There are few things more financially painful than realising how much you’ve spent on a subscription service that you barely use.

Subscription services saw a sharp increase during the pandemic, but as the cost of living crisis continues, more than a quarter (26%) of people are looking to cut back on their subscriptions, according to Barclaycard

Whether you’re hoping to wean yourself off subscriptions or just take a look at your budget in general, now’s a great time to find out how much you’re spending on regular subscriptions – and which of these you could do without.

Review your bank statements

If you reckon a big overhaul of all your subscriptions is in order then your bank statements are usually the best place to start. Services often charge at the end or beginning of the month, so pay close attention to those dates in particular. You might be surprised at how many things you’re being charged for that you’d forgotten about.

Sometimes a service might be listed a bit cryptically on your statement, and you might not be sure what exactly it is you’re paying for. If you can’t tell from the amount or the name shown, try entering the listed name into a search engine and see whether what comes up sheds any light.

Once you’ve identified all of your regular subscription charges, think about how many of these services you really take advantage of and whether there’s any that you could live without. Of course, there’s no reason to cancel if you’re happy with all of them, but it can’t hurt to check whether there are any you no longer need.

Check whether any of your subscriptions auto-renew (especially following a free trial)

Whenever you sign up for anything, always read the details carefully so you know how frequently you’ll be charged and, crucially, whether the subscription renews on its own. It’s all too easy to subscribe to something you only need once, completely forget about it, and wind up losing money on an automatic renewal. These are also referred to as Continuous Payment Authorities, or CPAs.

This is especially worth keeping in mind if you’re trying to take advantage of a free or discounted trial on a particular service. Even when a free trial is offered, you may well be asked for your card information anyway. This almost always means that the subscription will renew automatically. If you don’t cancel in time, they’ll start charging you after the trial period ends.

Sometimes, these retailers will email you to remind you that your trial is ending so that you have time to cancel if you want. Just as often, however, they’ll stay quiet and you could end up being charged for subsequent months without noticing, so don’t get caught out, and remember to write the dates that trial periods end in your diary so you can cancel them if you want to.

Cancelling a CPA can be as straightforward as asking your card provider to stop making the payment each month. However, often you’ll have to go directly to the retailer, and they may take their time responding to a cancellation request. For this reason, it’s good to cancel a few days before the trial period is due to finish.

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Make a renewal calendar

A calendar is a simple and effective way of staying on top of all your subscriptions. Simply adding the renewal date for the services you use and checking it regularly can help you keep track of your outgoings and give you enough time to cancel in advance of a payment being made. You could use an actual calendar, a digital one, or set up regular reminders on your phone.

See if you can buy goods cheaper locally

There are plenty of subscription services that made sense during lockdown, but now that life has returned to normal, they could be costing you more than they should.

Subscription services where you receive a recipe and ingredients for a new dish or cocktail each month are very popular, but can also lean on the expensive side. If you’re keen to keep the hobby going but think you might be paying too much on a subscription, why not look up some new recipes yourself and add the ingredients to your grocery list? It will probably come out much cheaper overall.

Don’t be afraid to ask for refunds

You might think that there’s nothing that can be done if you’ve already been charged for a subscription that you don’t want or use, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You’d be surprised at how many places will be willing to refund you for a month’s payment, particularly if it’s something that they can easily cancel on the spot, like a digital service. A polite email or phone call done promptly after you’ve been charged is sometimes all that’s needed – it never hurts to ask.