LOS ANGELES -- If I asked you what you spend each year on the various online, cellphone, TV and magazine subscriptions, could you quote me the number?
After a particularly nasty experience trying to extract myself from one of the many online services I'm beholden to, I decided to sit down and find out for myself.
Would you believe it tops $7,000 yearly?
I've got an exhaustive collection of recurring payments -- Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vimeo Plus, JibJab, Spotify -- along with Verizon for cable, phone and Internet -- and they all expire on different days. What if I wanted to cancel one, without having to spring for the next month? How to keep track of them?
That was my motivation when I noticed that the music instruction site Artistworks had just billed me $90 for a second 3 months of service. Great programming, but I didn't use it enough to warrant the second cycle, so I called and asked to cancel, some 24 hours after I saw the notice show up on my credit card.
The response: too late, you've already been charged. The call should have been placed earlier.
Recurring charges rarely notify you ahead of time before they charge your card -- they give you the date when you sign up, but who remembers?
Signing up is easy -- canceling is hard. This was best illustrated when a former AOL staffer recorded his conversation with a Comcast rep who wouldn't accept his request to cancel, and posted it online.
So I decided I had to take action, and get control of my subscriptions.
I reached out on social media to see if anyone had any suggestions for apps or websites to do this. The number one response -- get ready for this -- old fashioned pen and paper, or word doc or spreadsheet.
Rule #1: Sit down and find out how many of these are dinging your card every month.
Rule #2: Make careful note of your anniversary date of the subscription.
Rule #3: Mark these on a calendar. Use the Google, Apple or any of the free calendars available online.
Finally, if you missed the recurring charge date, don't want to paid for the entire period again and the web service has refused your request, there's always one last resort -- call your credit card company and dispute the charge. They usually err on the side of the consumer and will take off the charge.
Let me know how you fare. Look for me on Twitter, where I'm@Jeffersongraham.