Any time money expert Clark Howard sees money going to waste in his monthly budget, you can rest assured he’s going to search for a practical remedy. And streaming TV is the latest budget item in his crosshairs.
His beef? It’s with video-on-demand streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.
On the surface, they seem like a cost-cutting measure for those who are tired of paying for traditional cable television or live TV streaming services.
But in reality, the modest monthly fees are nickel-and-diming many consumers to the point that they’re not enjoying the annual savings they thought they might when they signed up — Clark included!
Clark spoke about this topic at length on a recent episode of The Clark Howard Podcast. We’ll dive into what he had to say and walk through some solutions that can both keep you entertained and save you money.
Clark’s Concern: Video Streaming Prices Are High and the Market Is Saturated
How many streaming services are too many? And how many hours do you have in a day to commit to watching all the content you’re paying for each month?
Many of us are driven by the fear of missing out on the latest entertainment trends.
Did you hear someone talking about Jason Sudeikis’ performance in Ted Lasso? Maybe you signed up for Apple TV+ to check it out. Did your family want to re-watch Steve Carell on The Office or catch up on Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone? You may have decided to pay for NBC’s Peacock.
Those seem relatively harmless at $5 per month each, but if you’re already paying $20 per month for Netflix and $15 for HBO Max like many streamers, you could quickly be approaching $50 per month. And that’s not even counting popular services like Disney+, Hulu or Paramount+ that you may be paying for as well.
“People are really hurting their wallets by signing up for one streaming product after another and after another,” Clark says. “And by the time you’re done, you could be subscribing to enough things that you would never be able to watch all the video content this is available. There are probably several of these that you subscribe to that you don’t get around to watching, but you’re paying for them each month.”
To make matters worse, many of the streaming services mentioned above, such as Netflix, have raised prices in recent months.
At some point, this stops being the cost-saving measure we all thought we were taking when we ditched cable.
Clark recognized this issue in his own streaming budget. We’ll talk about what he’s doing to fix it, and I’ll also give you some tips from my own streaming habits that could help you save money.
Team Clark Provides Some Money-Saving Streaming Solutions
Clark knew he was paying for too many on-demand video streaming services, and there’s a chance you may be as well.
Let’s talk about some of the actions he took as well as some of the things I’ve done to trim my streaming budget.
Ax Services You Don’t “Have to Have”
The first tip is pretty straightforward: Take inventory of the streaming services in your life.
Are there any channels that stick out as something you don’t use anymore? Was the one show you signed up to use that service for canceled?
Identifying an “idle” on-demand streaming service could be an easy drop from your budget and put money back in your pocket.
You may also be paying for a live TV streaming service to get things like news and live sports. Those typically cost more than on-demand services, so eliminating one of those could be another quick way to slash your budget.
One trick that has worked for me in this area is opting to pay for a live streaming service only during football season. I am able to save several hundred dollars per year by dropping it in the spring and summer months when I’m outside and not sitting on my couch watching football.
The nice part about using streaming services as opposed to cable is that you can make these temporary changes. Canceling and signing back up is literally just a few button clicks away for most services.
Take It Month-by-Month With Others
Paying for more content than you can possibly watch in a month is not the most financially efficient way to do things.
Instead of paying a monthly bill for five streaming services, see if you can devise a plan to concentrate on your favorite shows on one or two services each month.
“Binge-watching” one or two shows is easy on video streaming services because there are usually full seasons (and sometimes full series) available to watch at your leisure
Remember, video streaming services will let you pay for one month and then cancel with no further commitment. So you could binge shows on Netflix one month, Hulu the next and HBO Max in the third month, for example.
Instead of paying for three months of each, you could pay for one service per month and save quite a bit of cash.
Opt for Ad-Supported Tiers on Paid Streaming Services
Clark says one of his favorite new ways to trim the fat on his streaming bill is to opt in to the “ad-supported” tiers on streaming services.
Many video streaming services have introduced “ad-supported” and “ad-free” tiers for pricing with the former saving you as much as $5 or $6 per month. Usually, you get access to the same content, you just have to watch a limited amount of advertisements in exchange for a lower price.
“I want you to think about looking at these tiers with the ads,” Clark says. “They can save you money. Multiply that monthly savings times 12 and see how much it’d save you over the course of the year.”
Clark is doing this with Hulu. Rather than pay $12.99 per month for the ad-free experience, he gets the ad-supported subscription for $6.99 per month. If you’re a fan of Disney+ and ESPN+, you may be able to bundle them with ad-supported Hulu for even more savings.
Here’s a look at how much you could potentially save each month by switching to ad-supported content on various video streaming services.
|Streaming Service||Ad-Supported Monthly Price||Ad-Free Monthly Price|
Make the Switch to Free Streaming Services
Another strategy Clark has implemented is switching to free streaming services whenever possible.
“The hottest thing in streaming right now is free streaming products,” Clark says. “There are tons of them. And it seems like there are new ones all the time. You’re able to watch a ton of content at no cost.”
Clark says that he recently dumped his family’s Paramount+ subscription and has started streaming content for free on Pluto TV instead.
Pluto TV offers content produced by some of the same brands you’ll find on Paramount+ such as Comedy Central or MTV. But you will find that the selection of content is not nearly as robust as a paid subscription to Paramount+.
Free streaming services typically require that you watch advertisements in exchange for the content. And you probably won’t have access to the latest movie releases or the hot new TV series.
Still, it costs you nothing to check them out, and you may be pleasantly surprised with the options you find.
I’ve done some extensive research on the free streaming TV market for Team Clark, and you can find my roundup of the best free streaming options here.
“I really want you to think about this in a time when we’re getting cost-squeezed so many different places because of the inflationary cycle we’re in in the United States,” Clark says. “This is a way that you can pull money back into your life out of your monthly expenses.”
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