You probably don’t remember how it started do you? You might have signed up for a free Spotify account, soon realized that you really needed offline listening, stepped through that easy upgrade process, and you’re now slicing off a bit of your paycheck each month for Premium. But that was just the beginning.
You already had thousands of tracks you ripped from your CD collection in iTunes so you needed a subscription to iTunes Match. (GTS ripping a CD if you’re unfamiliar with this expression, or ask a nearby Gen Xer). You heard great things about Better Call Saul from your buddy Dave so you subscribed to Netflix and binge watched it. You were tired of asking that surly clerk at Target if he could find the keys to unlock the razor blades, so you subscribed to Dollar Shave Club.
And then it happens. It all happens.
It happens without you realizing it—that need for an on-demand, in-control, do-what-I-want lifestyle. No one tells you where or how to listen to your music. No antiquated TV network tells you when and how much of your favorite show you can watch. You don’t need to stand at the back of that long line waiting for someone to price check a can of pinto beans. If you want bacon or marshmallows delivered to your door, you just do it. You got the power. You subscribe.
It happens without you realizing it—that need for an on-demand, in-control, do-what-I-want lifestyle.
But when was it that you lost control? When did your power become your dependency? How did you get in so deep with so many? Where’s the subscription trail that leads to all the money that used to be in your bank account? Where is all the stuff that once fit into those cute boxes that appear at your door each month? You don’t know? It might be time to do some subscription auditing, and a little soul searching.
I’ve been there, I know. I can help you through this. At one point I had, let’s just say, a rather large amount of subscriptions. Being the committed lifehacker that I am, I was not going to continue down this road to ruin. Here’s my advice for confronting your subscription problem head on.
Assess the damage. The first step is knowing just how many subscriptions you’ve accumulated. Search your inbox for “auto-renewal”. Just about everything you subscribe to is set to auto-renew, for your convenience, of course, so you should get plenty of hits on that. Do as I do and never ever delete any emails from your inbox (screw that zero inbox stuff). You’re probably in this mess because you lost track of the details, too much some stuff going on. A well-stocked inbox has your back.
Search all your bank accounts for subscription payments. If you are a customer of a certain large and well-known bank, you should also check the accounts your bank might have opened for you, without your knowledge.
Be diligent. Track down all your subscriptions and make a list. You’re going to freak out a bit, but that’s part of the process.
What should you do now?
Don’t drink and subscribe. If you’re in a relationship, it is not cool to subscribe to Tinder. If you’re happy in your job, but just had a rough day, you may not want to be outed as a newly LinkedIn “Job Seeker”.
Don’t subscribe when you’re feeling nostalgic or maudlin. This could lead to a viewing of Classic Albums: Dark Side of the Moon, and a fresh Qello subscription.
Don’t subscribe after reading an article about mindfulness (especially while stressed). This will lead to several meditation app subscriptions and in-app purchases to help you be less critical and judgemental of others and renew your sense of purpose—each of which you’ll listen to once.
Don’t subscribe because you like the immediate (and fleeting) joy it brings you. Embrace minimalism, try living with less, and pursue life experiences instead. This is surely better than the joy you feel when that package arrives, no matter what delights it may contain. Even if handpicked by someone who knows what you like and presented in a beautiful little box—arriving dutifully each and every month.
How do you keep it from happening again?
If you follow my advice, you’re going to get through this. You’ll still have the power—hey, I’m gonna binge watch Narcos and eat marshmallows all night—but you’ll also have your self-esteem back. And when you come across yet another mention of the glories of the subscription economy? You’ll experience a feeling of self-actualization that can’t be delivered by the UPS truck.
Anton de Young is the Director of Relate Education and co-author of Practical Zendesk Administration (2nd Edition) by O’Reilly Media. He enjoys punctuation, stuff that comes in bottles, and the smell of wet dogs. Find him on Twitter: @antondeyoung.