The 24 Days of Blogging Day 2: By a thousand cuts


I received an email yesterday inviting me to “save” money on my Spotify account by paying a year ahead of time instead of my monthly payment.  I love Spotify,  it has transformed my music listening by giving me access to a virtually unlimited catalog and good curation tools, and I will most likely take advantage of their “generous” offer to save $20, but it called to mind the huge transformation to personal finance that the digital age has “generously” given us.

Apart from basic utilities (being generous to include cable and cell phone in this list…and don’t get me talking about storage!) I pay a monthly fee to the following services

  • Spotify
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Mubi (an independent movie service)
  • MoviePass (probably will write about this later)

I’m sure that my list is not unique, and that others may have longer lists.   All of these payments are tied to my credit card, so aside from my monthly review of the bill (which isn’t all that careful) I never think about them. I have carried services that I no longer use for years before I took the (often onerous) steps to cancel them.  I suspect I’m not unique in this as well.

I’m not criticizing these services, I use all of them regularly (though I wonder at times if I need both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video), nor am I turning curmudgeon about the cost and complexity of modern living compared to my analog youth.  However, I can’t help but note that we are moving from an ownership society to a rental society.

A good example of this is that staple of digital life, Microsoft Office.  When I was a digital youngster, Office was a purchase.  It was expensive, but it was yours (one might argue that based on user agreements, it was never as clearly a possession as we thought, but it felt that way).  About five years ago, Microsoft decided to switch to a complete subscription model.  Now, one could argue that that this actually was a superior model for users.  The software was kept current automatically and could be shared over several machines and platforms (which was always a problem with the limited use disks).  The cost was approximately the same as one would pay to use and update office at a reasonable pace, and users also have access to OneDrive, a cloud storage service.  However, I no longer “own” Office, I rent it, and my payments are tied to my credit card to assure that I will continue to rent it unless I go out of my way (far out of my way) to cancel.

Again, I think there is value to this system, but my fear is that without regular examination (and reflection) we run the risk of becoming tenant farmers in a new feudal system, owing more and more of our existence to the Company Store.

So I propose that we all start to celebrate a “Digital Subscription Liberation Day.”  Once a year (or more often) make a list of all services and subscriptions and decide whether or not they ate used enough to merit the yearly (not the monthly) cost.  For the ones that don’t make the cut, we dedicate a day to sever these leeches.  The end of 2017 is as good a time as any; get out those scissors!

As always, I welcome your comments


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Date: Saturday, 2. December 2017 16:29
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