Cutting the cable TV cord is a great way to save money, but your monthly streaming TV bill could be just as expensive if you’re not careful.
Over the past several years, I’ve reviewed the most popular live TV streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV. Their skinny bundles start at about half the price of a typical $100 a month cable package, but what about on-demand streaming services and streaming media players? When you add those to the mix, the costs really go up.
In this article, I’ll share my best tips for cord-cutters to help you keep your streaming TV bill under control. Here’s what you need to know!
Table of Contents:
- Get an Antenna for Free Channels
- Start and Stop Your Live TV Streaming Subscription
- Limit Additional On-Demand Services
- Consider Free Streaming Alternatives
- Start With a Low-Cost Streaming Media Player
- Take Advantage of Free Trials Before You Commit
- Pay Your Bill With a Rewards Credit Card
1. Get an Antenna for Free Channels
You don’t need to pay for a streaming service to get your local ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and independent stations. If you live close enough to broadcast towers (in a city or the suburbs), you may be able to purchase an indoor digital TV antenna and get those stations. I bought the Mohu Leaf years ago and have been using it ever since. It costs about $40. This indoor antenna is as flat as a pancake and hooks up directly to a TV set, so you don’t need a professional to install it. If you prefer an attic or roof antenna, go to AntennaWeb.org to search for the best options. Whichever you choose, an antenna is a great way to get free over-the-air TV for a relatively inexpensive one-time cost.
2. Start and Stop Your Live TV Streaming Subscription
One of the biggest differences between cable and streaming is that you aren’t locked into long-term contracts when you sign up for the major live TV streaming services. I recommend that you use this flexibility to your advantage. For example, let’s say that you sign up for YouTube TV because it has all of the sports that you like to watch during football season. When the season is over, test out another service for a few months. By switching to Sling TV during the off-season, you may be able to save money. If you have an antenna, this step is even easier. You could potentially drop live TV streaming altogether for some months out of the year.
3. Limit Additional On-Demand Services
If you sign up for a live TV streaming service to replace cable or satellite, chances are you still have at least one additional streaming subscription. An increasing number of on-demand services are competing for your dollar: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max and the list goes on. I typically pay for a live TV streaming service and only one additional on-demand service at a time. As with the live TV streaming services, you can start and stop on-demand subscriptions without penalty. The reason why I like Hulu + Live TV so much is that it includes the on-demand version of Hulu in its base package. That’s a real plus if Hulu is a must-have subscription in your household.
4. Consider Free Streaming Alternatives
For cord-cutters who are willing to sit through a few ads, there are plenty of free streaming TV options. My favorite is Pluto TV. Hundreds of channels and thousands of movies are available from this ViacomCBS-owned service, which has gotten better over the years. Some of the content in the library is a few years old (or a few decades old), but I can usually find something entertaining to watch. I also like Pluto TV’s easy-to-navigate live TV guide. If you’re looking for a second free alternative to test out, I recommend The Roku Channel. It has a great selection of live news, TV shows and movies.
5. Start With a Low-Cost Streaming Media Player
If you’re on a budget, there’s no need to pay a lot of money to purchase a streaming media player. My two top picks are Roku Express and Amazon Fire TV Stick. You can pick up them both for about $25 each when there’s a sale. These devices make it easy to navigate all of the free and paid streaming apps quickly. If you’re like me and have a smart TV, you may not even need a streaming media player to get started. Your TV probably has popular streaming apps installed. But purchasing a Roku Express or Amazon Fire TV Stick is worth it for the enhanced user experience.
6. Take Advantage of Free Trials Before You Commit
Nearly all live TV and on-demand streaming services offer free trials that let you test them out before you commit. For live TV streaming, most trials are 7 days. However, it’s not uncommon for YouTube TV to extend its free trial to two weeks. On-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are known to offer an entire month free before you’re billed. Most of these services require you to enter credit card information to activate the trial. If you want to avoid being charged, set a calendar reminder for yourself so that you don’t forget to cancel.
7. Pay Your Bill With a Rewards Credit Card
Some credit card companies offer bonus cash back if you use their card to pay for your monthly streaming TV subscriptions. My favorite is Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. It offers 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. You may already have a credit card in your wallet that offers a similar benefit, so it’s worth checking out. Of course, it only makes sense to use your credit card if you’re able to pay off the balance in full every month. If you can’t, avoid making charges on your credit card and pull together a plan to get out of debt.
Ditching cable TV service is a decision that I don’t regret. But if you plan to replace cable or satellite with multiple streaming services, do the math to make sure that you’re staying within your budget.
Have you been able to cut your streaming TV bill? Share your money-saving tips in the comments below!
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