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How You Could Stop Paying So Much for Streaming

Get the shows you want for less

Piggy bank riding a remote control through the air with coins dropping below
Edmon de Haro

Does streaming TV cost too much? Not really. If you subscribe to the top eight services (Max, Disney+, Netflix, Apple TV+, etc.), you’ll likely be spending approximately $100 per month. By contrast, the average U.S. household spends $118 a month on cable or satellite TV. The price for All of the Media is roughly equivalent between traditional and streaming television.

What may be grating your vegetables is the feeling that streaming can and should be cheaper. We’re here to help you realize this lower-cost dream.

Step 1:Kill the beast

Cancel traditional cable or satellite TV. No, really, get rid of it. You can’t grumble about Disney+ being $10/month when you’re shelling out a cool hundred-plus for 300 channels of programming you don’t watch. No streaming service is going to feel reasonable when you’re layering it on top of a monthly C-note.

Don’t cheat by buying a “traditional” TV streaming service. YouTube TV is a gobsmacking $73 per month, Hulu’s live TV replacement is $70, and even low-cost Sling is $40 out the door, minimum. We’re trying to get away from these money sumps.

If you must have traditional TV, get an HDTV antenna. Yes, they still exist and they still work. Run the coaxial cable to your smart TV, tell it to scan for channels, and who knows, maybe you’ll get a decent assortment of hi-def TV for free. Weirder things have happened.

Step 2: Prioritize

Figure out your top three or four streaming services. Maybe you watch a lot of Netflix, your kids consume Disney+ and you need ESPN for the sports. Get real about what’s actually in rotation in your home. Establish what’s being used and commit to those platforms.

Step 3: Kill smaller beasts

Start canceling the services that do not get heavy rotation in your home. You can always come back to them at a later date. If you find this process painful, try to at least cancel one service. Just one! Say goodbye to Crunchyroll or Paramount or Max. For now.

Step 4: Make like a hunter-gatherer

We’re now getting into a more delicate operation: subscribing and canceling. 

The received wisdom is that there are three great shows on every channel and a thousand hours of junk. Debatable, but there’s a little bit of truth there. Let’s say you want to do a temporary subscription to a streaming service to watch a single series. Here’s how you can do it without going crazy (or broke).

Use a third-party interface to subscribe. This is important. If you subscribe through your browser on a streaming service's website, they can sometimes make it difficult to unsubscribe. However, if you subscribe through your Amazon account, or a Roku or Google TV account, subscribing and unsubscribing is as simple as clicking an “off” button.

Use a calendar app to note when you need to unsubscribe. Yes, the same calendar app you use to book date night and soccer practice and work dinners. That app. It’s probably Google Calendar. Use it. Don’t pretend you will remember in three months that you wanted to opt out.

Binge everything you want to watch on that streaming service in the time frame you’ve set out. When your calendar alarm goes off on your phone, head over to Amazon, Roku or Google, and click “unsubscribe.” Done!

Step 5: Don’t ignore the free stuff

There are a whole lot of streaming channels pushing free, ad-supported content. Freevee, Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, Plex and so on. Load up some of these channels on your smart TV. If you have a Roku or Google interface, you can do a “universal search” to see if your favorite shows or movies are playing on one of your free options.

You might be surprised at what you find. For example, HBO’s Westworld will be streaming for free on the ad-supported Roku channel.

* * *

These are the essential steps, but there are other options. Does your credit card offer a free streaming service? Some do. Also, check your phone plan options: T-Mobile has a data plan that nets you a Netflix subscription, Cricket Wireless has a Max giveaway, and Verizon can net you the full Disney Bundle.

You can have all the weird, expensive, specialized media while preserving your wallet. You just need to get right with a calendar app and your smart TV.

Follow Article Topics: Money-&-Career