Thousands of Americans Waste $348 a Year on Subscriptions They’re Not Using

Learn how to find and cancel unnecessary subscriptions.

It’s easy to cut the cord with so many streaming services available to choose from. As if there weren’t already enough options to keep you entertained, Disney will start offering its films and original programming on the upcoming Disney+ service in November, and Apple is expected to launch Apple TV+ this fall. But, by subscribing to multiple services, could you be spending more money than you think?

GOBankingRates surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out what subscription services they’re paying for — including entertainment, food and beauty subscriptions — and how often they’re actually using those services. Take a look at Americans’ streaming habits, and learn how you can save money by canceling the subscription services that you aren’t using.

Americans Are Wasting Hundreds on Entertainment Subscriptions

GOBankingRates’ survey found that nearly half of Americans are paying for some sort of entertainment subscription. The most common service that respondents said they subscribe to is Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Sling TV — an internet TV service that’s an alternative to cable — was the least popular, with just over 1% of respondents saying they subscribed to this service.

Make Your Money Work for You

Survey Question: Which of the following entertainment subscriptions are you currently paying for? Select all that apply.

Subscription Service Percentage of Respondents
Netflix 33.4%
Amazon Prime Video 17.8%
Hulu 14.1%
Spotify 7.9%
YouTube TV 6.5%
Pandora 5.1%
Apple Music 3.8%
Amazon Music Unlimited 3.4%
Sling TV 1.4%
Other 3.6%
I am not paying for an entertainment subscription  52.6%

Faster broadband speeds and smartphones have fueled the growth of entertainment streaming services, according to a study by Deloitte Global. And, the number of services that households subscribe to is only expected to rise. These entertainment streaming services are often seen as a lower-cost alternative to cable TV, which a growing percentage of Americans have been ditching. According to TV ratings company Nielsen, 16 million households have cut the cord — an increase of 48% over the past eight years.

Read More: 7 Tips and Tricks To Cut Your Phone and Cable Bill in Half

But does ditching cable and switching to entertainment subscription services actually save money? Generally, the answer is yes. A Netflix subscription costs $12.99 a month, and so does an Amazon Prime membership. A Hulu subscription costs $11.99 a month for the ad-free version. Each service adds up to more than $100 a year, which is what you might pay every month for cable or satellite TV service, so there’s still a big difference.

Make Your Money Work for You
Subscription Service Monthly Cost Annual Cost
Netflix (Standard) $12.99 $155.88
Amazon Prime $12.99 $155.88
Hulu (No Ads) $11.99 $143.88
Spotify $9.99 $119.88
YouTube TV $49.99 $599.88
Pandora Plus $4.99 $59.88
Apple Music $9.99 $119.88
Amazon Music Unlimited (Prime) $7.99 $95.88
Sling TV $25 $300

However, you’re not saving money if you’re paying for a service that’s going unused. GOBankingRates’ survey found that many Americans aren’t using their entertainment subscriptions every day. About 9% of respondents said they use the services on a monthly basis. And, more than 4% said they never use the entertainment subscriptions that they’re paying for.

Among those who pay for streaming services but don’t use them, respondents had an average of 1.65 entertainment subscriptions. Based on the costs of those services, these people waste an average of $347.81 per year on entertainment subscriptions they aren’t using.

Respondents ages 25-34 were the most likely to be wasting money on entertainment subscription services, with more than 7% of people in this age group saying they never use their subscriptions. On the other hand, adults 65 and older were the least likely to be throwing away money, with only 2% of people in this age group saying the same thing. And, women were slightly more likely than men — a difference of half a percentage point — to say they don’t use the entertainment services for which they paid.

Make Your Money Work for You

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Other Subscription Services You Could Be Losing Money On

The survey found that Americans are much more likely to be paying for entertainment services than monthly subscription boxes or meal subscriptions. About 5% of respondents said they’re signed up for beauty or grooming subscription box services, the most popular of which were Ipsy and Dollar Shave Club, respectively. About 4% said they pay for a food subscription service, with the most common ones being Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron.

Even though far fewer people are signed up for beauty, grooming and food subscription services, there are still Americans who don’t actually use what they’re paying for. In fact, respondents who receive food subscription services are more likely to say that they don’t use their subscriptions at all, compared to a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Men were slightly more likely than women to not use the food services to which they’re subscribed. And, respondents ages 18-24 were the most likely of any age group to waste money on food subscription services, with nearly 5% saying they never use their subscriptions.

Make Your Money Work for You

Find Out: How Much These Top-Rated Food Subscriptions Will Actually Cost You

How To Find and Cancel Subscriptions You Don’t Use

Subscription service fees might seem insignificant on an individual or month-by-month basis. But those fees can really add up over the course of a year — especially if you subscribe to multiple services — and put a big dent in your budget. So, in order to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, it’s important to review the services that you’re paying for.

To do this, go through your credit card and bank account statements for recurring expenses, said consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. Here are some of Woroch’s tips for tracking down your subscription service charges:

  • Make a list of the services that you’re paying for and their exact costs to figure out how much you’re spending overall for these services.
  • Be careful not to overlook services such as Amazon Prime, which has annual rather than monthly fees.
  • Use a mobile app such as Trim to analyze your accounts to find recurring subscription charges.

Going through this process will you help you identify subscription services that you signed up for and might have forgotten about or aren’t using enough to justify the cost. “Sometimes you need to see it in black and white to understand what you’re spending and where you can cut back,” Woroch said.

For the subscriptions you use more frequently, look at the ones that offer similar services — such as Netflix and Hulu — to determine whether you can get by with just your favorite, and cancel the rest. “If you’re having a tough time letting go, just remember that you can always sign back up for service if you really miss it,” Woroch said.

If you don’t want to part with any of your services, find ways to cut the costs. For example, look for promotional deals by entering the name of the service and the term “coupon” or “promo code” in a search engine, Woroch said. You might also be able to get a better deal by negotiating with your service providers. Let them know you’re unhappy with your service and considering switching to a competitor. Or, ask your providers if they offer a discount for prepaying for a service rather than making monthly payments, Woroch said. Putting a little effort into getting better deals on the services you enjoy can pay off in the long run.

Click through to see really dumb ways Americans waste money.

More on Saving Money

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,000 Americans and asked them the following six questions: 1) Which of the following entertainment subscriptions are you currently paying for? Select all that apply. 2) How often do you use your entertainment subscriptions? 3) Which of the following food subscriptions are you currently paying for? Select all that apply. 4) How often do you use your food subscriptions? 5) Which of the following beauty/grooming subscriptions are you currently paying for? Select all that apply. 6) How often do you use your beauty/grooming subscriptions? Survata was used to host the survey, which was conducted from June 25, 2019, to July 1, 2019. The title of this article extrapolates the sample size of the survey; if GOBankingRates had conducted a nationwide survey, thousands of respondents would have said they never use their subscription services.

Correction: The original version of this article said Amazon Music Unlimited costs $25 per month; the monthly cost of Amazon Music Unlimited with a Prime membership is $7.99.

About the Author

Cameron Huddleston

Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more. She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.

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