Tag Archives: subscriptions

How I save money by NOT doing Auto-pay [and in some cases from it]

I was looking at my electricity bill the other day and something caught my attention [Yes, I do look at my bills every month and in general if there is something that talks about saving money, it gets my attention] There is a difference of $2.5 depending on the option you choose for billing (see the image below for the available options) – say if the bill is $100, it’s 2.5% cashback, which is more than most of credit cards provide; it’s even more cashback in winter when the electricity bill is lower (assuming the heating uses gas).

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That was an example of how you could save money by autopay, which works well for necessities such as utility bills. I still have reminders in my calendar just to track when the payment is due, but not having to worry about opening the computer -> going to the website ->  looking up for logon info in Keepass -> entering the credit card or bank account number -> paying -> shutting down computer is great! Considering on an average of 5 – 6 bills every month and if each one takes 5 – 10 mins of your time, it’s a waste of almost an hour that you could spend watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix.

According to one statistic about 61% of Americans have at least one bill on autopay, which is great but what about the payments for discretionary items. Should we still set it to pay automatically? That’s the question we’re trying to answer. Tell me if any of the following sound familiar:

  • Only exercise you get from your gym membership is thought of going back someday, when you see the monthly charge on your card
  • You keep getting Rolling Stones in your mail and use it as mouse-pad
  • You hardly order anything from Amazon anymore, but continue to have prime membership thinking you may need something urgently that’s only available on Amazon and free 2-day shipping is the only way to get it

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You think about canceling the service next month, which turns into next month again then you move and the next person who rents the apartment gets to use those magazines as napkin. Where does it end?! Right there when you cancel the auto payment. I recently let go of my Amazon Prime membership and few others that I was still using but didn’t value anymore. It may not sound too much per month, but that’s the trick they play to make it sound less. That $19.99 membership doesn’t sound a lot until you calculate the yearly cost which is $239.88 and now all of a sudden you can afford the JLo concert you always wanted to go to! [not saying you should spend the savings, in fact investing is a better option, but at least now you got more options]

Also when you don’t care about certain specific things anymore but still like to use it sometimes, that $9.99 Spotify subscription for example, you can always look for cheaper alternative. Like most of the thinks in life, automating payments can help or hurt depending on how you use it. My advice: use it wisely!

Living in a non-Amazon world

After I lost my Amazon prime student, I missed it the most when I asked Alexa to play music. It played one song that I had downloaded long time ago (I don’t even like it anymore) instead of usual ones from prime music collection. That was a sad day! Reluctant to pay $99 for the renewal, I started looking for other ways to replace the prime features I use (Amazon has a long list of what comes with the prime membership, but I primarily used only three)

  • Free 2 day shipping: I haven’t bought anything from Amazon after my prime membership ended because I got so used to Two-Day Shipping that regular delivery times seem too loonnngggg. As economists would say, free shipping is not really free – the cost is embedded in the product. It may not be as evident on Amazon.com as it is on Jet.com (which was bought by Walmart) where you can get discount by opting out of free returns; the discount is essentially how much the “free return” is valued at.

My wife suggested to look at our purchase history to determine whether it would be online_shopping.pngworth renewing – I did and the statistic was biased because we bought a lot of stuff since we moved to a new city and also bought a house.

Alternatives to 2 day shipping: I look at things online and check prices at other websites such as Walmart, Target, or even jet.com; I have heard about Shoprunner, which offers free 2 day shipping and free returns, and even got a complimentary membership through American Express but haven’t used it much.

  • Prime Music: It doesn’t have the best collection, but it’s not bad. We mostly played music through Echo (Alexa) and it was good enough to keep you entertained while doing house stuff, cooking, or even when we had guests over.

Alternatives to music: I tried Pandora and iHeartRadio as alternatives but it wasn’t quite the same. Currently I am subscribed to Amazon Music Unlimited trial through Alexa deals and not sure whether I am going to renew. Also looking at other services such as Spotify. I am open to recommendations here.

  • Prime video: I liked House of Lies and few other shows (none of included movies that I liked were exclusive to amazon video) but not something I couldn’t survive without, specially since I am subscribed to other streaming services. Few shows that I liked such as: Suits and The Big Bang Theory are not included, forcing you to pay $2.99 per episode – talk about Bait-and-switch. This was the easiest for me to let go of.

Alternatives to prime video: Any other streaming service would do; I currently have Hulu and couple of free ones such as Roku channel, NBC app, CW app etc. For regular TV, I have a digital antenna which works great. Roku live TV pause is awesome if your favorite show is on and you still haven’t finished dinner yet!

Prime video, if bought separately, currently costs $8.99/month which is way overpriced, in my opinion, for what it has to offer. Also I recently got MoviePass and now I don’t have to worry about checking promos and ratings before I choose a movie; I figured if I don’t like a movie, I can just sleep and not feel guilty of spending money on it. For a flat price of $9.95, moviepass let you watch one movie each day in most of the theaters. I was excited to see Alamo Drafthouse in the list.

I am probably going to miss amazon prime a little bit, but not enough to shell out $99.