Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Saving more money when streaming

I cut the cord to save money. When I first looked into streaming, I decided I would not drop cable if I couldn't save money. I spent a year keeping a record of what I watched, and then calculated how much I would have spent if I had streamed instead of watched with cable. And after a year, the numbers showed I wouldn't have saved any money. But it was close. So, the next year, I did it again. And that time, it turns out I would have saved money, so I cut the cord.

That should show that my primary goal in cutting the cord was to save money. I'm not suggesting that's the only reason that should be considered in cutting the cord, but it was a requirement of mine. I'm all about saving money. So, if there's a way to save more money, I'm all in. The main thing I can do -- and you, too -- to save money is to not pay for anything more than I need to.

I'll subscribe to Hulu, Discovery+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, Paramount+, AMC+, and other services. But not all at the same time. And that's the key.

Most of these services offer discounts for a yearly subscription. And, if you were going to have a subscription year-round, it makes sense to subscribe that way. However, I won't watch all these services year-round. Well, with one exception, which I'll talk about briefly, and get out of the way first.

I've been an Amazon Prime member since well before there was a Prime Video service. When I first subscribed to Amazon Prime, it was for the shipping benefits. And, even today, the benefits apart from streaming are worth it to me. So I subscribe yearly, and keep the service year-round. The Prime Video service is a bonus. I'm not a big fan of the app interface and layout, or the Fire TV interface, for that matter, but it does have good content, and I can find something to watch. In fact, I could get by with just that one service, but I don't. However, I don't have a bunch of services.

The streaming service I've used the longest is Hulu. I've subscribed to Hulu ever since Hulu Plus, as it was known way back when, was launched. I don't keep Hulu year-round. I used to, before I came to realize just how much I could save by subscribing only occasionally. Right now, I'm not subscribed, but I will subscribe again soon, because shows I watch will have enough episodes queued up. I'll subscribe for a month, watch everything in queue, maybe a couple of other things, then drop the subscription for a month, two, or three. Maybe four. Then I'll subscribe again, watch the queue, then drop it again. This will go on throughout the year, and I'll end up saving money with the monthly price than I would by paying the discounted yearly price. I'll pay less money, and I'll watch the same TV. That's a bargain in my eyes.

Same thing with the other services. I'll subscribe to one of the other services after I cancel Hulu, then watch that other service for a month. Then, I'll cancel and pick another service for a month.

The idea is to only watch a single service in a month. If you have, say, six services you want to watch, but do them one at a time, one per month, over the year, you'll have saved a shipload of money and watched the same amount of TV. Again, in my eyes, that's a bargain.

What about live streaming services? Personally, I don't need one year-round. Now, I have the advantage of an antenna to watch local channels. I have a DVR attached -- Tablo at one location, Air TV at another -- and they work great. There is the initial upfront expense, but after that, it's really cheap. Air TV doesn't charge for a channel guide. Tablo is $5/month, although you could get a longer term, including lifetime, if you so choose.

Again, I don't need a live streaming service, at least not year-round. During college football season, I'll subscribe to Sling TV (any service will suffice, but Sling TV is the cheapest that carries ESPN) when the season kicks off, and watch for 30 days. By then, five weekends have been covered, and I'll cancel. The next weekend, I'll subscribe again, watch for 30 days, which is another five weekends, then cancel again. Then, the next weekend, subscribe again, watch for 30 days, then cancel. That covers the entire season. Well, until the bowls start. I'll subscribe at the first bowl I want to watch, then cancel after the last game. I'll have subscribed for four months, and watched five months of football.

The rest of the year, I don't need live TV. I can stream on-demand. Or, free streaming services, if I don't really need the current season of some show. Pluto TV, Xumo, and other services offer free live streaming.

The whole topic of whether or not a year-round live streaming service is needed is a topic for another day. Today, I want you to look at the monthly on-demand services, and consider subscribing only occasionally. You'll save a lot of money, and watch the same amount of TV. It keeps the cost of my Streaming Life under control, and could do the same for you.

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