Organizing subscriptions
Quick question: How many magazine, club, and service subscriptions do you have? If the answer is “I have no idea, join a large club.” It’s so easy to start a subscription. It’s just as easy to keep the subscription going. The payments automatically come out of your bank account or get added to your credit card.

Subscription services have a downside. Subscriptions you don’t love can drain your pocketbook. Like any small leak, you may not even notice it. But a little leak, over time, becomes a huge problem.

Start with magazines.

I have a notebook in Evernote called “Subscription Services.” Inside that notebook is a note named “Magazine Subscriptions.” That note consists of a chart with columns labeled as follows: Magazine, Whose Name (Does the magazine come addressed to me or to my wife?), “Expires,” and “Notes.” That last one is a good place to log information about automatic renewals and how to cancel. That column is also a good place to record when the first issue should arrive. If you bought the subscription through a school group, put the name of the group in the Notes field. You may also wish to include the amount of the subscription.

Subscription services

Example of table showing magazine subscriptions. Personal information has been blurred.

All this information is at your fingertips when you begin a subscription. That’s the time to put it in the chart. You won’t remember any of this later. The next thing you know, your mailbox is overflowing with magazines you don’t care to read. All the while, money is slowly leaking out of your pocket.

I use Evernote. You could do the same thing with an Excel spreadsheet, Google Sheet, or table in Word or Google Docs. Put the table in a folder called “Subscription Services.” If you use paper to organize, label a file folder “Subscription Services.” Create a chart on a piece of notebook paper and slip it in the folder.

When you add a new magazine, update the chart. When you renew or cancel a subscription, update the chart. When you cancel, use the “Notes” field to document when and how you cancelled. If you did so by phone, ask for the customer service representative’s name and include it in your documentation.

What else do you have?

Here is a starter list of other subscriptions for which you may be paying:

  • Lawn care
  • Home security system
  • Pest control
  • Satellite radio
  • Television service
  • Movie delivery service
  • Website hosting
  • Computer technical support
  • Gym membership
  • Country club membership
  • Other clubs or lessons

The list can add up quickly. In Evernote, I have a note for each one in the “Subscriptions Services” notebook. Within each note are any contracts, records of phone calls, discount offers, and important screen shots of offers from websites. If you are using Word or Google Docs, create a new document for each service with the same types of information. If your system is paper-based, include a sheet of paper for each service in the folder. Staple to the sheet invoices or other information about the service.

When it’s all in one place, you can start to see where your money goes. When you see where your money goes, you’re better able to make decisions about what subscriptions stay and which ones get the ax.

Note: I have also written about another solution for tracking subscriptions as well as any other automatic renewals and payments from your bank account. Read all about constructing a Google Money Calendar.