How to Save Money on Streaming Services

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Streaming services have made staying at home much more interesting. If you think of them individually, they may seem affordable but when you subscribe to multiple services as so many of us do, the costs add up. With a little effort (and a few commercials) you can save some money on your beloved services with a few simple changes. 

Make cuts where you can

You may be subscribed to services you aren’t using or that aren’t worth how infrequently you use them. 

  • Make a list of the services you are paying for and have an honest convo with the family about how much you use/need each one. 
  • You might find that some streaming services are only useful for a limited time. For example, if you’re only using one to watch a specific show or sport, mark your calendar to cancel when the season is over.   
    • Hulu, YouTube TV, and Sling TV also offer the option to pause your subscription

Bundle Up

Sometimes signing up for a bundle of services will save you money.

  • The Disney+ Welcome Bundle includes Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ for $13.99/month. If you purchased the basic tier of each of these separately, you’d spend nearly $22.
  • You can get the Paramount+ and Showtime bundle for $11.99/month. Buying them separately would cost nearly $16. 

Drop live TV services

If you’re subscribed to classic cable or a live TV option like YouTube TV, Sling, or Hulu Plus Live TV, chances are good that many of the shows you like are available on a streaming platform at a lower price point. Live TV services tend to be more expensive:

  • Cable fees vary depending on where you live, but we were paying more than $50 a month until we recently cut the cord.  
  • Sling TV is $35/month for the basic plan allowing 1 device.
  • YouTube TV is a whopping $64.99/month.

Examples of popular shows available on less expensive platforms:

  • The Big Bang Theory – available on HBO Max which is $14.99/month
  • Saturday Night Live – available on Hulu which is $6.99/month
  • American Idol – also available on Hulu 
  • Grey’s Anatomy – available on Hulu and Netflix which is $9.99 for the basic plan

Pro tip: If you prefer live TV, you can often save some money with an indoor or outdoor antenna, which can give you access to some of the most popular TV shows, sports, and more. Outdoor antennas tend to be more expensive, but if your TV has a built-in tuner, an indoor antenna might suffice.  

Put free trials to work

Many major streaming services offer a free trial. (Netflix doesn’t.) Sign up for a free trial to try before you buy. 

  • Starz – 7-day free trial.
  • Hulu – Get the first month free. 
  • YouTube Premium – 1-month free trial. Ad-free, downloads, and YouTube Music Premium are just a few included features.
  • Discovery+ – 7 days free

If you’re not one for building personalized playlists, you can listen to free music for months by rotating between free trial possibilities. Here’s over a year’s worth of free trial options with some of the top music streaming providers:

  • Spotify – Get your first month of Premium free. Or, get 3 months of Spotify Premium free when you sign up with PayPal.
  • Apple Music – Get your first 3 months free. 
  • TIDAL – Jay-Z’s experiential music streaming service offers high-fidelity sound and a commitment to an ethical relationship with musical artists. You can get 30 days free.
  • Amazon Music – New subscribers get 3 months free.
  • YouTube Music – Google Play Music has moved over to YouTube Music. You need a Premium subscription to listen ad-free, offline, and with your screen off. Try it free for 1 month.
  • Pandora Premium – Unlike the other Pandora plans, the premium plan comes with ad-free personalized music, the ability to search and play what you want, and unlimited skips
  • SiriusXM – You can get 3 months free without even putting down a credit card number when you opt for their Platinum plan. 

Pro Tip: Keep track by setting calendar reminders or phone alerts for when your free trials are coming to an end.

With visual entertainment, choose basic level plans

Going “basic” is a good way to save. You’ll have to deal with commercials, but that might be a small price to pay compared with the actual cost of commercial-free premium services.

  • Hulu, for example, offers an ad-supported plan at $6.99/month or $69.99/year. Their ad-free plan jumps up to $12.99/month which might seem small until you look at the annual cost of over $155/year! It’s worth considering whether some annoying ads are worth the nearly $85 annual savings.
  • Another perk of premium plans is often 4K resolution. But what is 4K anyway, and do you really need it? 4K is a step up in resolution from standard HD streaming, so consider if incredibly crisp images are a priority. Standard HD is what most people are familiar with, and the picture will still look great.

And with music streaming, ads may equate to free!

  • If you’re willing to put up with ads and other minor limitations, there are plenty of totally free options to stream music and shows without ever having to provide a credit card:
    • YouTube Music has a great selection of music, and unlike other providers, you aren’t limited to a preset playlist. You can listen to any available song you want! The downside, other than ads, is that you can’t navigate away from YouTube or turn your screen off while listening on your phone. 
    • Listen to music on Spotify for free. Other than ads, the main difference between the free and Premium plans includes the inability to download music for offline listening, you can’t pick and play any song within certain playlists and albums, the audio quality is somewhat degraded, and you can skip only six tracks per hour.
    • Pandora is still one of the most popular, algorithm-driven services that will cater music to your tastes in a radio-style format. The free plan includes ads, and there are limitations to how often you skip songs. 

Share with family or friends

Before diving into this tip, remember to be cautious as most terms of service don’t allow you to share logins outside of your household. In fact, streaming services reserve the right to terminate or suspend your account if you’re caught.

  • That being said, it’s a fantastic deal if you can share within your household or elsewhere. The plan prices go up with family subscriptions, but you spend less if you’re splitting the cost.
    • Example: The Basic Netflix plan is $8.99 per month but only allows for one user. The Premium plan is $17.99 and can be used by four people at once. By splitting the Premium plan with three other people, the effective cost is $4.50 per person per month.
    • Example: The basic Spotify Premium plan for one person is $9.99/month. Two people can split the Duo account for $12.99/month or $6.50 per person. Or six people can split the Family plan for $15.99/ month or $2.67 per person! 

Your credit card may have streaming services perks

Check into the available rewards with your credit cards. Many offer cashback or even include streaming subscriptions for no additional charge. 

  • The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gets you 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • American Express Gold includes $10 per month towards UberEats.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on select streaming services.
  • The U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card gets you 5% cashback on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter on two categories you choose. One of those available categories includes TV, internet, and streaming services

Your mobile provider may be partnered with streaming services

Depending on your plan, you may have access to some of the most popular streaming services. 

  • Some T-Mobile customers, get access to Netflix, Paramount+ and Apple TV+. 
  • Sprint Unlimited includes a Hulu subscription and access to TIDAL with Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Premium plans.
  • Eligible AT&T Unlimited plans come with HBO Max. 
  • Many Verizon Wireless customers can get the entire Disney Bundle, a year of Discovery+ and six to 12 months of AMC+.

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Follow Trae Bodge:

Smart Shopping Expert

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist, TV presenter, spokesperson, and educator, specializing in beauty, tech, apps, toys, gift guides, and smart shopping. She has appeared as an expert on dozens of TV shows and radio networks, including Today, Rachael Ray Show, Inside Edition, CNN, Reuters, CNBC.com, Sirius Radio, and numerous FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. Trae has been featured as a beauty tastemaker in Elle, Redbook, InStyle, and Essence, and her work has appeared on Yahoo Finance, Marketwatch, USNews.com, Credit.com, CBSNews.com, Time.com.

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