There are streaming services for seemingly everything these days. But the number of media streaming services for movies and TV shows is getting somewhat out of hand, and subscribing to too many of them at once can put a real strain on your finances.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to find out exactly what you’re spending on these streaming services each month. And ways to then reduce that amount without decreasing your entertainment options. So read on if you want to reduce your spending on streaming services.
1. Start Keeping Records of Your Subscriptions
If you’re worried about how much the various streaming services are costing you, the first thing to do is begin keeping a dedicated financial record.
This can be as simple as a handwritten list in a paper notebook. If your computer has Microsoft Office, you may prefer to use Excel. If it doesn’t, there are free equivalents such as Apache OpenOffice, which comes with the spreadsheet software Calc. Google Sheets is another free alternative.
There are also specialty budgeting programs, but unless you are integrating your subscriptions into your overall budget, the aforementioned methods should suffice.
List all of the services you use alphabetically, along with their cost per month. Don’t leave out those with annual fees (just divide by 12), and remember to note when you spend extra on content not included in your sub, e.g. new-release films. Tally these costs and you’ll have your total monthly spend.
Ask yourself: Am I happy devoting this percentage of my income to streaming services?
2. Always Choose Annual Deals
Now that you know how much you’re spending on subscriptions, it’s time to try and lower that amount. The most straightforward way is by opting for a discounted annual deal over a monthly one whenever this is offered.
Obviously, you need to be sure you definitely want to use the service in question for the next 12 months, and the yearly fee has to be financially convenient at the time. But assuming those two things are true, such annual plans usually represent a significant saving.
A couple of related tips:
- Don’t sign up for ANY deal until you’ve used your introductory free week or month (if available).
- Certain Apple products come with a free 3-month subscription to Apple TV+, so hold off on subscribing to that if you’re planning on, say, replacing an old computer.
3. Resist Paying Extra for New Releases
Some streaming services like Amazon Prime Video allow you to pay extra to buy/rent brand-new movies or other material not included as part of a standard subscription. These can be highly tempting, especially when they’re just a click away.
Do your best to resist them. If you wait, they might well turn up as regular content on that service or one of the others you subscribe to. In the meantime, look for alternatives. Instead of renting a new romantic comedy, hit play on that rom-com you’ve had sitting in your watchlist for a while.
Streaming services constantly remove content, and we’ve all missed potential gems we didn’t get to quickly enough as a result. So rather than prioritize keeping up with the very latest stuff–regardless of additional cost–focus on enjoying what you’ve already flagged.
4. Utilize Free Streaming Services
Free streaming services are a fantastic way of broadening your options without breaking the bank.
Some subscription services, like Crunchyroll, offer plans with fewer features and/or compulsory adverts, but at no cost. If you’re only watching a small amount of anime and don’t mind the ads, this may be sufficient.
Then there are services like Kanopy, available through public libraries and universities, which is essentially free. You might be limited to streaming a certain number of titles per month. Does that matter when you’re being given access to another wide range of movies and series?
Put simply, make sure you’re taking advantage of all of the free services before committing to more paid ones.
5. Dig Out Your Old DVDs and Blu-Rays
Though we all love the convenience of streaming, there’s still something to be said for those DVDs and Blu-rays sitting on our shelves. For one, they’ve already been paid for. For another, they often contain extras you won’t be able to stream–behind-the-scenes documentaries, deleted scenes, commentaries, and so on.
Not everyone on the planet has unlimited internet at all times, either, so being able to operate without it for a while can be a bonus.
After you’ve given your DVDs and Blu-rays a first, second, or 10th watch, you might even decide to sell off a selection of them–a further boost to the budget!
6. Conduct an Audit of Your Subscriptions
If your record-keeping (see above) indicates that you’re spending too much on streaming services, here’s where you determine what stays and what goes by carrying out an audit.
Using a calendar, either physical or digital, note down what subscription services you use each day. Abbreviations are fine–N for Netflix, D+ for Disney+, etc.
Do this for a full month and by the end, you’ll have a pretty clear picture of your streaming habits and which app(s) you can probably live without.
If you’re paying for a premium plan that permits streaming on multiple screens at once or at a super-high quality, it’s also worth noting how often your household actually utilizes these things. Would it really inconvenience anyone if you dropped down to a lower-level plan?
Keep Your Streaming Spending Under Control
Maintaining an up-to-date account of what each subscription costs per month (plus premium purchases) will let you know exactly how much all of that on-demand content is setting you back.
Keep this figure down by always looking for annual deals, avoiding new releases, etc. with an additional charge, making the most of free services, and watching the occasional DVD or Blu-ray. That’s what you bought them for, right?
When your total spend is still too great, then you need to conduct an app audit to determine which subs to cancel. Don’t worry, you can always sign up for them again when your financial situation improves. After all, streaming services aren't going anywhere for the forseeable future.