Take aim at these monthly fees draining your bank account – Daily News

on Jan22
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This month we delve into the financial insights gained from the past year, anticipating a positive impact on our economic well-being in 2024.

After scrutinizing my finances in November and after the busiest tax season I can remember, I was surprised to find that my hard work hadn’t translated into the net income I expected.

I also discovered that I am not alone. A November 2023 poll by the University of Michigan revealed that 55% of respondents felt worse off financially compared with three years ago. This sentiment was echoed in many surveys, depicting hardworking Americans who think they are not reaping the benefits despite positive economic indicators.

Something is draining your accounts

I also found that one of the culprits of a smaller-than-expected bank balance was the insidious accumulation of the “monthlies” – seemingly inconspicuous subscriptions, charges and fees that stealthily chip away at our finances. It’s the $10 here and $40 there, which are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Initially, paying monthly or annual fees for certain services seems logical. We hope to save in the long run. Access to the latest technology, having information at our fingertips and enjoying the convenience of online ordering and delivery improves our quality of life.

But over time, it begs the question: Are we genuinely owning or just leasing our lifestyles? Our cards are continuously charged, and funds are automatically withdrawn from our bank accounts with no final payment.

Let’s look at the evolution of these costs to see how pervasive they have become. I’ve also included some tips for reviewing and canceling what may no longer be worth it.

Membership fees

Retailers like Costco or Amazon Prime promised savings or free shipping on daily purchases for members, but now, many other retailers have adopted similar models called “premium loyalty fees.” You must pay for the privilege of being their customer.

If you need to cancel a membership, there is no longer a need to call or write. You can usually log into the company website and click cancel.

If you login to Amazon, you can review and cancel unnecessary subscriptions on your Digital Services page. For example, when my niece stayed with us, I bought an Amazon Music membership and forgot to end the service.

Cloud-based software

The shift to the “cloud” was touted as a wise financial move for offices, replacing hefty upfront costs and annual upgrades for software with manageable monthly fees.

Our IT director refers to these ever-increasing fees as “cloud overhead.” I pay so much to our tax and accounting software company that I refer to them as my silent partner.

Many of my clients have become disenchanted with the cloud and are now switching back to desktop software with no monthly fees.

Streaming services

The so-called “cord-cutting” revolution traded cable for cost-effective streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. However, a new term, “streamflation,” has emerged to capture the rising costs of accessing movies and TV shows and the practice of bundling streaming channels, often surpassing the expense of traditional cable.

To cancel TV streaming services, try logging into your smart TV to see a list. We found four streaming stations we were paying for that we rarely watched, totaling $40 a month.

Phone and tablet apps

The proliferation of Apple and Google app fees is an expense that did not exist before smartphones. It was surprising to learn there are over 2 million Apple Apps.

You can go to settings on your phone or tablet to see apps you subscribe to. Just tap the cancel button to stop the charges.

Deliveries, doctors and Disneyland

The trend of subscription-based living extends beyond digital services. Local restaurants and grocers require a delivery subscription to services like Instacart or DoorDash. I canceled three restaurant delivery services through the apps. It was easy and made me consider how much we spent on food.

On the horizon, some of my doctors want to implement a monthly “concierge” fee. We already pay so much for premiums, deductibles and co-pays that it is difficult to cough up this additional monthly fee.

Automobile giants like Tesla and BMW have ventured into “microtransactions,” charging customers monthly for luxurious add-ons such as heated seats and autopilot features. So far, customers aren’t buying into this business model, and complaints have been numerous and loud.

The cost of leisure is also up. If you travel, securing affordable flights or bypassing TSA lines may require a membership. Are you old enough to remember when season tickets and amusement park passes were affordable?

What doesn’t make much financial sense is that we can be stuck owing regardless of whether we use a service. It is like paying for a gym membership but for everything.

California law

I also learned last fall that now is a great time to review your bank and credit card statements and make changes.

Online consumers in California now possess the legal right to end the charges with no hassle. Companies must facilitate this process through either a “prominently located direct link or button” on their websites or a preformatted email for immediate cancellation.

Interestingly, the impact of this California law extends far beyond the state’s borders. Its jurisdiction encompasses all companies with paying customers in California.

This ends the era of writing multiple correspondences and waiting on hold, making canceling services like memberships, paid apps, or meal delivery monthly fees easy.

We are fortunate to have all these choices, and how we spend our money is up to us.

However, we must weigh the long-term financial implications and balance convenience and entertainment with fiscal responsibility. The days of a one-time purchase seem to be fading.

Many of these additional costs were not part of our budget a few years ago, making it crucial for us to approach each fee with a discerning eye for our financial well-being.

Michelle Herting is a CPA who specializes in trust and estate taxes. She established her firm in 1992. She has a special interest in gift and tax planning and is the president of the Charitable Gift Planners of Inland Southern California.

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