Introductory free trials and ultra-low teaser rates can be an inexpensive way to sample products and services, but they can also lead to ongoing monthly expenses that chew away at personal finances.
That's been on my mind, because the three free months of SiriusXM satellite radio that came with a car I purchased just came to an end.
I'll tell you how I ended up paying $6.62 monthly for Sirius — half the "special early bird discount" the company first offered to me, and less than a third of what my wife had been paying — but first, here's why it matters.
It's easy to get seduced by all the subscription products that can come right to your door or your streaming device. We all make choices about what we value enough to spend money on, but people can also end up paying for increasingly costly things, month after month, because of inattention and inertia.
If you have a vehicle, you can pay monthly or annually for satellite radio, car washes, roadside assistance, nitrogen for your tires, and much more. In your home, you can subscribe to delivered meal kits, shaving supplies, dog toys, bottles of wine, fresh fruit — nearly anything you can think of.
Add some streaming video services and some premium cable channels and before you know it, you're looking at a large, expensive list of recurring monthly bills.
This is the result of a decades-long trend toward renting or subscribing — "sharing" as some absurdly call it — to an ever-growing list of luxury goods and services. Not that having a Netflix subscription or a meal kit delivery plan is particularly luxurious, but those things aren't necessities.
So, back to SiriusXM, and saving money. For me, satellite radio is an example of a service I'm willing to pay for at one price, but not another. And it's a great example of how you can end up paying less, when you're willing to walk away if the price is too high.
I knew that my wife was paying about $21 monthly for a SiriusXM subscription, and that's more than $250 a year. I wasn't willing to pay that much, but as the end of my free trial approached, SiriusXM offered me an "early bird discount offer" priced at $158.63, including taxes and fees, for 12 months of "all access" service.
I ignored that offer.
Next came another offer, of $131.01 for a year of "select" service. I ignored that offer as well.
Then came a "limited time" offer — the same service, but for $79.40 a year. That's $6.62 per month, a price I was willing to pay for an entertainment service I could cancel at any time without penalty.
So, by waiting I ended up paying half the price I would have been charged, had I quickly signed up.
Next, I emailed my wife, and she called SiriusXM, and in minutes she cut her monthly bill in half. It turned out they had an option called "Mostly Music" with all the service she wanted, which cost $120 less over the course of a year.
As I've found repeatedly, whether it's credit card fees, cable bills, cell phone plans, streaming services and more, there's usually money to be saved simply by calling and telling the company you'd like to pay less. You may get a discount, or learn they've had a better deal all along that you didn't know about.
One tried and true way to find out the best possible deal on a service is to cancel it, and see what they offer you to come back.