Discretionary Savings: 4 Steps to Reviewing Your Subscription-Based Purchases
Each year, along with dental cleanings, physicals and paying your taxes, you should conduct a discretionary savings audit. It's pretty easy to forget about subscription-based charges that continue to draw from your account even if you no longer use the service - and you want to know where your money's going!
These charges can come from things like entertainment subscriptions with automatic renewals you didn't know about or monthly fees that may have been tacked on without you noticing. Even purchasing a new filter for your refrigerator's water system can come with an automatic filter replacement plan.
An annual audit is right for you if you're looking for discretionary savings help. Here are four steps to help you get started reviewing your subscription-based purchases.
1. List Your Spending Accounts
You want your audit to be as thorough as possible so you can save the most amount of money. Make a list of each of your active spending accounts and include the accounts connected to your checking, savings or credit card accounts.
2. Scroll Through Transactions
For each account, scroll through one month's worth of transactions. This step is easier if you print out your last statement and get a highlighter. You're looking for unidentifiable transactions – highlight or write down any you find including the name of the transaction, how much it was for and the date it was withdrawn. Then look back one more month to see if the same transaction and cost was charged around the same date. Subscriptions tend to charge the same amount month to month, which is how you can easily identify them.
3. Contact the Merchant or Credit Company
You may need to play detective when finding out who to contact about charges. Here are tips to get started:
- Find a number – some subscription-based transactions actually put a 1-800 number within the name of the transaction or in its description. Use this number!
- Call your credit card company – if the transaction was through your credit card, you can call your credit card company using the number on the back of your card and ask them for help to identify where the charge came from.
- Look for clues– go to your card transactions and look at surrounding purchases. Were there any from a source that may have tacked on an extra charge? Common ones include electronic companies or products purchased from television shows.
4. Dispute the Charges
Once you find out who to call, go ahead and call them. Ask to speak to customer service, and tell them the transaction information. They can help you identify what you purchased and if it's recurring. If it's a recurring payment you never wanted, don't be afraid to tell them you never signed up. Ask for a full refund of what's been charged on your account.
5. Use Extra Cash Wisely
You've hopefully uncovered extra monthly savings. Now is the time to divert those finances to other priority expenses such as retirement savings, travel savings, your child's sports fees or any other expense you didn't have the money for before.
Conducting a discretionary savings audit should be done annually. You'll want to set up an automatic reminder on your calendar or smartphone. By scheduling it around the same time each year, it will become a smart money habit in no time.