these services need to be affordable in every country. If you’re able to sign up for an account for a streaming platform or service in a different country, you might just be able to shave off a couple of dollars in what you pay monthly.

For example, say you’re paying $9.90/month for Spotify in Singapore. If you had signed up for a Brazilian account, the cost for an individual plan is R$16.90. In SGD, that’s about $4.12, effectively about half the amount you’d have to originally pay for.

This is something like arbitrage, which, according to Investopedia, is the act of buying and selling an asset in different markets to profit from the difference in the asset’s listed price in these markets. In this case, you’re subscribing to Spotify’s premium services in a different market, and saving money because of the lower price point in Brazil.

Of course, this comes with a caveat: some streaming platforms might be able to suss you out, or make it hard for you to sign up for an international account and redirect you back to the local site.


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3. If you’re not on family plans, hop on them now

This one goes without saying: family plans can get you a discounted rate for your monthly subscriptions if you’re splitting the cost with other people. You might even try pushing your luck and asking if you can hop on shared family accounts even if the plan has been fully utilised — after all, how sure are you that everyone on the plan is going to watch something on Netflix all at the same time, and use up the 4-screen limit?

Of course, if you’re trying this method out, remember to be responsible and pay for your share, or risk causing resentment among friends and family. Don’t be that guy!

4. Email the company directly for a discount

This is something you might not even have thought of. If you’re short on cash but you still want (or need) to hop on a certain subscription, perhaps for a meditation or sleep app for wellness reasons, try emailing the company behind the app directly to explain your situation.

You never know — the marketing team might get the green light to give you a one-off subscription for a year… at no cost at all.

5. Network and talk to people for referrals or tips

Referral codes are practically currency at this point. But this method takes a bit of effort, and quite some time before your labours bear fruit. Essentially, get out there and talk to whoever you can, get to know new people, and you might just meet someone with a referral code or additional tips on how to save money on your subscriptions.

Referral codes will benefit the other person too, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t offer it to you if you asked for one, or if they knew you needed one. Everyone wins, and you get to save some money!


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It’s always worth the effort to save money on your subscriptions

While some hacks might take a bit more effort than others, you’ll probably agree that it’s better to try and shave off a dollar or two where possible, if not then eliminating the expense completely.

These seemingly small amounts of money you’re paying monthly might not hit as hard or eat into your budget in a blatant way, but think about how much you’re paying yearly and you might change your mind about how you spend your money.

Besides, we all love free things. If you’re fortunate enough to land in a company that can help you save money on your subscriptions and even pay for them on your behalf, providing you with free resources, we say why not? Every little bit counts — especially when you don’t feel the pinch.