Monthly subscription bills might be slipping through your budget. Here's how to keep them in check
When Mississauga, Ont.-based money coach Vanessa Bowen sat down with a client last year to go through the woman's finances, the pair realized something was askew: a monthly Spotify charge had seemingly appeared out of thin air.
Did she know that she was paying for the music streaming app? No, because she doesn't use it. Had the company somehow charged her mistakenly? Probably not, Bowen told her. Then, the woman remembered.
"She's like, 'Oh my gosh, I've been paying for my ex-boyfriend's Spotify!'" Bowen recounted. "She was spending all this money on someone who was not even in her life anymore."
Canadians are signing up for subscriptions left and right, and companies are all too happy to oblige. It's quick and easy for the buyer, and a steady flow of cash for businesses that can automatically renew the subscriptions on a regular basis. But some people forget that they've signed up at all — and then the bills start piling up.
"Maybe we use it for a couple of weeks, but then we forget about it," Bowen said. "Life gets in the way ... but that charge is still hitting our credit card, still impacting our finances."
CBC News spoke with experts who shared how to stay on top of those subscription fees — and what to do when you just can't find the unsubscribe button.
Anyone with a newspaper subscription can tell you that the model has been around for a long time.
But a 2010 wave of direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands — like Dollar Shave Club, which delivers grooming products by mail — is what started the modern subscription boom, according to Adam Levinter, the Toronto-based founder and CEO of Scriberbase and author of The Subscription Boom.
Now, it's a ubiquitous fact of life. Sure, you've probably got Netflix or Disney Plus, but you can also get a monthly mystery box filled with cosmetics, or quirky flavours of tea and coffee, or meal-kits with pre-measured ingredients — down to the teaspoon.
"The last 10 years has seen just a massive shift in more and more companies moving in this direction, not just e-commerce companies, but platform companies, software companies, services companies," Levinter said.
The UBS financial services firm predicts the global subscription market will grow to $1.5 trillion US by 2025, more than double the $650 billion US it was estimated to be worth in 2021.
WATCH | People are cancelling their subscriptions:
"This is a big fundamental shift in the way companies do business. And at the same time, it's a fundamental shift in how consumers interact with companies."
Businesses are more interested than ever in building long-term relationships with the consumers who buy their products. While it used to be up to companies to bring customers back for repeat transactions, the emphasis on subscriptions has changed that.