Subscription Service Death Spiral

by Lisa T

My head spins just thinking about it. The list of video/audio/meditation/face cleansing subscription services out there is mind boggling. Worse, it's so easy to find yourself enslaved to monthly service fees that, by themselves seemed cheap enough, but taken all together are scavenging your budget. We've run into this issue as well, and we had to look at the cold hard facts of what we did and didn't use or need, then learn to let go in order to free ourselves. We're gonna break it down for you here, easily, so you can process for yourself what you do and don't need to be entertained.

QUALIFIED DO's

Netflix

This feels pretty easy. On the plane, train, in the BnB, or at home, sometimes you just gotta binge. Netflix is perfect for that and is priced in such a way that it won't break the bank. In fact, I find it a real value for the money. Movies, TV series (ones you know and ones you've never heard of), documentaries, Stevie Nicks...Netflix has it all. What's more, it's available in almost every country and we enjoy plugging in to explore the local flavor of Netflix in each country we visit. You can also download content to view on planes or trains that don't have WiFi or have limited bandwidth.

Spotify

I'm just a just music lover, period. What's more, I love a huge variety of music. Spotify offers a free version to stream and that's fine, but you don't get to download playlists and you don't get to just pick songs out of the air or skip around very much. The small monthly fee is worth it to me for those very reasons: downloading and song picking abilities. I have my own artists I follow as well as my own personal playlists, but the real gem in all this is Spotify's community, with playlists for every sort of musical taste imaginable. I love exploring the musical genres out there, and if you're a music lover, consider a subscription for traveling or just having around wherever you are.

Amazon Prime

There's the free delivery that is nice and yes, even on the road I get deliveries. But there's also the streaming music and streaming video that comes with it, and it's the streaming video I appreciate most. Rather than compete with Netflix, Prime's massive digital content is a complement to the Netflix offerings and I find myself switching back and forth constantly between the two.  I can't get Battlestar Gallactica or Otlander on Netflix, but I sure can on Prime (You haven't seen those?  Go do that now; you'll love it more than you think you will).

QUALIFIED DON'T's

Hulu

I loved Hulu in the States and was a subscriber, and there's your qualified answer: if you live in and travel mostly in the US, and you love Hulu, knock yourself out. Otherwise, know that Hulu is not available outside the US and US territories so consider putting that subscription on hold when you travel abroad.

Pandora

When Pandora was birthed, I thought heaven had come down to earth at last. Finally oh finally, a genome music project (literally) that allowed me to discover new music easily, one of my two great passions. The world had suddenly become a magical audio wonderland for me and one that fulfilled all my wildest dreams. Then I left the US...and (record scratch sound effect) there's the rub. Well, there are several rubs but that's a big one: if you don't live in the US don't even think about Pandora, it's doesn't exist anywhere else. There are other things like a smaller music library, a less robust community, limitations on how many times you can repeat Florence + the Machine (and it's clear to anyone with a brain that limiting Florence + the Machine should be a capital offense), etc. The bottom line is I stopped subscribing before I even left the US and went to Spotify's greener pastures.  However, if you love discovering new music and don't care to be the self-starter that Spotify requires, Pandora will let you passively discover plenty.

UNQUALIFIED MAYBE's

Audible

I really do love to have someone else read me a book while I walk or ride or lay on my arse. But I've also convinced myself that I can get lots of great books to read for free and can exercise that part of my brain far better by reading from my Kindle. So I do. But I will tell you that I have enjoyed every audio book I've ever gotten from Audible and so my personal choice aside, yours may be to let someone else read “Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret” to you. That's fine, we can all love Judy Blume in our own ways; she's big enough for all of us.

Scribd/Oyster/Amazon Kindle Unlimited

I don't subscribe to any of these anymore but I could if I let myself go crazy. I've tried each for free and the Kindle Unlimited seems to have the more robust library but they were all nice. I just can't justify the $9.99 or so price tag and most of the books I get are classics from Amazon, in the public domain and available to download for free. But that's me. If you're burning through books at a breakneck clip, one of these might be for you. The good news is, they each offer a free 30-day free trial so you have the time and luxury to pick your poison.

Apple Music

I chose Spotify for reasons that have already been expressed, so I've made my decision. However, I know a few folks who have gone over to Apple Music and enjoy the experience very much. Apple does win with exclusive offerings such as Taylor Swift and Chance the Rapper, but Spotify sports a far better social community and listener curated playlists, so it's up to you. I've made my choice and have no regrets but my Apple Music friends have no regrets either.

There are dozens of other monthly subscription services out there. HBOGo springs to mind immediately, but the basic point of the exercise that we did and encourage for you is, to recap: I listed what I really, really liked and wanted to have with me, noted those services that were just duplicates of others, performed side by side comparisons to see what worked and what didn't (especially geographically), and then I slimmed my subscriptions down to a manageable level and put money back in the bank. To the tune of about £100/$130 per month to be exact, and that frees this traveling band of gysies to explore other hobbies and interests. What are you spending monthly that you're not using to the fullest and what are your thoughts on subscription services you use? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section!