I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of advertisements lately for apps and programs that can analyze your credit card account and bank account and notify you of recurring payments that you may have forgotten about.
In general, this is an awesome idea. You absolutely shouldn’t be paying for services that you aren’t using. And I’m sure it’s something that many people do.
However, you don’t need a special app to do it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m particular about what apps I allow to have my bank account information. I use YNAB and let them pull my information, but I’m hesitant to let other apps do the same. I know the risk is low, and plenty of people use these services without trouble, but it just makes me a bit uncomfortable.
Of course, I’m the same person who uses to have any internet connected voice control systems in my house (Alexa, Google Home, etc). So it’s possible I’m just overly cautious.
The DIY Method is EASY!
But even if you’re not worried about privacy, this is totally something you can do yourself. Get copies of your bank statements (if you use a debit card) or your credit card statements. Yes, I know, looking at these can be scary sometimes. But go through the transactions. Figure out what each one is, and highlight anything that’s recurring. That means it’s a charge that hits your account every month without you going in to pay it, and it’s one that doesn’t change. So highlight the cable bill, don’t highlight the gas bill. Highlight them all, not just the ones you’re willing to cancel.
Now you have your list of monthly recurring transactions. And you know what? I bet they add up. Those little transactions like $1.99 here and $6.99 there don’t sound like much, but when taken as a whole, those numbers can be pretty big. So that’s what I want you to do next. Add them all up. Figure out how much money is coming out of your account every month without you even thinking about it.
Next, it’s time to figure out if any of those charges can go. Or maybe they can be reduced. Do you really need Hulu and CBS All Access and HBO Go? Maybe the answer is yes, I’m not judging. Do you have the commercial free options? Maybe you could save a few bucks each month by going back to commercials. Maybe you only have HBO Go to watch the new season of Game of Thrones. Once it’s over, cancel your membership! Set yourself a calendar reminder right now. One of the great things about these services is that it’s easy to cancel and re-join when you want. Maybe you don’t watch much streaming tv over the summer. Cancel those accounts and resubscribe when winter comes.
Do you have a gym membership you’re not using? This may be harder to drop. Frequently, when you sign up for a gym membership, you’re signing up for a contract, maybe a year or even more. Happens to the best of us. So it’s possible you’re stuck with that payment for a while (If so, why not go to the gym? You’re paying for it, so use it!). But maybe that contract period is up and you just didn’t realize it. Give the gym a call, talk to them about cancelling. It never hurts to find out.
Even if you end up deciding to keep all of your payments for now, it’s always good to know where your money is going. How much are you really spending every month on these things. And maybe down the road, you’ll decide to drop some of those expenses after all.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.