4 Tips to Save Money on Streaming

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A trio of devices displaying streaming service logos alongside a wallet with money fanning out.

Cutting the cord is no longer a surefire way to reduce your monthly expenses. With dozens of streaming platforms vying for your attention – and exclusive programming on each one – it’s easy to get carried away and spend just as much as you were with your cable provider. Thankfully, reducing your budget and saving money with streaming services is an easy process once you know where to look.

Whether you’re about to sign up for your first Netflix subscription or you’re a seasoned streamer with multiple accounts in your name, here are our favorite ways to save money on streaming.

Keep Track of Your Subscriptions and Drop Unused Services

Although it seems like an obvious tip, you’d be surprised how quickly your streaming subscriptions can get out of hand if you’re not paying close attention. To combat the ever-growing catalog of available services, you’ll want to sit down at least once a year and take count of which platforms you’re subscribed to. You might realize that there’s considerable overlap in programming between all your platforms, making it an easy decision to drop one or the other.

Signing back up for a platform you’ve dropped is usually a hassle-free process, and you might even be able to take advantage of special pricing for returning customers. Because of this, there really isn’t a downside to dropping a service you’re on the fence about. The only thing you’ll lose is a few minutes of your time when having to sign back up.

Only Purchase What You Need

Another simple way to save money on steaming is by only purchasing what you need. It sounds like a simple task, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to bundle in extras that you won’t use frequently enough to justify their cost. Specifically, you’ll want to check out all available pricing tiers before making your final decision — some might sound like a good deal on paper, but they offer little practical value in relation to their cost.

For example, some services — like Netflix — will charge you extra to view content in 4K. However, many folks simply don’t need to spend the extra money on the high-tech feature. Standard 1080p streams work just fine, and you’ll be able to save a few bucks every month by forgoing the upgrade.

Another easy way to lower your payments is by taking note of how many screens you typically stream on at once. If you’re a big family, you might need the priciest option for simultaneous viewing. If you’re a college student, however, you can get away with limiting yourself to just one screen at a time – with Netflix, this cuts your monthly price in half.

You’ll also want to make sure extras such as “Entertainment” and “Sports” packages offer enough value for their price tag. These typically roll several channels into a single monthly fee, but if you’re not watching the majority of them, it might be best to avoid adding the package to your plan.

Make Use of Free Trials and Promotions

Annual pricing plans are among the most frequent promotions available in the world of streaming — and they also happen to be some of the best. Switching to an annual payment instead of monthly payments can save you a good chunk of cash. Disney+ offers annual pricing for $79.99 versus its $7.99 monthly rate.

That adds up to a “12 months for the price of 10” discount, a deal you can also get with Hulu with ads or ESPN+. If you decide you want all three, then the Disney Bundle’s monthly rate ends up being cheaper. But if only one or two of those services interest you, annual pricing can save a decent amount.

Extrapolate those expenses over the course of multiple years and multiple services, and you can see how it’s easy to shave hundreds of dollars off your expenses.

* Note: On Oct. 8, 2021, pricing for Hulu’s Ad-Supported plan will increase to $6.99 per month, or $69.99 annually. We’ve updated this graphic to reflect the new pricing.

Beyond annual payments, be on the lookout for free trials that let you test a service before making a purchase. These are a great way to check out exclusives such as Ted Lasso or Stranger Things, or to watch a big football game without dropping a dime — just make sure you cancel your plan before payments begin.

Some cable and smartphone providers even offer a few years of select streaming services for free as an incentive for signing up, making it an easy way to gain access to new content without taking a toll on your monthly budget.

Don’t Forget About Free Streaming Alternatives

With all the exciting programming on Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV+, and other premium services, it’s easy to overlook all the incredible streaming content available for free. Specifically, Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, and even Peacock all offer a variety of shows, sports, movies, and best-of clips for free.

There’s also YouTube, which may not offer the same types of shows and content as those listed above, but is still a free way to get your entertainment fix.

Depending on your location, you might also consider trying to access free local programming with an over-the-air antenna. It’s not as popular as it once was, but it’s still an incredible source of free TV that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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