Sign In

10 Ways to Stream TV and Save Money

You'll need to be strategic about which hardware and streaming subscriptions you buy.
Published
couple streaming TV online

If high bills have you looking to cut the cable cord, you're not alone. Research firm eMarketer predicts that by 2021, there will be 40.1 million cord-cutters in the United States. With cable bills easily exceeding $100 these days, it's no wonder people are looking for cheaper alternatives.

Whether you're ready to ditch cable altogether or just starting to dabble in streaming, you'll need to consider a couple things. First, think about your streaming hardware budget. Then you need to decide how much you'll spend on subscriptions.

Read on for 10 ways you can save money when you stream TV.

Streaming Hardware Options

Thinking of jumping into streaming? Then you'll want a Smart TV, streaming media player, or both. These devices run the gamut in terms of price, but can all help you stream TV.

Invest in a Smart TV

Smart TVs, which eliminate the need for a separate media streaming device, can help you make the leap into streaming. In fact, most TVs nowadays offer some Smart capabilities. A new 40" HDTV with Smart features runs from $200 to $600. These sets will be able to connect to the internet and run apps, and some even offer voice control or integration with your Smart home gadgets.

SEE ALSO: Do You Need a Smart TV?

Sets from brands like Insignia, Philips, Sony, Sharp, and TCL run operating systems you'll probably recognize, too, like Android TV and Roku TV. Meanwhile, Samsung and LG Smart TVs have their own proprietary platforms.

Get a Media Streamer

If you're not ready to invest in a new TV, you can save money by purchasing a media streamer and hooking it up to your existing set. Options include Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV devices. Streaming devices are getting cheaper these days, with beefier specs and new features like 4K support, voice control remotes, and Smart home capabilities.

A new 40" HDTV with Smart features runs from $200 to $600.

Without a sale, these devices will run you anywhere from $35 for a Google Chromecast to $179 for the latest 4K Apple TV. Amazon, in particular, often has sales on its already affordable Fire TV devices. In February, for example, the latest-generation Fire TV (listed at $69.99) dropped to $49.99. So definitely hold out for a sale, if you can.

Consider Hardware Limitations

Keep in mind that not all streaming apps are compatible with all streaming platforms. Google, for instance, recently pulled its official YouTube app from Amazon's Fire TV over a spat with the online retail giant. As a workaround, Amazon added Mozilla Firefox and its own Silk web browser to Fire TV, so users can navigate to YouTube.com and other sites. Using a browser on your TV definitely isn't as frictionless as using an official app, but it'll get the job done.

SEE ALSO: The 11 Biggest Myths About Buying a TV


stream Amazon Prime Video

TV Streaming Service Costs

Once you decide on a Smart TV or media streamer, you'll need content to watch. While the hardware options we covered in the previous section are getting cheaper, streaming services are — for the most part — getting more expensive. (Womp womp.)

Be Ready for Price Hikes

Price hikes are common in the rapidly evolving streaming services market. Last fall, Netflix raised the price of a "Standard" subscription — its most popular plan, which allows two consecutive HD-quality streams — by $1 to $10.99 a month. The Netflix Premium plan, which supports up to four consecutive Ultra HD-quality streams, went up $2 to $13.99 a month.

Price hikes are common in the streaming services market. Last fall, Netflix raised the price of its most popular plan to $10.99 a month.

Know Your Options

Most streaming services offer multiple tiers, which can get confusing. YouTube, for one, has its free service with ads, plus YouTube Red and YouTube TV. If you want to watch your favorite YouTubers without ads, you'll need the subscription for YouTube Red, which will set you back $9.99 a month.

Besides eliminating ads, a YouTube Red subscription offers original shows and movies like the documentary This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, as well as the ability to listen to YouTube Music on your smartphone in the background when you open another app. YouTube TV, meanwhile, is the Google-owned video-sharing platform's answer to cable.

Choose the Yearly Prime Subscription

In January, Amazon upped the price of Prime for those who pay by the month instead of yearly. Prime — which includes access to its Prime Video service, Prime Music, and Prime Reading; free, 2-day shipping on Amazon.com purchases; and special deals at Whole Foods — now costs $12.99 a month (up from $10.99), or $99 a year. With the monthly option, you'd wind up paying almost $156 for a full year. The annual subscription is a better deal if you plan on sticking with the service for at least eight months.

Live TV Choices

If you want to watch traditional cable channels, there are plenty of live TV streaming options that will let you access that content. Your choices include YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, or DirecTV Now.

SEE ALSO: Almost Every Streaming Device Just Got a Huge Update

Consider Sling TV and DirecTV Now

Sling TV offers a basic plan with around 25 channels for $20 a month (and add-on packages starting at $5 monthly). DirecTV Now starts at $35 a month for around 60 channels.

Other Services Cost at Least $40

YouTube recently added a bunch of new channels to YouTube TV — including TNT, Adult Swim, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. However, it raised the price by $5 for new subscribers to $40 a month, which puts YouTube TV on par with Hulu's live TV service. PlayStation Vue also now starts at $40 a month, as Sony ditched the $30-a-month "Slim" tier last year.


cut the cable cord

Other Ways to Save

Cable is expensive, but streaming is starting to get pricey, too. Consider this: Signing up for just YouTube Red, the Standard Netflix subscription, and Hulu with Live TV will set you back $60.97 per month. With that said, there are other ways to save money on streaming.

Go With a Single-Stream Plan

Kick the kids or your freeloading friends off your account, and go with the basic tier for all your streaming services. With the cheapest Netflix and Hulu options, you'll only be able to watch on one screen at a time, but each subscription costs just $7.99 a month.

SEE ALSO: 8 Ways to Get HBO for Free (or Cheap)

Utilize Free Trials and Services

Also start with free and discounted trials to make sure you're going to utilize a service before signing up. For instance, you can get your first three months of DirecTV Now for just $10 a month. You can also save some coin by taking advantage of free options like YouTube and simply dealing with the commercials. Production value on YouTube has gone up over the years, and many content creators pump out videos weekly or even daily.

Readers, what are your favorite ways to save money on streaming? Let us know in the comments below!


Contributing Writer

Angela is a DealNews contributor focused on consumer technology. You can also find her byline at PCMag.com. Follow her on Twitter at @amoscaritolo.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
You might also like
Leave a comment!

or Register
9 comments
CkMe
For $5 over their basic plan, Sling TV offers a well-rounded package, their blue plan, of 40-plus channels, which I think is a good channel price-point for a streaming service.

Plex Premium now offers Live TV with DVR, so they may be possibly worth a look. The deal-breaker for most folks is that a server may need to be rigged on their home network and they may not have the know-how or interest to do all that.

As a side note, it also works as a geeked-out VUDU, Amazon Movies or Google Play Movies, but most folks, including myself, won't have any time or interest in ripping their DVD/Bluray collections, unless an International ripping service, like DigiRaw in the UK, is used, but such services aren't cheap.
RashidX2
You know what I hat? When you have to pay for let's say service then you need to pay for the program and then you need to pay again for the content of that program... It's all big money theft.
greenghopper
Don't forget to mention Hoopla. It's a streaming service offered by many public library systems. Yes, much more than books. They also offer music, eBooks, and more. Their movie selections allow you to normally check out up to 20 titles per month for free. Check with your closest public library system for more info.
CTom
If you have fast internet the Amazon firestick can work fine for FREE & provide free HD tv. Movies, ppv & recorded shows in HD.
algreimann
I really enjoy Youtube TV. Allows you to share the account with another 5 people (total of 6). Add a show to your favorites list and all episodes will be recorded. Priced at $35 a month is a bit much in my opinion. I wish they would combine that with YouTube Red\Google Music for a reduced total price.
Squirrel
The DirecTV package is the better deal than Sling for sure.
The single screen HULU LiveTV is $40/mo. DirecTV is the better deal.
The single screen Netflix is in standard definition, NOT in HD.
Basic internet service [20mbps down] doesn't cut it these days.

An antenna is the way to go. Faster internet service [60 mbps down] is mandatory these days as more and more we live in 'the cloud'. Share subscriptions. You and a friend, who are obviously [most likely] on different schedules, can split the cost while retaining high quality programming.
oiuytre
Here's my experience w/ cord cutting so far:
In '16, I was at $191 for cable & internet through Comcast. I have 2 boys & they're both gamers, so they weren't watching much tv, they just wanted internet & sometimes watch movies, so my wife & I decided to go internet only & get Hulu. We were miserable for a bit, but we don't watch sports or network tv & the new bill of $101,+$10 for Hulu, was better.
Fast forward to '18, I was able to switch to At&t; they put fiber in my neighborhood so I'm at $70 for internet, we now have Netflix which is $15 & I was able to get At&t to add HBO for $0 - we bundled our cell & internet. We have Prime ($8/mo), dropped Hulu (we'll add it again briefly to binge-watch Handmaid's Tale), so we're at $70+$15+$8=$93, but now we have gigabit internet + 3 streaming services. Also Crackle is free & decent.
I have a buddy that works at Comcast who is always laughing that we dropped Comcast, but then again he also laughs at our Priuses (Prii?) in the driveway too.
jake2011
You can get Prime Video for $8.99 a month. My suggestions is to swi itch back and forth with services like Netflix, Amazon, Hbo, Starz, Hu lu. Also Philo is great at $16 month to get channels frim Discovery, Viacom, Scripts, and Amc, no sports or News except BBC News. If you want free look at Pluto, Tubi or Crackel. And of course an Antenna is great combined with a hd homerun to watch anywhere around the house.
ski522
Put up an antenna, you'd be amazed how many TV stations are still broadcasting OTA.