We’ve all heard the advice to save money by cutting cable and embracing streaming, right? But that advice is starting to sound a little dated. After all, it’s estimated that about 55% of Americans have already given up cable and embraced streaming. However, there’s now a plethora of streaming services and apps, all of them with their own exclusive content. Not only is it possible to spend a lot of money on streaming services, but the cost of many of these services are rising sharply. Disney+ has gone up almost 38%, and Netflix also raised prices. Does that mean families are doomed to spend a chunk of their budget on at-home entertainment? Absolutely not. There are still ways to have a variety of things to watch at home without breaking your budget.
Start With Free Streaming Apps
Once upon a time, there were only a few major streaming apps, and all of them cost money. Now, there are lots of apps, and many of them are getting pricier by the day. Luckily, there are now many streaming apps that are available for free! Don’t worry: All of these apps are perfectly legal. And they won’t leave you squinting at your phone, either. You can access them on your television the way you access your other apps, either through a smart TV’s built-in interface or through a third-party streaming stick like a Roku or Google Chromecast. Some popular free television streaming apps include:
- Crackle: One of the more established free streaming apps, Crackle offers classic television shows like Bewitched along with newer movies from major studios.
- Crunchyroll: This app has thousands of anime movies and television series available, many of which aren’t available to stream anywhere else legally.
- IMDB TV: Do you love bingeing entire series of television shows? This app, formerly known as Freedive, offers scores of classic and current series along with a wide array of movies.
- NewsON: News junkies will enjoy this app, which has broadcasts from more than 275 news stations available.
- Pluto TV: Pluto offers curated channels of content, much like an old-school cable package might. The service has lots of kid- and family-friendly programming.
- PBSKids: Kids and parents can all enjoy the plethora of entertaining and educational content for kids available here.
- Popcornflix: Horror fans or those who like hard-to-find action films will enjoy this streaming service, which specializes in classic movies.
- Tubi TV: Part of Fox Entertainment, Tubi has streaming rights from properties owned by Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount Pictures. New Fox television series are available to stream as well.
Take Advantage of Free Trials
Almost all of the paid streaming apps offer free trials. This is great news for people trying to save money on home entertainment who still love a show that’s only available on one of the major streaming services. For example, if you love The Crown, wait until the newest season is available and then sign up for a free trial of Netflix. Binge your fave, then catch up on any other interesting content while you have access for free. The trick is to watch what you want to see quickly, then remember to cancel the service before the free trial ends. Set a reminder on your calendar so that you don’t accidentally rack up a bill on a streaming service you never intended to pay for.
Consider the Library
Checking out books is a time-honored way of scoring free entertainment, but libraries of the 21st century have so much more to offer bargain-hunting patrons. Different library systems subscribe to different apps that offer their users a variety of at-home entertainment choices. The most popular library-sponsored apps are:
- Hoopla: Hoopla offers movies, television shows, music, and audiobooks to stream. The app is available on the Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores. Each library system sets limits as to how many items a patron can check out using hoopla. Hoopla offers popular content including music by Harry Styles and the newest seasons of many television series.
- Kanopy: Kanopy is designed for serious movie-lovers. Indie flicks, classic cinema, and well-produced documentaries offer movie buffs a wide variety of choices.
- OverDrive: OverDrive started out as an e-book and magazine service. Now, however, they also offer films and audiobooks. And unlike with other library-sponsored apps, there are no limits to using OverDrive. Patrons can check out an unlimited number of audiobooks, e-books, and films. However, each library only has a license for so many simultaneous checkouts of the same title, so if ten other patrons have checked out the movie you want to see, you’ll have to wait until one of them returns it to the digital database.
But What if You Still Have Cable?
Sure, Americans are cutting the cord in unprecedented numbers, but that doesn’t mean everyone has turned their back on cable. Lots of people still have it for myriad reasons. But don’t worry: You haven’t missed the boat on cutting the cord and saving major money each month! Many people hold onto cable because they love watching television live, but there are many live television streaming services available now. They are more expensive than traditional streaming apps, but they’re still much, much cheaper than cable. They also offer subscribers access to live sports and live newscasts. Sports and news are two major factors in why people hold onto pricey cable packages. These services offer the flexibility and low cost of streaming apps with most, if not all, of the benefits of traditional cable packages.
- Hulu + Live TV includes the longstanding streaming app Hulu, giving subscribers access to Hulu’s library of streamable content along with live TV options. The interface is a little clunky, but the selection isn’t bad. However, although it has many of the major cable channels, it is missing stalwarts like Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon.
- YouTube TV allows subscribers to set up to six separate profiles and can be used on three different devices at the same time. This flexibility makes it perfect for families or roommates. It also comes with unlimited DVR storage in YouTube’s cloud. Weirdly, paying for YouTube TV doesn’t give subscribers access to YouTube Premium: That’s a separate charge. However, this streaming service offers channels that Hulu doesn’t, including the NBA and MLB networks. But channels like Lifetime and the NFL Network are missing from YouTube TV’s lineup.
- Sling TV is the most affordable streaming live television option, starting at about $35 a month. Remember, though, that Sling doesn’t have the capability of setting up individual profiles for different users. It also offers expansion packs, so it’s easy to rack up a large bill easily. However, sticking with the base plan offers a lot of the same channels as a basic cable package at a much lower price. Channels like Fox News and Animal Planet aren’t offered by Sling at this time, however.
- FuboTV is also a really affordable choice. However, Fubo is aimed at two groups with specific needs. Sports fans love the app because it offers lots of sports-watching options, like ESPN and the NFL Network; however, the MLB Network isn’t included. Spanish-speaking households also love the app because it offers lots of Spanish-language channels.