The subscription trap

More and more products are sold by method of subscription. Let’s take a look at why that might be a bad deal for someone like you, and certainly me.

Conclusion

Think before you buy, especially when it comes to recurring costs such as subscriptions.

Buy what you need and repair what you can

 

Is it a problem?

Remember the old days? Back when you bought a cd, a cassette or even an lp when you wanted to listen to new music. Back then you also had to walk to the store to buy razors, underpants and socks… oh the cruelty! Doing that means less time for sending a snap, write an update on Facebook or just walk around looking cool. Luckily this problem has now been solved with the ever increasing possibility of subscriptions. You can buy razors , music and, I kid you not, underpants as subscriptions. Pretty soon you can get fridges that check the contents of itself and order new food when it runs out. Automation is amazing and just think of all the chores and all the hassle you can get rid off. Instead you could spend your time at work in order to make money with which to buy this amazing automation of your life. Is there anything wrong with this you might ask, is this a problem for me?

 

Beware! It’s a trap!

 

It is a problem!

If I seemed a little sarcastic it’s because I absolutely was. I find it amazing that deals such as these exist and that people actually find them useful and good. Buying things at subscription deals should only apply to things you absolutely use on a regular basis. On top of that the deal should make sense. Buying razors by subscription might mean you buy more razors than you need and the same goes for underpants and socks. I would never buy this as a subscription. I can understand people who listen to a lot of music or just get a lot of enjoyment from the rare times they do, might want to pay for a subscription to something along the lines of Spotify. I simply don’t use it enough that I consider it a must have and therefore I simply use the free versions. What might seem cheap because you only look at the price per month might be really expensive in the long run. When subscribing you are basically signing a contract saying, ‘I will pay you x amount of dollars/kroner/pounds/euro each month regardless of how much I use your service or product’. Is this a good or bad deal?

 

Services as subscription

Don’t get me wrong, a subscription can be a very good deal for you sometimes, but it can also be an incredibly bad deal. This means due diligence and critical thinking must be applied. For instance having some kind of medical insurance, I know the need varies across the globe, might be a really good deal and this most often comes as a subscription. You pay monthly/quarterly/yearly, and actually hope that it will end up being a bad deal = not having to use it, and this gives you somewhat peace of mind. If you end up having to use it, what you paid as part of the subscription oftentimes will be much lower than if you had to pay when actually needing the service. If you love listening to music and this simply lifts your spirit on a daily basis, having a subscription for something like Spotify might be really good deal. The way I see it, subscriptions most often makes sense when it comes to services.

 

Physical products as subscriptions

A subscription for physical products on the other hand are a little different. If it was to make sense, not just economically but also environmentally, the thing in question should be replaced when it no longer works and in a way that ensures it either can be recycled or find uses in other ways. Solving these issues are difficult. How would a company operating from a subscription model know when your product no longer works? Does a standard rate apply? What if I need 4 of the thing a year but someone else needs 8 how does the subscription take this into account? Most often a subscription for physical items means replacing a still operational or working thing with a new and shiny one. If you hadn’t had the subscription you wouldn’t have replaced it because it still works just fine. This is wrong to me on a lot of levels but if we keep within the confines of this blog it is simply a bad deal in economic terms.

 

A simple solution

A simple solution is to not buy products via subscriptions and perhaps learning how to prolong their usage time or lifetime. In some instances this can’t be avoided of course, but in the case of buying physical products it most often can. I suppose it could be summed up rather easily; Buy what you need and repair what you can.

In the instance of the razorblades I actually have a recommendation, it is called Razorpit(UK) Razorpit(US) (referral links). I have used this product for a number of years now and it has saved me a lot of money. I don’t know about where you live, but in my country razorblades are expensive! The product is described as sharpening the blades, but as I’ve understood it, this is not what it does. Instead of keeping the blades sharp it helps to remove small hairs and soap/foam leftovers, which is what makes the blade feel dull rather quickly. The blades actually stay sharp for a long time, since shaving hair isn’t really that big of a deal. Anyway that was this weeks recommendation, if you want to read more about the product, check out the companys website https://www.razorpit.com.

 

Beware the automation

Automation can be both the most amazing thing as well as the opposite. Many things in our society today are automated and many of them makes perfect sense, but there are also issues to beware of. Earlier I quickly mentioned the idea of a fridge capable of filling itself as needed. This seems a nightmare to me and it involves a lot of automation. For one it needs to be able to spend money on its own [insert scream!]. I’m not entirely sure I find that a compelling thought. It means the fridge has access to my money, and is somehow connected to the internet, making it possible to hack and thereby steal my money. This is the technical aspect of the automation proces. Another deals more with a understanding and connectedness to the world, lacking a better term. Already a lot of us acquire our food by selecting it from racks or counters at a supermarket. It means we no longer have the same connection as in the old times to where food comes from. It is simply there for us to take and pay for. Automating the acquiring of said food removes us even further from where food comes from and the processing. I’m not saying this is inherently wrong, nor am I saying that it by definition will have major impact on us, but it might. I for one am not comfortable being cut off from the proces of how things work and especially where my food comes from. Shopping in a supermarket is convenient but on a lot of levels it also feels wrong to me. If I look at the ingredients in most of the ‘food’ I can buy in the supermarket, I don’t know or understand what it is. Being removed even further from this is not something I am supportive of.

Automation can be a good thing but it also takes one further away from the source as well as the proces. For some things and services this seems a really good idea and a practically viable one too, but for others I would argue the opposite. My advice in this regard would simply be to be aware and consider why it is you turn on the automation button for certain aspects of your life, and whether this actually makes sense to you. Life should be lived intentionally and you should be in charge.

 

Conclusion

What I mean to say is simply that it is in your best interest to make wise choices, and in order to do so you need to understand the real price and the real value of things and services. Buying something as a subscription can be both a substantially better deal as well as a much worse one. Buying what you need and repairing what you can seems a good advice in this regard. Don’t just do what feels easiest but make choices about your spending and personal economics intentional. Take charge and make wise decisions. There is less luck involved in achieving than most of us seem to think.

 

As always comments are most welcome and I will do my best to answer all questions. You can follow or like the facebook page or follow frinans on twitter to get notified of new posts as well as interesting links and stories I stumble across. If you are interested in getting into Bitcoin you can sign up for Coinbase through my affiliate link, if you buy Bitcoin for a minimum of 100$, we both get a 10$ bonus. If you are interested in diversifying your investments further, then how about signing up for crowdlending through my Mintos affiliate link and gain an exclusive % on your investment.

May your savings rates be high and your returns be at the market average

/Sune

5 thoughts on “The subscription trap

  1. Sune, I highly agree with you on your take on subscriptions. They are dangerous because they are so simple and you quickly forget all about them. Plus many of the subscriptions people have, they can easily live without.

    I actually wrote a piece on subscriptions (from a slightly different angle) yesterday as well. It will be published in mid-October 🙂

    Onwards,
    Carl

  2. Hey,

    As for a razors, switch to wet shaving and Double-edge safety razor (DE razor) and cut expenses on cartridge razors. Blades last longer, cost cheap and skin benefits of lower irritation 🙂

    Best,
    Marius

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