Subscription services silently eat your wallet
It took me a while to realize how much I had spent in small amounts over the past few years. It all started with CrashPlan, which I’ve considered indispensable for ages now. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to use a computer without a solid backup plan in place, and this service not only gives me peace of mind, but also allows me to dig up copies of my files on my machines when I am far from them. It costs $5 (about Rs. 325) per month for a single machine, but I need the multi-PC family plan which costs a bit more guilt-free $12.50 (about Rs. 812) per month, with a annual commitment. Thankfully, the company offered discounted renewals from time to time, so I can rest assured that I paid “only” $145 (around Rs. 8,900 at the time) for the next two years.
Since I paid in advance, it doesn’t mentally count as a recurring expense. If I were to renew today at the regular price, I would probably think very hard about whether I could live without it. A few hundred rupees a month for unlimited backups doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time – and I’m effectively stuck now: I have to keep paying, whatever the rate, if I don’t want all my backups on CrashPlan’s servers are deleted.
Then there is Microsoft Office. It used to be impossible to imagine a PC without Office installed, but that was in the carefree days when hacking was the norm and no one considered it a bad thing. Today, the seemingly low figure of Rs. 420 per month for five PCs, and the added benefits of 1TB of cloud storage and full smartphone and tablet apps make it tempting to take the plunge. If you pay for a year upfront, it comes down to Rs. 4,200. There is also a single PC option for Rs. 330 per month or Rs. 3,300 per year, but that makes the plan look like the more expensive makes more sense.
Along the same lines, it’s hard to live without enterprise licenses (or piracy) for things like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Sure, they’re overkill for pretty much everything I would need to do, but they’re easy to use and more than that, it’s fun to just mess around. Do I have to pay Rs. 2,700 per month (with an annual commitment) just for the occasional mess? No chance. Even Rs. 500 per month for just Photoshop and Lightroom feels bad. This is a safe avoided indulgence. I will pay for one month of service if and when I have a project that requires one of these programs. It seems intuitive to pay less per month for a year, but that would be a waste.
Security is a priority for me, and while I’ve been happy with free Microsoft Security Essentials and an assortment of tools like Spybot, I’ve recently wondered if monthly subscriptions are cheap enough that the cost doesn’t matter. Symantec has just introduced Norton Security in India, at an official price of Rs. 2,999 per year for up to five devices (Rs. 1,399 for those who only need one machine covered). The introductory half offer for the first year makes it even more tempting, and if I cough up Rs. 3,999 right now, I have three years of cover. Too beautiful to deprive yourself of it? Symantec must hope we all think so.
As a heavy iPhone and iPad user, the free 5GB of iCloud storage just isn’t enough for device backups. iCloud Photo Library also takes up a ton of space. Luckily, with the recent price drop, I’m only paying Rs. 65 per month for 50GB which doesn’t feel too bad. On the other hand, my Apple Music trial will end soon and I’m not sure if I’ll pay the Rs. 120 per month it will cost to maintain it. It’s nice to have, but I haven’t used it much in three months.
In terms of entertainment though, I’d probably jump on board with Netflix if it launched here, or any equivalent if it seemed to offer a good enough selection. I’m glad that at least that temptation is far on the horizon.
I’m lucky to have signed up for a Google Apps account when they were still free. Otherwise, I would pay Rs. 150 per user per month. However, I pay $1.99 (around Rs 129) per month for additional Google account storage for an old Gmail account. Between the iCloud, Google Drive, and OneDrive storage I have now, I’m glad I didn’t start using Dropbox enough to need more space, as it would cost $9.99 (about Rs. 649) per month.
In terms of miscellaneous expenses, I also pay around Rs. 100 per month for a handful of domains; mostly useless other than for vanity. Flipkart First costs Rs. 500 per year but I haven’t jumped on it yet. If Amazon Prime jumps in here with content streaming as part of the package, I might consider that very seriously.
Then of course there’s the Rs. 1,500 per month I pay for an extremely slow home broadband connection, and Rs. 450 per month for a measly 2GB of 3G data, on top of my basic plan and my use. I’m sure I’ll blow more when my carrier starts offering 4G.
Besides how much each service costs, I need to better track which ones charge per month, which ones automatically renew each year, and which ones I paid for several years in advance. Storage costs have dropped recently, and those who haven’t been paying attention might find that they can now get what they need with a lower cost level of service.
So how much does all this represent? Services that I deem essential cost me around Rs. 1,200 per month – and that’s only because I chose to pay in advance whenever possible. Paying month to month for all those and indulgences that I currently have limited myself to would increase that amount to more rupees. 5,000 per month. Connectivity adds nearly Rs. 2,000 to the bill.
This may not seem like much to many people, but if families are eliminating legumes and vegetables from the foods they cook and serve, how can anyone justify paying so much for software or services? Some of these subscriptions replace huge one-time costs (or hacks), but a growing number are for add-ons, upgrades, and things that weren’t needed before, but that we can no longer afford. move on once we got used to it. . The catch is that if we don’t keep an eye on our spending now, when it’s still relatively low, the costs could keep piling up.
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