It seems that every app nowadays is trying to weasel its way into a subscription on your credit card. It’s tough to keep track of where all your money is going, even if you use our tips to manage online subscriptions.
While there are plenty of premium subscription-based services worth paying for, like Amazon Prime (which has so many benefits that people ignore some!) and cloud backup providers, there are plenty more that you really don’t need. Here are some popular paid services that you can drop from your subscription list and replace with free options.
Let’s start with a recent one. Evernote just announced that they are increasing the price of their Plus and Premium plans, as well as limiting the free Basic plan to only two devices. While Evernote is still a great app, a limit of two devices is really crippling if you need your notes on a computer, phone, and tablet. Even if you were paying for Evernote before, a jump to $35/year for Plus or $70/year for Premium is a lot to pay for taking notes.
The good news is that Microsoft OneNote is an awesome alternative to Evernote, and it’s totally free. You can use OneNote on your Windows or Mac desktop, along with the web app for other devices. If you’re interested, Microsoft has provided an Evernote-to-OneNote migration tool that makes it easy to switch. We’ve also written a complete guide on how to migrate to OneNote if you need more help.
If you’re an Apple person and prefer a more Apple-centric alternative, switching from Evernote to Apple Notes is quick and easy, as well. Both OneNote and Apple Notes allow you to work offline and don’t limit your upload rate like Evernote’s free plan, so there’s no reason to stay on that restrictive setup.
Dropbox / Google Drive / OneDrive Pro
While all the major cloud storage providers provide some free space, you’ll need to pay to get a larger amount. Prices for this vary — Dropbox’s Pro plan is $99/year for a terabyte of space, while Google Drive is $2/month for 100 GB and OneDrive is $2/month for 50 GB.
Cloud storage is great, but in all likelihood, you probably don’t need to pay for more of it. Google Drive gives you 15 GB for free, Dropbox provides 2 GB, and OneDrive dishes out 5 GB (15 GB if you opted out of their ridiculous space cut). If you combine these services and follow our guide to getting the most free space, you’ll have a good chunk of storage to use without paying.
I've almost exhausted my 17GB on Dropbox. I need people to refer for extra free space. I can't think of anyone without Dropbox these days.
— Lebo Mokwena (@LeboMokwena) July 6, 2016
To help you keep track of everything, try keeping one type of file in each services. You could keep pictures in Dropbox, documents in OneDrive, and music in Google Drive, for example. It leads to more apps being installed on your devices, but that’s a small inconvenience for saving money. You can also use cloud storage managers to keep tabs on everything when using multiple services.
If the big three services aren’t enough for you, don’t forget about alternative providers. Box will give you 10 GB for free, MEGA provides a whopping 50 GB, and iDrive gets you another 5 GB. That doesn’t even take into account self-hosted cloud storage that you can set up on your own!
Office 365 is a smarter alternative to buying Office 2016 outright, but it’s still a subscription you can cut out. While Office 365 does provide benefits aside from Office, such as 1 TB of OneDrive space (which alleviates the cloud storage cost above), you’ll be just fine without it.
Office Online is completely free and brings many of Word’s most-used features to your browser. Anyone can use Office Online for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more without cost. Unless you’re in a business environment where you need the advanced features of Word or other apps, you won’t have any issue with the Web versions.
If you prefer to use a desktop app for Office, LibreOffice is a completely free alternative that goes toe-to-toe with MS Office. Don’t be stuck thinking that you have to pay for Office!
YouTube Red gives you premium access to YouTube — stripping out the ads, allowing you to download videos for offline viewing, and providing access to all-new YouTube original shows (which we’ve found to be pretty mediocre). However, the $10/month cost is hard to justify unless you’re the most dedicated of YouTube viewers.
After YouTube Red’s launch, Joel took a look at whether Red is really worth the money, coming to the conclusion that unless you use the mobile apps all the time, hate the ads, and want to watch the original content, it’s not worth paying for. Paying $10/month to remove ads is a waste for the casual YouTube viewer, and if you’re ignoring the premium content, why pay for it?
The only exception here is that YouTube Red and Google Play Music come bundled, so if you’re an Android user and pick Google Play Music as your streaming service, YouTube Red is just a bonus.
Any Pro Antivirus
Though it’s common advice, it’s worth reiterating that you still need to be running an antivirus on Windows. There are plenty of free internet security suites that provide all the protection you need, and though they may try to sell you their paid version, you don’t have to upgrade.
Pro antivirus suites, such as Avast and AVG, advertise features like “system cleanup,” “safe shopping,” and email spam protection that are easily found in other free tools. The crucial part of having an antivirus is the real-time protection, which all reputable free solutions provide. You’ll probably have to put up with a few nagging screens on a free antivirus, but that’s no big deal.
Premium Password Managers
Everyone really should be using a password manager — they take the task of memorizing safe passwords out of your hands and give it to a secure service. However, you can avoid the costs associated with a premium manager.
1Password has no free tier, costing $5/month for a family subscription. Dashlane Premium costs $40/year, and LastPass Premium is $12/year. The good news is that the free tiers of Dashlane and LastPass should be enough for most people. The free editions limit you to one device (so you can use it on Windows, but not on your iPhone), so if you don’t have a smartphone and just want to manage passwords on your desktop, go with Dashlane or LastPass free.
If you need multi-device syncing, LastPass Premium is your best bet. While $12/year is more expensive than free, a dollar a month to keep your online life secure is one charge worth paying for. Just make sure that you actually need it!
Everyone can learn a different language, and you don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to get there. If you’re looking to reap the hidden benefits of learning a new language, don’t pay $180 for a year of Rosetta Stone. You can get an excellent start on learning a new language with free tools.
Pokémon Go? No thanks, I'll get back to my Duolingo and Memrise. French and Spanish are way more interesting.
— Cathy Zhang (@cathy1228) July 17, 2016
Duolingo is an amazing tool for building vocabulary and is completely free; paired with Memrise, you can get a solid foundation in a new language on the desktop or on the go with mobile apps. You can even get clever and work on learning a new language just by browsing the web.
Pretty much every music service these days carries a free and premium plan; Pandora is no exception. While other services allow you to browse a massive catalog and play whatever you’d like, Pandora is built solely around radio.
Even if you’re a huge Pandora fan, Pandora One, at $5/month or $55/year, is just not worth the cost. While it does strip out the ads, the only other real benefits of One are fewer timeouts during playback (which probably rarely bother you anyway) and more skips, which you might not even use in a “set it and leave it” situation.
Pandora One was just a waste of my money. "Congratulations, you now have 6 extra skips per day and no ads" THAT'S IT?!?! ?????
— Tiff (@tiffany123700) July 16, 2015
If you’re going to spend money on a music subscription, it makes more sense to choose between Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music — not only do they all include radio and other cool features, but you’ll also be able to play any song you want at any time.
This one isn’t a subscription, but it’s still worth mentioning. SnagIt is a great tool for capturing screenshots, but a $50 price point for the software is insane. Unless you spend all day taking and editing screenshots using specific SnagIt features, you’ll do just fine with a free screenshot tool.
Thankfully, there are all sorts of screenshot utilities ranging from basic to full-featured. The Snipping Tool built into Windows is great for simple grabs, Greenshot is a solid choice, and PicPick is a full-featured tool, complete with an editor.
No matter which one you use, follow our tips for taking the perfect screenshot to make yours look better!
What Other Apps Are Superfluous?
Clearly, there are a lot of apps that just aren’t worth the cost. Of course, different people have different needs, so there might be an app here that you feel is worth your payment — that’s fine! Just know that there are free alternatives to nearly every piece of software, and using them can save you a whole lot of money over time.
Which apps do you think are worth paying for, and which just seem like an extra unneeded expense? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credits:kiosk on wall street by Anton Havelaar via Shutterstock