Looking to cut costs? It's time to trim your app subscriptions

/ 14 min read
Lee Nathan

There are a lot of facts and figures being thrown around about employment rates, interest rates, and inflation. Sometimes they’re shocking, sometimes they’re bland, but ultimately they’re mostly meaningless to the individual in their day-to-day lives.

What does matter is what it costs to feed your family, sleep under a roof, and fix your car. Anyone who isn’t already wealthy has been hit hard by the cost of living in the last couple of years.

It affects us personally and it impacts our businesses. There are two things you can do to regain control: earn more money or spend less. This article will teach you one way to do the latter.

Auditing your online subscriptions

One area in which can save money is by cleaning up and consolidating software subscriptions. Individuals may find that they’re spending hundreds every month on subscriptions they don’t need.

But for businesses that often pay per seat or user, the expenses can easily hit the thousands. That can be especially challenging for smaller businesses that are operating with extremely slim margins.

Let’s look at how your subscriptions can be tidied up.

1. Make a spreadsheet

Before you can do anything, you have to get organized. That means figuring out all of the services that you use and how you're paying for them.

If you're paying for them automatically with multiple accounts, you may need to do some detective work. There are apps to help you do that, but a quick review of your finances should be all you need.

Once you know where all of your payments are coming from and all the services you're using, then it’s time to make a list.

Start off by creating a spreadsheet in your app of choice. (Hint: Google Sheets is free and versatile.) Now create a table with the following columns:

  • Subscription: This is just the name of the subscription, like Evernote, for example.
  • Website: The URL of the service.
  • Annual Cost: Most services have a yearly discount. If you’re paying monthly, just multiply by 12.
  • Notes: Write a couple of sentences about how you use the service and why it’s important.

We've mocked up what this might look like, with a handful of common business, and personal, subscriptions.

(Source: Google Sheets)

Many of us pay monthly for services, which is great for additional flexibility, but if you're too trigger happy with subscribing to new tools, when you take a step back, the annual costs can be surprising.

And of course, add any other columns that you feel are relevant. You might even categorize apps between work and personal life, or set up tags like "essential" or "look for alternative".

2. Weigh the value of each tool

Now that you have a list of all of the services you're using, it's time to find out which ones are the most critical to your business. This will depend on things like how essential they are to your operations and how frequently you use them.

For instance, if your business deals with multiple contracts, proposals, or legal documents, then Papersign is a critical piece of software. But if you're paying for Microsoft 365 only to create occasional documents, then maybe you should think about replacing it with Google Docs.

Look at your spreadsheet, and manually sort each item on the list according to how critical it is for your business. There are more sophisticated ways to do this, but at this point, we're trying to use less software, not more!

(Source: Google Sheets)

3. Consider the features you use the most

Now that you know which software is most important and valuable to you, it's time to drill down and analyze each one individually. Doing so only requires a basic text editor.

Make a list of every piece of software from your spreadsheet. (You should be able to copy and paste it.) All you need here are the names. Under the name of each piece of software that you're using, create a bullet list of all of the features that you use the most from each item.

(Source: Apple Notes)

The process may be kind of tedious. But it will help give you a clearer picture of exactly how you're using each program. By the time you're done, you may find that some of the software that you're using isn't actually as important as you thought. And you may find it's worth moving further down your spreadsheet.

Start pruning

Now that you have a bird's-eye view of the applications that your business uses, you can start pruning right away. Anything in your spreadsheet that you're paying for and isn't providing its worth to you or your business can probably be safely trimmed.

For the rest of it, think in terms of kitchen gadgets. If you eat raw shelled nuts every day, a solid nutcracker is an important thing to have in your kitchen drawer. Otherwise, it's a one-use item that's just taking up space. At the other end of the spectrum, you will use a high-quality kitchen knife every single time you cook.

So let's look at how to evaluate which tools will deliver the most bang for your buck.

Paperform is a digital Swiss army knife for your business

Forms, bookings, payments, and more. All in one place.

Features to look for in your software

Now it's time to start looking for software that can replace as many tools on your list as possible. In order to do that, there are a few points you should consider while evaluating replacements.


The most direct approach you can take is to look at software that replaces as many of the features that you use as possible. Sites like AlternativeTo and G2 can help you review and find the best software of any type and in any class.

You can also search for replacements for the tools you use by searching for the features that you're using. Try to find tools that not only have all of the features you're looking to replace, but features that bleed over into other software that you use as well

Versatility: Single use vs general purpose

There is a concept in programming called "coding to an interface, not an implementation". That idea translates well into how software is designed. What it means, is creating software features that have as many uses as possible.

  • Cracking walnuts is an implementation (a single use)
  • Chopping is an interface (a general-purpose usage)

It's best to find a tool that has as many uses as possible with as few features as possible. There's always room for a tool to fit a specific niche, but where possible, seek out super software that acts like Swiss army knives.

Take Paperform for example, let's say you're subscribing to Shopify to sell digital products, and also have a Calendly subscription so your team can book meetings. You could cancel those two subscriptions and use Paperform to manage bookings, and set up a simple digital storefront. Then you're getting even more value out of a tool that's already an essential part of your tech steck.

To use another example, in our spreadsheet sample we're paying for Microsoft 365 but also paying for Slack. Perhaps we could cancel their Slack subscription and use Microsoft Teams instead (a saving of just under $1,000/year). Or you could get rid of Microsoft 365 and Slack, and sign up to a free Discord account.


Integrations are a wildly useful multipurpose feature. They let you create connections between different pieces of software. When multiple services combine, the whole often becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Pretty much any software that you consider should have integrations. Almost every modern piece of software does.

Say you're running a small business where customer feedback is essential. With the integration between Paperform and Slack, every new form submission can trigger an instant notification to your designated Slack channel.

Not only do you stay updated about customer feedback in real-time, but your entire team does too. And all of this is achieved without the need for any extra software or complicated workflows.

Integrations let you use software in new and unpredictable ways. Instead of creating a massive list of features, integrations let each piece of software do what it does best. And it lets you create your own features by combining multiple tools.

Picking the best alternatives

Finding the best software is a very personal choice. Every individual and every business accomplishes tasks in a way that suits them best. There is no single best piece of software for any use simply because everybody uses theirs differently.

But to help you get started, here are a few categories of software and some of the best examples of each category.

Universal connectors

The importance of integrations was mentioned in the previous section. As helpful as they are, individual integrations are still kind of single-use. One integration connects one piece of software to another piece of software, and that is it.

But there are tools that work like universal integrations. They let you connect one piece of software to hundreds of others.

  • Zapier: Zapier is one of the most popular universal connection tools available. It's also the most widely incorporated integration around. Many services can honestly say that they have hundreds of integrations by simply integrating with Zapier.
  • Make: Another top-notch tool for universal integration is Make. Some people prefer Make over Zapier for its more visual, drag-and-drop style.
  • IFTTT: IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It's one of the oldest universal connectors and people like it for its simplicity. IFTTT tends to be more popular for personal use, but it's also the most affordable option.

Project management

Project management is part art and part science. Project management software is one area where versatility is extremely important. That's because no two project managers are the same and no two projects are the same.

You need project management software that can adapt to any use case. This means that, at its core, almost any project management tool is going to be well suited to this list. But these are the options that most standout.

  • Trello: Trello is one of the most versatile pieces of software on the market, period. At its core, the way it manages projects is extremely flexible. But on top of that, they have tons of useful features, integrations, and add-ons, called power-ups that let anybody create even more features for Trello.
  • Asana: Asana is the most popular alternative to Trello. They have a very similar approach to project management and similar feature sets. Asana isn't quite as versatile as Trello but many businesses prefer it because it gives more control over top-down project management for multiple projects.
  • Whimsical: Whimsical is a project planning tool that really shines in the early stages of project planning. It provides whiteboarding, mind mapping, and wireframing tools, to name a few. It's visually oriented, highly collaborative, and helps reduce the friction between having an idea and capturing an idea.

General business

There are tools to do just about anything. But sometimes you just need to get down to work. That's where these tools come in.

  • Google Workspace: You might've heard of a company called Google. They've got a search engine that a few people like. But they also have a handful of other tools that are excellent for managing businesses of all sizes. Those tools include a calendar, email, and a suite of document editing software similar to Microsoft Office. As if that wasn't enough, most of the services they provide are completely free for personal and small business use.
  • Notion: Notion, at its core, is a note taking tool. However, calling Notion a note taking tool is like calling an iPhone a way to make phone calls. Notion was built from the ground up with a collection of features that are all examples of the most versatile features available. It can be used for knowledge management, project management, and business management to begin with.
  • Paperform: Forms and documents are core aspects of every single business. No matter what, your business is going to need a high-quality form tool. Paperform provides all of the features that you need to create a form, and it makes it easy to do so. Paperform uses an attractive interface and a versatile set of capabilities that can cover many of your business needs, and with its new eSign solution, Papersign, it covers more needs than ever.

Paperform is a digital Swiss army knife for your business

Forms, bookings, payments, and more. All in one place.

Marketing and analytics

There are a lot of excellent tools out there to help you grow your business through sales and marketing. Unfortunately, many of them are not accessible to individuals and early-stage startups due to their cost.

These are a couple alternatives that will get you a long way towards your goals without breaking the bank.

  • Google Analytics: Google was mentioned with the other business tools, but it's also your friend when it comes to marketing and analytics. Because Google makes so much money from advertising and website traffic, it makes sense that it created some of the most powerful tools in the industry to help you analyze traffic and create ads. They also provide those tools for free because they make enough money from the advertisements that they don't need to charge more.
  • HubSpot: HubSpot has a huge bag of tricks. But their primary focus is on sales and marketing. They provide many services for smaller businesses and individuals for free. HubSpot is a good choice for this list not only because they provide such a large collection of tools, but they have a major focus on helping businesses succeed. The higher-paid tiers are pretty expensive from an individual's point of view. But considering how much of your business HubSpot will help you run, it's worth it.

Data storage

Even some of the largest businesses that are dependent on data will store their information in the cloud. Security has gotten strong enough that transmitting data over the Internet to cloud providers is often the best solution.

It can save your business from the thousands or even millions of dollars worth of security and infrastructure you would need to keep your data on-site. These are a few businesses that can be relied on to help you avoid that hassle.

  • Google Drive: Here we go with Google again. And for good reason. Google Drive is one of the most popular solutions for cloud storage for individuals and small businesses alike. And their suite of office tools means that you can collaboratively interact with many of your documents without needing to download them first.
  • Dropbox: Dropbox is a very popular standalone solution. Almost any tool that integrates with data storage integrates with Dropbox. Because Dropbox only does cloud storage, it provides some advantages that Google doesn't. People tend to prefer Dropbox for collaboration, organization, and its ability to synchronize with your physical data.
  • Box: Box is another option. It distinguishes itself by having a very strong focus on security. If you're dealing with legal or medical records or anything else that's highly sensitive or susceptible to theft, Box may be your best choice.

📚 Read our thorough comparison of Google Drive and Dropbox.

Communication and customer service

  • Slack: Slack is a deceptively simple chat room tool designed with businesses in mind. What makes it so powerful is how well it integrates with so many other pieces of software. Not only does it connect to other tools on the Internet, but it also lets you use many tools inside of the app itself. Its flexibility turns it from a basic chat tool into a highly versatile business tool.
  • Discord: Discord got its start as a place for teenagers, young people, and gamers to gather and chat. Since then, it's grown into an outstanding community-building service. If you want a place to hang out with a few friends or a local group it's a great solution. It's also great for creating a community behind your business for customer service, and loyalty building.
  • Paperform: Form tools are used for gathering information and automating communication. But with a few extra features, a form tool can become an extremely powerful and versatile asset for your business. And Paperform offers several features that make it just that. Paperform can replace calendar tools, booking services, landing pages for marketing, and whole suites of customer service tools. And that’s just the start.

Paperform is a digital Swiss army knife for your business

Forms, bookings, payments, and more. All in one place.

Start subscription pruning today

Now, what does this all mean for you? Simple, it's about taking back control of your expenses in a world where the cost of living keeps rising and giving every dollar the value it deserves.

The journey may seem daunting, but with the detailed steps we've provided, you can easily navigate your way through this financial maze. And wouldn't it feel great to have a bit of extra cash in your pocket instead of it going to subscriptions you barely use?

So go on, give it a shot. Open up that spreadsheet, start auditing your subscriptions, and embrace the potential savings that await you. After all, it's not just about saving money—it's about achieving a better balance in your life. And hey, who doesn't want that?

About the author
Lee Nathan
Freelance Contributor
Lee Nathan is a personal development and productivity technology writer. He can be found at leenathan.com.

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