The Upside to Subscriptions

I remember the days of paying $300 for a piece of software. That $300 was a one-time fee, and you’d get even get a real box and CD-ROM. That piece of software might generate a decade of utility before it’s worthless. Software updates would be frequent.

And now, most of the services I use are subscription-based. I pay for them monthly or yearly at a discount. The only exception is my beloved Omnifocus, though I do pay for an upgrade every 5 years (my back of the envelope calculations say that I’ve paid a dollar or two per month for this life changing app).

There are some who argue that subscription based services are irritating and that the trend could be expensive for consumers. I have a different take.

For me, subscriptions can be more expensive, but back in the day where software came with a one-time fee, I bought a lot more software. Now, I’m pretty considerate about what I decide to spend money on. I think about the alternatives before starting a monthly subscription. And with free trials (or being able to cancel after a month), I can say that it’s probably less costly to use something based on a subscription.

I think it’s because there are many more ways to accomplish computer-related tasks these days. Even the act of keeping track of subscriptions. I could use Excel, Google Sheets, or Airtable. I can decide if the subscription fee for Airtable makes sense given the extra features and workflows it gives me over a traditional spreadsheet.

And when the year begins, I can look over all my subscriptions and cut ones that weren’t that useful to me. This act in and of itself is cleansing but also educational; I’ve learned that I spend a lot on stuff that generates relatively low utility, and this has caused me to think twice or even thrice before starting a trial of something new.

The downside, of course, is forgetting that you’ve subscribed to something until you’ve shelled out hundreds of dollars for it over the years. Keep a spreadsheet.