There are many obvious ways that our efforts to save money and practice good financial habits can be sabotaged.  High interest rates, late fees and even the opportunity costs of not investing and/or saving adequately are among them. But there are other subtle little bank balance busters that go unspoken in media on household money management.   One of them is unwanted memberships and subscriptions from un-cancelled  free trial or introductory periods.

In a consumerist culture like ours it can be hard to make a budget and stick with it.  It takes an enormous amount of disciple to resist the incessant barrage of temptations that surround us almost every moment of every day, to keep spending money.  One of the ways that savvy companies tempt us to put our guard down and hopefully spend money (we don’t have to spare) is the “free trial offer”.  Trial offers can last days or even several weeks but the key is to obtain our credit card and contact information to allow us this temporary access to services and information for free.

The words “free” and “no risk” are a great way to peak interest in a product or service.  Who doesn’t want something for free if they can get it and it can be of benefit to them?  But we also know that there is usually a catch: that free trial will come with some expectation upon us to do something or give something up at some point.  It can be referrals, which businesses often find even more valuable than a one-time sale, or the sale itself – subscription or membership.  Not to mention that once we willingly provide our personal details the company has gained the ability to continue to market itself to us.

The problem with trial periods – for the consumer, at least – is that it can be difficult to remember to cancel on time.  Many people take advantage of these offers with the intention of cancelling before it’s over.  If you forget to cancel a trial membership or subscription you end up paying for something you don’t want, and if you don’t catch on for weeks or even months there is the potential for a substantial financial loss to you.  Companies have different rules regarding canceling a subscription after the trial period has expired.  Some companies will reimburse all of the subscription rate if you cancel within a day or two of the first charge; others will prorate the reimbursement based on how many days are left in the subscription.  Others disallow reimbursement of funds but will cancel charges as of the next billing cycle.

Obviously there are ways to try to prevent this mistake from happening, like adding the last day of the trial period to your calendar, but of course the easiest way to avoid the problem is to not sign up for trial periods at all.  There are times when you need to utilize a service but only for a short period of time to accomplish a specific goal. This is when trial periods are most useful and sensible.  What you want to avoid is failing to discontinue a trial period for something you never even used or didn’t find beneficial anyway.

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