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How to reduce your monthly streaming budget
Cutting back on streaming services is good for your budget — and good for your health
How many streaming services are you paying for right now?
Five? Ten? More than ten?
Many people can’t answer this question without having to look it up—and when you add up all of the money you pay each month to access television, movies, music, books, and podcasts, you might be surprised at just how much your streaming habit is costing you.
According to an April 2022 report from Nielsen called State of Play, 21 percent of Americans spend between $20 and $20.99 per month on video streaming services—and 17 percent of Americans spend between $30 and $49.99 on streaming video. Once you add in all of the other subscriptions that make up your monthly content consumption, from Spotify to Substack, you’re probably paying much more money than you realize.
Why not use this summer as an opportunity to cut back on streaming and start seeking out other types of experiences instead? Believe it or not, canceling your streaming services could be one of the best things you do for your budget, for your health, for your family—and even for the planet.
“Your goal should be to disconnect from screen time,” explains Lawrence Delva-Gonzalez, a financial literacy educator who runs The Neighborhood Finance Guy. “More screen time means more air conditioning, more snacking and ultimately more bad health. It all adds up.”
Of course, we’re not going to argue that you should cancel every streaming service. Instead, we’re going to help you decide what stays and what goes—and show you how to save money on the content you keep. We’re also going to provide a few alternatives to streaming that might turn out to be better for your health, better for your budget and better for your long-term goals.
In this article:
Three ways to save money on streaming services
Let’s start with the big question—how to reduce your monthly streaming budget.
Delva-Gonzalez suggests three different strategies, all of which can help you save money on streaming services and spend more time away from screens:
- Pick your three favorite streaming services. “You really don’t need to collect them all,” says Delva-Gonzalez. “Between Netflix, HBO Max (for new summer blockbusters) and Disney+ (for the family), the rest of the content is almost unnecessary.”
- Pick one streaming bundle. “Disney provides a super viewing combo for the family with their Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN package,” Delva-Gonzalez says. You can also look for telecommunications providers that bundle streaming subscriptions into your monthly bill. Xfinity customers, for example, get Peacock for no additional cost. T-Mobile offers free Netflix and Apple TV+ subscriptions. If you don’t like the subscription bundle offered by your current provider, it might be time to switch—especially if you can take advantage of a low intro rate or the opportunity to upgrade your device at a discount.
- Pick one streaming service per month. Rotating between streaming services gives you the chance to watch, listen to and/or read everything you’re interested in—without having to pay for the services you aren’t currently using. Plus, you can time your subscriptions to the biggest new shows. “If Stranger Things 4 is all you want, you can jump in when necessary and cancel when you’re done,” Delva-Gonzalez says.
Yes, cutting back on your subscriptions or rotating between services means that you might have to wait a little longer for some of your favorite content—whether you’re counting the days until you switch from HBO to Hulu or putting your name on a hold list at the public library.
That said, reducing your monthly streaming budget may inspire you to reduce your content consumption as well—and you and your family may discover all kinds of new, interesting, screen-free ways in which to spend your time.
“Get activated and get active again,” advises Delva-Gonzalez. “Your community is likely adding new bike lanes. Open up your Saturday mornings to more fun in the sun with hikes, sports, etc.”
Alternatives to streaming services
If you’re hoping to save money on streaming services, you need alternatives—and no, we don’t mean switching from Netflix to TikTok or spending more time scrolling Twitter. “If we’re being honest, you can only binge so much until you are doomscrolling,” Delva-Gonzalez explains.
This kind of screen immersion can be bad for your mental health, as you probably already know—but you might not realize that constant streaming also has an impact on the health of the planet. Streaming media takes a lot of energy, whether you’re producing a new show, running a data center or watching your favorite series on your smartphone—and while companies like Netflix are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Plus, streaming media is often accompanied by other types of energy usage—all of which have both a financial and an environmental cost. “With temperatures peaking through summer, the average household should expect higher-than-average utility and gas bills,” says Delva-Gonzalez. Many households are already putting a larger percentage of their income towards their monthly utility bills, thanks to inflation—which means that anything you can do to save energy may also save you money.
With that in mind, here are five low-cost, high-value alternatives to streaming services:
- Parks: Whether you’re watching your kids navigate the playground or meeting up with friends for a pickleball game, many local parks offer plenty of fun, free entertainment—no screens required! Some parks even offer guided group activities for kids, adults and/or families to enjoy together.
- Public libraries: There’s a lot to love about the public library, whether you’re browsing the stacks, signing up for a class or simply taking advantage of the free air conditioning. Remember, today’s libraries offer much more than books—they also allow patrons to borrow videos, games, puzzles and even art. Many public libraries even offer free streaming media services!
- Museums: Not all museums are free—but many museums offer free passes on certain days of the week or month, giving you and your family the opportunity to experience great works of art in a climate-controlled environment.
- Meetups: Whether you’re setting up a playdate for your kids, inviting your friends over for a potluck dinner or hosting a backyard barbecue for the grandparents, one of the best ways to get away from screens is by spending time with other people.
- Your own backyard: If you spent the past two years turning your backyard into your family’s personal oasis, you already know how much fun you can pack into a few square feet. If you haven’t yet incorporated a garden, a fire pit or an inflatable swimming pool into your backyard, now might be the perfect time—and you can fund your project with the money you’re no longer spending on streaming services.
“The most valuable aspects of life aren’t found while streaming,” says Delva-Gonzalez. “They’re found outside, where you can develop and nurture new skills.”
Not sure whether you’re ready to spend less time streaming and more time with friends, family, library books, tabletop games, community resources and the great outdoors? No problem. Start by canceling just one streaming media subscription—and go ahead and do it right now, before you change your mind.
After all, you can always resubscribe.
About Nicole Dieker
Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.Read more by Nicole Dieker
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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