Households spending £170 on unused subscriptions

22nd June 2022

A third (33%) of households have multiple individual memberships for the same streaming service, when they could be saving money by paying for one household membership instead, according to research from comparethemarket.com.

The research found that households spend £50 on average each month on paid-for subscriptions, the equivalent of £600 a year, with 32% spending as much as £50 to £300 a month.

Depending on the providers’ terms and conditions, paying for one membership could also apply to joining up with family or friends outside your household for a subscription service, as almost two-fifths (39%) say they do not share subscriptions with close family or friends to save money.

Cutting down on infrequently used or forgotten subscriptions is another way households could make savings – the research found that nearly one in two households (49%) spend money on unused subscriptions, wasting on average £14 a month, the equivalent of almost £170 a year.

Of those who keep unused or infrequently used subscriptions, nearly half (48%) keep them just in case they ever use them again, close to a fifth (19%) say it’s too much hassle to cancel, and 15% feel they do not have the time to go through their finances and cancel unused ones.

Popularity boomed for online subscriptions over the past two years, with more than three-quarters (76%) of UK households having signed up for at least one subscription since the pandemic began. However, with the rising cost of living, many are now reviewing their expenditures and almost half of households (48%) say they are likely to cancel at least one subscription in the next few months. Cancelling or spending money on unused subscriptions varies significantly by age; half of adults under the age of 34 (50%) are likely to cancel and are wasting the equivalent of £192 a year (£16 a month on average) on unused services. Whereas under a third (29%) of people aged over 55 are planning to cancel unused subscriptions and are wasting an average of £84 each year (£7 a month).

At a time when household finances are being squeezed, the research also revealed that some companies are not making it easy for people to cancel memberships when needed. Free trials are a beneficial way to test a service and 65% of people have signed up for at least one in the past 12 months. This figure is highest among young people, with 72% of those aged between 16-34 having signed up; this drops to only 28% for those aged over 55. However, over a fifth (22%) found it difficult to cancel their subscription at the end of the free trial. When asked whether they were warned about the free trial ending and being automatically renewed, 46% said they were not.

Alex Hasty, director at comparethemarket.com said “You can get a subscription for just about anything now, with many people having signed up during lockdown seeking access to new forms of entertainment. However, at a time when household finances are being squeezed significantly, our research shows that people are now wasting hundreds of pounds a year on services they’re not using regularly or by having multiple accounts amongst family and friends unnecessarily.”