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Tip #8: Implement the A La Carte Method

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This is Tip #8 of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge.

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Today, we’re going to implement the A La Carte Method to save money on the subscriptions you’re paying for.

People spend an enormous amount on subscriptions without ever realizing it. Not only are the payments automatically sent, but it takes active effort — and acknowledging that you’ve been paying for something you don’t need — to cancel a subscription…which means it’s easier to do nothing than to cancel the subscription. Here’s a very conservative estimate of someone spending $1,824/year on subscriptions.

I’ll tell you guys about a subscription I had to a marketing service. I signed up for it about 4 months ago to get the free trial and see if it was worthwhile, and it was pretty decent — but it cost $100/month. After about a month, I knew I wasn’t getting the value I needed out of it — but I couldn’t bring myself to cancel it. I put it in my calendar to cancel, but the day would come and go and I just didn’t do it. Then I would see a new email pop up in my inbox about some new stuff they had added, so I filed it under “Toread,” thinking I “really should” check this out. You know how you feel when you know you should do something, but just can’t bring yourself to do it? That’s exactly how I felt — until 3 months later, when I finally canceled it. Even though it cost me $300 more than it should have, it was a lesson well learned.

Today’s tip, the A La Carte Method, is a way to avoid just that:

The A La Carte Method takes advantage of psychology to cut our own spending….cancel all the discretionary subscriptions you can: your magazines, annual Rhapsody plan, cable — even your gym.

* Instead of paying for a ton of channels you never watch on cable, buy only the episodes you watch for $1.99 each off iTunes
* Buy a day pass for the gym each time you go (around $5-$10)
* Buy songs as you want them for $0.99 each from Amazon or iTunes

Read about the A La Carte method in detail.

Here’s what to do: Today, cancel enough subscriptions to equal $50. If you can do more, great. Here are links to common subscription items to target:

Netflix: http://www.netflix.com: $9/month for basic unlimited. Downgrade to $5/month. Savings: $5-9/month.

Tivo: http://www.tivo.com: $13/month.

Cellphone: http://www.att.com/wireless or http://www.verizonwireless.com or http://www.tmobile.com or http://www.sprintpcs.com. Most people probably won’t cancel their phone, but as an example of optimizing your existing spending, you can save $20/month by going from Verizon’s second-lowest plan ($60) to their lowest plan ($40). We already talked about how to do this earlier in the challenge.

Cable: http://www.comcast.net or http://www.timewarnercable.com or http://www.dishnetwork.com or http://www.rcn.com (Don’t want to cancel everything? At the very least, cancel the Premium channels and get basic cable.). Savings: $50/month for Time Warner Digital Cable.

Amazon Prime: http://www.amazon.com (cancel Amazon Prime – plus, it will make you buy fewer books) – $79 annually or $7/month

Magazines: Look in them and cancel them. Buy them off eBay or get them at the library.

Other online services: http://www.audible.com or any other online services. Can you live without them?

“But Ramit…!”: Common arguments against the A La Carte Method
1. “I already paid to buy a satellite dish! It will be a total waste of money if I cancel now.” That’s a sunk cost, so ignore it as much as possible. Cancel it for this month only. If you decide you really want it back, you can always re-initiate service in December. (Yes, you may have to pay an initiation fee if you actually restart the service. But I’m willing to bet that after you hit your financial goal this month, you’ll be extremely careful in adding expenses back to your life. Plus, you can probably get the fee waived.)

2. “I don’t have any subscriptions like this!” First off, I bet you do — just check your credit card statements. But if you really don’t, well, then this tip may not be right for you. But think how you can apply it elsewhere: Are there areas where you pay automatically, without thinking how much it costs you? This is a huge area to save money since monthly subscriptions add up quickly: One of my readers canceled one $30/month subscription and saved $360/year.

3. Any other concerns? Please read the full A La Carte Method first.

* * *

Last thing to do
Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.

scrooge

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76 Comments

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  1. I seriously can’t cancel my cable TV ($23/month) because if I do, my bundled internet ($19.99/month) would skyrocket to $60/month. So yeah, canceling the tv would COST me an extra $20 per month. Silly, right?

    I get just about all of my magazine subscriptions for free, or for a ridiculously low price of like $5 or less for the year. I get them from sites like Adperk, StartSampling, or seek out unbeatable deals from magazine wholesale web sites.

    The one thing I could drop is my cell phone’s text package, which right now is running me $5/month. I don’t use enough texts to warrant the charge, so I’d be better off paying a la carte for these messages, I think.

  2. I don’t have $50 in subscriptions. We have basic-only Netflix and cable bundled with landline phone and internet. We subscribe to exactly one magazine, a professional journal paid by my husband’s employment. We have no online paid subscriptions. We stopped the newspaper months ago when we found we could get the info online without all the accompanying trash.

    Today’s Tip: $0
    Cumulative savings: $7.75

  3. Oh, how I wish I could get the SO to cancel cable! But since that’s not going to fly, I’m going to let my 2 magazine subscriptions expire. Since I got them super cheap, that only saves me $24 per year, but it’s a start!

  4. Great thought, but I’m too cheap to have any of these monthly subscription fees except a cell phone plan. But, I’d just like to suggest to anyone with a Netflix or magazine subscription that the library offers movies and magazines for free. I always have a queue of movies saved on my library account and while it may take a week or 3 months to finally receive my movie, it’s delivered right to my neighborhood library and free to check out for one week. Also, my library has a wide variety of magazines available, although these must be read at the library. But sitting there for a few hours after work with my boyfriend catching up on all of my favorite magazines makes for a wonderful free date night.

  5. I got rid of premium movie channels since I found out the free trial was over, and will be saving $40/month.

  6. We got a basic cable plan once we discovered we didn’t need it. Cable is $30 cheaper.

  7. hmmm… we (boyfriend and I) recently did this and were able to save about $30 a month (he saved even more by cancelling the fancy data program on his phone) by cancelling and downgrading several subscriptions.

    I’m afraid we’re at the bare minimum now, although I wouldn’t mind terribly cancelling satellite/Tivo he certainly would, and otherwise we have the Newspaper which I love too much and would really miss and our home alarm system. Boyfriend travels a lot and having the alarm on allows me to sleep at night (I get really scared by myself, I know I’m a wuss).

    I’m going to talk to him about cable though. We have dial-up so using iTunes is a ridiculous proposition timewise, but honestly we don’t watch that much TV I’ll miss Jon Stewart and Mad Men.

  8. I also don’t have $50 worth of subscriptions.

    My subscriptions:

    $9/month for Internet (my share of a DSL connection shared by five persons)
    $13/month for cell phone (my share of a family plan)
    $10/year for Wired Magazine
    $0/year for Time Magazine (received as gift)

    Total: $23/month for Internet, cell phone, and two quality magazines.

    I don’t have cable TV service. I work at a university with a library, so I don’t have Netflix or Blockbuster, either.

    I had a print/online subscription to the Wall Street Journal in college for $100/year (educational rate). I was also an eMusic subscriber for about four months, which is $15/month for 30 songs. I think both of those are well worth the price, and I’ll probably go back when I have more time to devote to newspapers and music.

  9. I think a better tip would be to use these subscriptions more wisely rather than abstaining all together. For example, if you are paying for Netflix or Premium cable, then you should sit there and actually watch it instead of going out to a movie and paying $9.50 or whatever. This tip is really about evaluating what you use and what you don’t and eliminating unnecessary expense.

    Most people try to get a good deal on their cell phone anyway when they sign up and most people bundle services to save to begin with. Personally, I’m unbundled without a landline and it’s a lot cheaper than going all-in with Comcast. I don’t pay for music (radio is still free). Savings: $0

    However, I agree canceling publication subscriptions is a good idea but it’s more of an environmental savings than a fiscal one (although canceling the Sunday paper means losing out on coupons). Also, more people should support their local libraries.

  10. I wish I could cancel my gym membership and go a la carte, but that makes 0 financial sense (for me).

    4 workouts per week * $10 per session * 4 weeks per month = $160 compared to $60 for unlimited training

    If you don’t go to the gym regularly, it might definitely be worth it. Plus you’ll be more motivated to work out hard since you just dropped actual cash to be there!

  11. If you don’t have a internet/ phone/ cable bundle, you need to get rid of your cable or switch to basic cable.

    I haven’t watch cable in months, I watch every thing on Hulu.com or Fancast.com.
    Also, all the new episodes (full screen & sometimes HD) are available on the networks web site the very next day. (i.e. Knight Rider is on NBC.com & Terminator is on FOX.com)

    As far as magazines, I usually go to Barnes & Noble and read them in there after work.

    Also, there is a site called magazinepricesearch.com and I have seen ridiculous discounts on magazines. As much as 80% off very popular books.

    You can also get magazine subscriptions for free if you do a little search on Google for “free subscription to ” and fill out a form. (You may have to tell a little white lie, like you have business in the same industry as the magazine.
    Magazine gives free subscriptions to justify boosting there advertising fees.

  12. I can save $10/month if I can talk mom into dropping our joint Family cell phone plan to 550 mintues instead of 1100. We’ve not once, in two years actually reached 1100 minutes, and there’s rollover to help cover us if we do.

    Another subscription I can lower from $39.95 to about $25.

    If I can talk myself into cutting off the landline, I save $24, but lose the $12 bundle discount, for a net savings of near $12.

    No magazines, no newspapers, no netflix, no gym.

    Checked the txt msg package on my phone and I’m not using all of it, but paying for each message would be more than the current package, so that can stay.

    Cable is a sticking point… two teenaged girls, one of which likes to spend her at home time at the television. The other wants to keep the internet, but could stand to lose the cable! I’ll check those packages though, see if there’s not a little cutting we could do to one or both.

    So far, I’m up to a savings of $35 per month… I’ll keep looking!

  13. There seems to be so many other free alternatives out there that canceling some subscriptions would definitely be an easy shift. I don’t subscribe to much, but my housemates love cable. I think online resources like hulu.com is an easy alternative.

  14. Another great tip is to go to network sites such as NBC, ABS, Fox, etc. and watch the shows online for free! They usually come out about a week later than the original episode, but there are limited commercials and they don’t cost a dime.

  15. i have a slightly different take on magazine subscriptions – if you buy them in the supermarket or bookstore, get subscriptions to them instead. i read a lot of magazines, and last month decided to subscribe to all the ones i read every month… it saved me almost $400 for the next 12 months.

  16. My boyfriend and I cancelled our memberships to the climbing gym at the start of the month as part of this challenge. Savings will be $70/month. We always had good intentions but haven’t been using it enough not to justify getting day passes if we want to go. Plus I have a gym at work, and the boyfriend is a beanpole who doesn’t need daily cardio.

    I feel as if I would die without my TiVo. My internet is bloody expensive, but I can’t live without that either. Cable comes for “free” with my apartment. Magazines are necessary for that daily cardio.

    Today’s tip: $70/month
    Cumulative: $80/month

  17. I have known for a few weeks that my US News and World Report magazine subscription would be up this month, and I had pretty much decided already not to renew it – I don’t read half of the articles, due to lack of time. This saves about $15/year.

    I don’t have cable and my work pays for internet. My cell phone bill is already cheap, and my Netflix is worth the cost – I appreciate having access to many indies, documentaries, and foreign films that are not easily available otherwise (I can save money by remembering to put my account on hold when I am out of town, though).

    Savings: $15/year

  18. Steve in Montreal Link to this comment

    My cable provider offers 20 channels for $20/month. I surfed through the dial and found I usually watch the same old favorites. In fact, I needed to add 2 more. I couldn’t believe I was paying $70/month for channels I never watched.
    I did this last week so I guess I’m ahead of schedule for the month.

  19. I go through cycles where I read a magazine regularly and then lose interest. I’m not resubscribing to Interweave Knits, Wild Fibers, Traditional Home, and another H&G mag whose name I can’t seem to remember. I will still buy the fall and winter issues of Interweave as that is the time I am most interested in knitting. Total savings $68/yr.

  20. My husband and I are going to go cable free next month…we will keep our internet and watch shows online. He will miss sportscenter though :( I hope we can lower our bills this way

    As with our cellphone. We got a fav 5 plan which works well for us. We each have 5 people so we just use eachothers phone to call people.

    We dont use any movie renting service. I also dont buy books…thats why theres a library.

  21. Or even better: Cancel cable, but since you’re probably not canceling your internet service – just watch your favorite shows online. Hulu.com plus the $9 netflix (only good if you already have it), not to mention many other free websites, show many network shows as well as some of the best cable shows. Google them. You’d be surprised what you can watch for free (legally) online.

    I’ve never had much of an issue not subscribing to these things, so this tip won’t really help me. The 3 things I subscribe to, I share with roommates and/or use to the fullest extent (internet, netflix, cellphone). They are already the cheapest they can be. Good idea for compulsive subscribers though.

  22. My roommate and I didn’t get cable when we moved … I whined about it SO much, but aside from live news events, nearly everything I want to watch is free online. Once they start streaming the news online constantly, a TV will almost be pointless …

    Savings each month: $40
    Savings so far: $245

    P.S. It’s kind of annoying that many commenters are complaining that because they’re already doing these tips, it doesn’t count for them. The way I look at it, if I’m not spending on something I otherwise would if I had more money (ie, I would get cable but I wouldn’t get a gym subscription so that doesn’t count), I consider that “Saving”. If I’m already doing it, all the better! I’m still SAVING MONEY.

  23. For those of you who don’t want to give up your newspaper subscription, look into discountednewspapers.com. In August, I entered a 52-week subscription to my local paper for $129.97, saving me $91 annually over subscribing directly to the paper.

  24. You don’t even have to pay for your tv shows, most websites offer them for free. I can watch The Office, Heroes, and 30 Rock on the NBC website.

    I just can’t let go of Netflix. I think that I go out to the movies less with my Netflix subscription.

    My cable/high speed internet is bundled at $68 a month, which isn’t too bad. I would cancel the cable at least but I think my hubby would miss watching football all day.

  25. For avid TV watchers, I’ve been cable-free for over 2 years and I can still really easily keep up to date with those TV shows I can’t live without through Hulu. It’s ad-supported and you can watch whenever you want. The best part is that most of the shows are updated in a timely fashion – most usually on the day after they air!

    The only thing I miss is sports but I can still get a few channels over the new digital airwaves and it’s usually good enough to satisfy my college football needs.

  26. Shouldn’t we be at tip #12?

  27. Here are some of the easy savings wins I just accomplished:

    Cancelled HBO, which we hardly watch anymore ($10 month / $120 year)

    Switched our phone and Internet to Comcast ($40 month / $480 year!)

    Reduced our childcare by 3 hours per week ($150 month / $1,800 year!)

  28. If you only use your cellphone infrequently (70 minutes / month or less)
    then http://www.virginmobile.com for a phone is the way to go. I’ve had them for over 4 years paying approx $20 every 90 days (yes – $7 a month) using the per-minute basic rate.
    Won’t work for everyone, but infrequent cell phone users like me can save huge. Do the math.
    PS. and even if I do go over a little I no longer care since I’ve saved more than I could ever spend again.

  29. dare I cancel my online dating service subscription? Been on a date with one sex- mad freak, found a good optician and swapped him physio treatment for free contact lenses [ which has probably saved me more than the annual subscription], and haven’t liked the look of anyone since – but I’m still single…… potential saving £25 per month… thinking about it…

  30. Instead of Canceling a subscription . . .

    Call the company and (yes, lie) tell them you are going to be away for an extended unknown period of time. You will call when you return from your journey (of savings).

    Most companies then will not charge you any type of cancellation fee or a reactivation or initial fee when you resume your service. Usually everyone from magazines to the cable company will do this. I think Tivo will too if I remember correctly. Plus you can use Hulu & Netflix which are free / cheaper than cable.
    Just a thought

  31. I am going to agree with you on some of this tip and disagree with you on others.

    Netflix: Cancel it all together. It is a rip-off. Find a local/non-chain video store and get your dvd’s for $1-$2 for a whole week. (of course we don’t have Netflix so you saved us $0)

    Tivo: Cancel it – why are you paying someone for the privilage to record tv and allow them to monitor your viewing habits on top of it (yes, they do) They still make vcr’s people and they’re dirt cheap – you can find one at k-mart for $35. (saves us $0)

    Cellphone: you already addressed this in another tip. (saves us $0)

    Cable: I agree with others that need their internet with their cable for business or school and cannot alter their cable. (we already have the lowest bundle – no premiums, no digital – saves us $0)

    Amazon Prime: I agree – Waste of money – if you buy enough books to use that, then maybe you shouldn’t be buying that many books. You can get free shipping on Amazon if wait and bundle your items together to meet the minimum ($25) (don’t use it – $0)

    Magazines: I’m going to disagree on this one – our library only carries the mainstream magazines and even then they are out of date and used and awful – it’s like going to the dentist’s office – if you are a faithful reader and the mag. are beneficial, you are better off subscribing than paying newstand prices. If you don’t read them, by all means cancel them.

    Art – yes, we should.

  32. I haven’t commented in a few days but have been working on implementing the tips. After beginning the inquiry process last week I was able to change my husband’s cell phone plan to one which should save 20-30 dollars, so I’ll split the difference here and say 25 dollars per month. I downgraded my son’s netflix to the cheapest plan, saving us another 5 dollars per month. I just called my credit card company and canceled one insurance plan which will save another 22 dollars per month. So add that to my son taking his lunch at least 3 days per week which should save about 20 dollars, and we’re looking at about about 72 dollars so far. So that doesn’t get me close to one thousand in one month, but since these are all monthly charges, 72 X 12 is 864 dollars for a year and that is more than I net in a 2 week pay period. That’s not a bad start! Thanks everyone for the inspiration and I hope to keep getting more tips and find some more savings!

  33. We finally bit the bullet and cancelled the satellite subscription service we had for my in-laws. We have FTA that costs us $0. Savings: $70; guilt=priceless…

    BTW Walmart offers downloadable music for $.74…

  34. I use the a la carte method for working out — Our rec center has drop in classes that are pay as you go. You can save by buying blocks of 10, 25 or 50 tickets, but they’re good for the whole year. I love it because I’m not losing money in the summer when I take my workout to the park instead. (The rec center also has a free walking track — bonus!)

  35. Re: BajaGramma – I thought Walmart was closing down their music center (and shutting down their authentication servers along with, rendering the music unplayable).

  36. Well, this is a good idea in principal but I know I for one will not be paying $2 an episode for some shows, plus others I know I can’t get elsewhere.

    However, I did (like 30 seconds ago) just got rid of HBO. I figure if my folks want to watch a movie they can still have Starz and Encore. Just doing that saved me $8.40 a month or $100 a year JUST on one channel lineup I don’t watch. Honestly, I never even got to see the one miniseries (John Adams) that was worth watching this last year we had it. I guess you can call that a la carte but still, it’s a savings.

    My cell I can’t give up as it’s how most people get a hold of me. However I found that most of my friends had Verizon and since I got my phone before my family, so do they. With the In-Calling I can get the lowest plan and talk all I want to my friends and then limit myself to the weekends and evenings for everyone else. Plus my work gives me a discount so after taxes and stuff I’m only paying $36 for my phone.

    I did get a magazine subscription this year for $20 but I was canceling another so they work themselves out.

  37. Hmm..
    My cell phone bill is $15 (my share of a family plan). DSL is the lowest rate available in the area. I have a VoIP plan for business-related calls, which costs me $60/yr, and a gym membership through my employer, subsidized, so it’s also $60/yr.

    About the only thing I pay for monthly besides these is a subscription to Mozy, but $5 a month for unlimited backup is a pretty sweet deal.

    My boyfriend has one monthly subscription to a BBS he doesn’t read anymore, and we did pay for Alldata membership at the beginning of the year. I think we’ll let those expire, but that’s like an $18/mo savings at most. Still, I guess it’s something…

  38. Downsized to basic cable today; saving $80 each month!

  39. I recently placed my Netflix subscription “on vacation” for three months. I rarely used it but couldn’t also quite convince myself to lose the recommendations. Since I haven’t visited the site in a few weeks, I don’t think I’ll have a problem cancelling it when 2.5 months come around. I put a reminder in gcal to e-mail me so I won’t run over.
    ~$20 saved.

    As for amazon prime: I think of it as a convenience tax and it has come in very handy during the work week, as I usually don’t make it to the stores before they close/open. However, with prime, I can order b-day gifts, books, and etc on Wed. and receive it by Friday for the weekend. Especially useful when a friend sends an evite Tuesday morning for a party Friday night or on Sat. before you can get to the store and grab whatever gift is pre-wrapped (and overpriced. ugh). That’s worth it for me.

  40. Regarding magazines…

    My local library has a great website with online resources that are available to patrons (upon login). This includes full-text of a variety of magazines including CONSUMER REPORTS.

    So if you see a magazine you’d like to buy at the newsstand – check out your library website to see if you can read it from the comfort of your home computer.

  41. Canceling a gym membership to go “a la carte” doesn’t sound like a great plan to me. If you do have a gym membership and expect to gain any benefit from it you’re going often enough for a la carte to not be worth it. If you are thinking of going a la carte here consider this, it is difficult enough to find the motivation to go to the gym, if you need to hand over $5-$10 each time you walk through the door you’ll be that much less motivated. Don’t sacrifce physical health for financial health.

  42. We have fibe tuned our cable/internet/phone and cell phone services. My ever patient husband spent a ton of time on the phone and we only pay for what we want. We get the Wall Street Journal and the Chicaho tribune. My husband takes the train to work and reads the WSJ on the train. A lot cheaper than gas and very good brain food so we aren’t letting that go. The tribune paid for its quarterly fee in one shopping trip with coupons. I agree with a previous poster who said this should be more about optimization than just canceling.

  43. Even if you can’t part with a subscription try calling and asking questions about your account as if you might switch, last week when the cell phone tip came out I called my own carrier and just by asking questions of the representative she jumped to a way to save me $10 month with more features (and it wasn’t a temporary “special”). All these companies want to retain their customers so they have tricks up their sleeves to keep you on board with them.

  44. Ramit,

    I don’t mean to nitpick because I really like a lot of your advice, but I had two quick questions that I was hoping you and the other commenters might reapond to. One, while I agree with the basic premise of this tip, shouldn’t we clarify that the first step is to look at your things and determine what you can live without? There are a lot of commenters saying they would really be miserable without their satellite or thier internet or whatever. Isn’t one of your big points that we shouldn’t feel guilty about spending on the things we enjoy?

    Second, while I agree this could be a good way to save money, I think everyone needs to do some serious math before you go and cancel things such as a gym membership and Rhapsody or downgrade their cell phone plan. Why? Usage charges. I, for example, pay $32 a month for a gym membership for my girlfriend and myself. I don’t utilize it as much as I should, but if I cancel it, I could only visit 3 times for that amount of money – $10 a visit. All this does is encourage me to be lazy and not go to the gym because any routine would be prohibitively expensive. Same with Rhapsody. Someone in the habit of downloading 5 or 6 CDs a month would find themselves spending $50-60 instead of the low subscription fee. Regarding cell phones, I always think it’s smarter to pay a bit more for a plan you might not use every bit of. If you go over on minutes, you’re looking at 40 cents a minute. Texts are up to 25 cents each. That adds up extremely quickly. While I know being aware of your activity is key, what if something comes up? A flat tire or a family tragedy? Then you’re using your cell nonstop and you find you have a $200 bill due.

    I think the tip has merits, but there needs to be some serious thought and judgement before it is implemented.

    Thoughts?

  45. Ouch, for some reason this tip was particularly painful.

    I don’t have many subscriptions but for some reason cutting down my netflix from unlimited had me going “BUT WHAT IF I NEED TO WATCH 10 MOVIES THIS MONTH!!!”

    The reality is, I’m so bad with sending the damned things back that I typically watch only like one movie a month…so I guess it’s a better idea than it feels like right now. If I find that this plan is really cramping my style then at the end of the month I’m going back to unlimited.

    I saved like $5 a month

  46. The ONLY subscription I have in my life right now is cell phone, which I’ve already pared back. No magazines, no internet/cable/tivo/netflix….

    no money saved here.

    although hubby and i are looking into combining cell phone plans, but i still have a year on mine and that’s a big cancellation fee. we should probably go ahead and do it though, because i think we’d save about $60 per month (which would make up the fee in three months).

  47. I cancelled my online subscriptions to Angie’s List and Consumer Reports. I needed the services at one time, but those automatic renewals can slowly drain your bank account if you don’t watch out.

    Angie’s List Subscription $35
    Consumer Reports Subscription $26

    Total Annual Savings $61
    (not including future savings from getting off the automatic renewal merry-go-round)

  48. I pay an insane amount for internet (at least it feels that way), but like Ramit, I would cry like a baby if I didn’t have internet access at home. Right now, internet also doubles as cable; we’re watching everything the day after it airs. Also, I got the mind-blowing installation fee dropped from $99 to $10. Honestly, I don’t think I would have called if I hadn’t read this blog. I would have conveniently removed it from my memory and would now be $89 poorer.

    Other than that, we don’t have any subscriptions. We pay for each move rental, song, magazine, etc. We have to make the choice to buy the $7 magazine instead of it showing up in the mail box. A la carte method seems to be more effective in most cases…

  49. Our subscriptions (young married couple):

    1) Wireless Internet (36.99/month)
    2) Netflix ($14.99/month)
    3) T-mobile Family Plan (~$70/month) with wife

    Does anyone reading this blog really think that they should actually have a) extra text messaging packages, b) Tivo (wtf??), c) expanded Cable packages, d) Amazon Prime (seriously?). We could lower Netflix to $10/month, but we never eat out, buy coffees and consider the extra $5 a month. So not much help here.

  50. Hmmm I didn’t read allthe comments, just a few of them. I have thought hard about each of the subscription services that I have and I thoroughly use and enjoy each of them. Sure, I can save some money by canceling them, but I would lose much more enjoyment. I think the point shouldn’t be canceling everything you can, but rather canceling the things that you don’t use or enjoy.

  51. This actually really worked for me! I called my cable company to REDUCE my plan to purchase a la carte just the channels we watch and basic internet plan. The company worked with me and instead of reducing my plan they upped my plan to digital cable package and internet and reduced my rate by $30 just by bundling/upgrading. I did have to pay a one time fee for the new cable box, but thats it. I have the option to renew the bundle in a year. So I will be saving $30 a month on cable for the entire upcoming year and receiving an upgrade in service! How fantastic is that!! Love this challenge!! It’s the bomb!

  52. I’ve been lurking, but finally must comment. I’ve been “meaning” to cancel my audible subscription for six months. I just went online, found 6 books to download, and once they are downloaded I’ll cancel my subscription. Thanks for the swift kick in the rear!

  53. [...] to be rich, Day 8 Posted in November 14th, 2008 11:49am MST in Computer Day 8: Favor a-la-carte purchasing over subscriptions.Ramit’s tip for Day 8 is to cut subscriptions that force you to buy something every month- even on [...]

  54. [...] buying things in bundles really save you money or should you buy a la carte? I decided to show how we saved money and why I agree with Ramit’s a la carte ideas for cable [...]

  55. This one was tricky. I don’t watch TV so there’s no cable bill , no magazines, etc but one day last week I was late getting off work and got stuck in traffic so I took an alternate route home, and then it dawned on me…… I do not need to take the toll road to or from work, the highway is just as fast and probably safer anyway.
    Estimated savings : approx $44 a month ( $528/yr)
    So far this month : $134

  56. Richard speidel Link to this comment

    Ebay has stopped allowing magazine subscriptions to be sold. But the library is still a good option.

  57. What is the point of newspapers when they are out-of-date by the time you get them anyway?

  58. Since we don’t go to the movies, we are really attached to Netflix. It keeps us sane while we are trying to live frugally and pay off debt. we are not planing to cancel it anytime soon.

    However, two days ago I canceled my subscription to the New Yorker after three years of receiving it every week. It was hard, but ah, well, I decided I can live without it for the time being until we reach our goal. Baby steps!

  59. I already only pay for the second tier plan at Dish (which includes sports – the only thing I actually watch.) I have no magazines I pay for – only a couple of freebies I earned at e-rebates. And I don’t belong to any gyms or other memberships. Sorry, this one won’t save me money either. :)

  60. Great tips Ramit – I did not even know there was a cheaper plan on Netflix.com then the $16.99/month. Shows that I need to be more aware. Also cancelled my Sirius radio subscription. I only travel 6 miles/day – did not make much sense to keep. Looking forward to more great tips!

  61. This tip can pay off in indirect ways as well. I know that whenever I limit the amount of advertising that reaches me, I spend less. When I moved to my new place 18 months ago, I made the decision not to hook my TV up to the aerial antenna, let alone cable or satellite. By not watching TV — I admit to dropping some money to netflix each month — I minimize the number of messages that might trigger the spending impulse. It meant I paid a higher rate for internet, but I figure I saved substantially despite that, prolly to the tune of $200/month in missed opportunities to buy stuff I didn’t need. I’ve also given up a pricy but semi-fun yoga monthly membership and instead am hitting the park with the pooch to get my exercise/fresh air. That exchange saves me about $150 per month and gives me extra time with a grateful hound.

  62. im probably living a light as possible here. my only auto drawn fee is the electric bill (water, gas paid by landlord), ive got 2 mag subscriptions that were gifts, ill let those run out till death..

    no cable, internet
    phone is covered by the parents plan ( basic, no text, video, internet)
    nothing else..

    this one didn’t save me anything, but very good in concept for those with more monthly overhead.

  63. If you subscribe to many magazines that you never have the time to read, like Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue for example, or even People, you can often read the articles in full on the publication’s website, like style.com, as well as see additional pictures and videos that aren’t included in the mag.
    If you’re celeb-crazed, find a blog online, you’ll get the latest “news” and won’t waste several dollars buying the supermarket tabloids

  64. Great tip — I don’t have many extraneous subs but I did take down my Netflix from the unlimited 2-at-a-time to the limited 1-at-a-time.. I barely have time to watch them anyway. Thats a $10 savings per month = $120 for the year. Not bad! Thanks :)

  65. Three months ago we decided to completely drop DirecTV. It was a hard decision, but we were paying $69 each month for our service, were watching very few channels and were appalled at some of the commerical programming that aired during children’s shows.

    Turns out DirecTV will let you indefinitely suspend your account – keeping all of your equipment and even your same programming package at the same price – while charging you nothing until you decide to turn it all back on. It’s a very low risk way to detach from TV.

    We now use a standard antenna to receive high-quality HD programming for our normal network shows.

    We also switched to Comcast Business Internet from our high-priced DSL service (a savings of about $80 / month) and discovered that basic cable is available on the same line as the Internet. If we wanted, we could have basic TV programming without an increased cost.

    Total savings: ~$149 / month and we’re spending more quality time with each other than zoning out on TV! I never knew my kids could read so well!

  66. Already did most of these. Saved $50 on our internet/cable bill by going to basic (SO BORING, but why pay $50 just to sometimes watch the Daily Show?), canceling Netflix for a little while ($15), taking our texting plan down to 200 a month ($25), and we don’t get magazines anymore. So, that’s over $100 right there if you count letting my EW subscription expire last year.

  67. Actually, we are do pretty well with subscriptions. We canceled cable TV when we started Netflix, a few years ago.

    $18/Netflix (According to FeedFlix.com, Netflix only costs us $1.13 per movie)
    $0/Time Magazine (gift subscription from my uncle)
    $85/Internet & Phone bundle

    We are in the same boat as Kacie – taking out the landline phone from the bundle would make our internet go up.

    This tip: $0
    Current total: $225

  68. I’m a bit late getting to this… but I have to say what a great idea this is. I did this on my own last month after noticing that it took effort to download songs from my $15 a month emusic subscription (I spent a few hours surfing around trying to find something I didn’t HATE to download…how screwed up is that??!!). Then I canceled my Sirius satellite radio subscription. I love Sirius, and I will likely sign up again in the future when my credit card debt is totally gone, but $16 a month for the radio? I needed it in a former job (I worked in the middle of nowhere with no radio for 14 hours a day…it was a lifesaver) but never got around to canceling it. They don’t make it easy, either! I was on the phone for a half hour after finding no way to cancel it online.
    Total savings: $31 a month, 372 a year! ridiculous….

  69. I’ve set up a file system to remind me of this sort of thing.

    By the way the file system is the one recommended in “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I highly recommend this book. After trying several ‘methods’ of getting organized this is the one that works for me because it takes into account your entire life (work, home, social…)

    Anyway, last month I had to get new tires for my car. The total would have been $400 but they had two deals going. One was to fill out a rebate form. Always do these immediately while you still have all the info and get it in the mail. Then I stick a reminder in my file on the day the rebate check is supposed to be in my hands. That way if it isn’t – and you may be surprised how often this occurs – I can call.
    The other deal was if I opened a credit card with them to pay for the tires I’d save another $50 so I did that and paid the bill off when it came then canceled the card. I don’t know how this may affect my credit score but I doubt it will do much damage and my $400 tire bill was reduced to $275!

  70. I cancelled cable 10 years ago because I didn’t want my kids and hub sitting around watching TV 24/7.
    We have the internet and cell phones. One thing with the cell phones that you can do is ask them to lock the mega bytes and music downloads (sorry I can’t recall the proper terms for these 2 things). This will save you 1.99 or more if you or your kids accidently press the button that opens these. In the course of a year I have seen extra charges of at least $20 for mega bytes and music that we never asked for or used. Before I started scrutinizing my bills, I just went ahead and paid the charge. This last time this happened I asked the customer service lady if they could block this function to keep it from happening again and she said yes that they could do that! I will still check my bill, but this will save me and them the time wasted crediting my account.

  71. I employed the same tactic to monthly subscriptions as fashionistas suggest for your closet clutter: If you haven’t used it in 6 months, GET RID OF IT. I have stacks of magazines backlogged and unread from subscriptions I’m very interested in but never really have the time to read through. So, I canceled any subscription for a service I haven’t regularly used in the last 6 months. If, once I’ve gotten through all the backlog of mags, etc, I want to renew that subscription, I can do it then. Total monthly savings: (3 mags @ ~4.00/mag) $12/mo = $144/yr.

    Also, I just called my phone company and renegotiated my monthly contract based on current deals they’re offering new subscribers. I simply mentioned that I’ve been a loyal customer who pays in full on time every month for years and was wondering if they’d see what they were able to do to spread the joy of their new plans to reward my loyalty. They immediately upgraded me (unlimited long-distance in Canada, 2000 more texts/mo, and some fancy new voice and video messaging thing I’ll likely not use but didnt’ cost me anything to have in the bundle), dropped my system access fee (which they’re doing for all new accounts), and I ended up with a plan about $10/mo less than my old plan. With this new plan, I’m set to save ~$60/mo, or over $700/year! In one phone call!

  72. [...] Here’s a detailed writeup on implementing the A La Carte Method. * * [...]

  73. [...] you money or should you buy a la carte? I decided to show how we saved money and why I agree with Ramit’s a la carte ideas for cable, high speed Internet, and phone packages. By taking the time to see what our local cable [...]

  74. [...] I can see spending close to $30-40 each time I go watch a game at a bar.  I like the idea of using Ramit Sethi’s a la carte method, but it is totally possible I will end up spending more money assuming I make the effort to go [...]

  75. [...] gas prices to become your own hedge fund Tip #7: Create a “No Spending” day once a week Tip #8: Implement the A La Carte Method Tip #9: Only buy new things when replacing something old Tip #10: Use the free rewards from your [...]