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How to Stream Netflix, HBO Max and More for Less Money Every Month

Streaming prices have gone up. Here's how to avoid breaking the bank to watch TV.

Discovery Plus, Hulu, Paramount Plus, Peacock and Netflix streaming service apps on phones
Hulu, Netflix and Disney Plus may be must-haves, but you can lower costs each month with one trick. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.

Given the current economic climate, you may be seeking ways to slash your monthly costs. It could be time to eye your streaming subscriptions. If you add up the cost of each one, you may realize you're spending $500 per year or more. But you can cut that down.

Here's the scenario: You're subscribed to multiple streaming services, you watch one or two of them until your favorite series ends its seasonal run, then look for the next thing. But is it worth keeping all those accounts active if you're not watching anything on them? I don't think so. 

Take a look at this money-saving strategy to help you tame your streaming costs.

Put your streaming services on a rotation 

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Dumping cable for good and switching to streaming is a crafty money move for cord-cutters. Because you're able to sign up for monthly plans, it's easy to jump into a streaming service and jump out when prices increase or content dries up. But according to Deloitte's 2022 Media Trends report, the main reasons people cancel their streaming subscriptions are because of costs and lack of fresh content. Media companies call this behavior "churn." We're calling this the rotation method, and you should try it.

The incentive? You save your coins and avoid content droughts. Let's say a popular title like The Last of Us or The Masked Singer is set to premiere on a streaming service. Find the total episode count and wait until they're all available at once on a platform. You cancel HBO Max, Hulu, Disney Plus or other service and then, once all the episodes are available, resubscribe to catch up. Alternatively, you can start streaming a show midseason to cut costs. My monthly guide on which streaming services to cancel can help you keep up.

The downside? You won't have immediate access to every show you want to watch and will have to wait until the full season airs. And since many streaming services release new episodes weekly, you might not be caught up at the same time as your friends. If you're someone who prefers to watch episodes immediately when they drop, you may decide it's worth it to have multiple subscriptions at a time. If you have patience, however, you can save some money. 

The strategy can also work if you have a live TV streaming service to watch a particular sport or major event like the Super Bowl. Once the season wraps, cancel the service or move to a cheaper platform with fewer channels, like Sling TV

Need help figuring out the best way to rotate? Follow the tips below to learn how to churn streaming platforms until your wallet feels content. 

Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us gazes downward while standing outside

Why pay for three months of HBO Max to watch The Last of Us when you can watch all nine episodes in March for the price of one month?

Liane Hentscher/HBO

Tip No. 1: Cancel your subscription before getting charged 

Set calendar reminders for your billing cycle and upcoming TV show or movie release dates. Give yourself enough warning to begin or end a subscription. Apps such as JustWatch, V Time and Hobi help you track when and where TV shows and movies appear on a streaming service. And JustWatch recently added a tracker specifically for sports. If you have a smart home device from Google or Amazon, you can set reminders for specific dates and allow a voice assistant like Alexa to notify you of an upcoming bill or streaming release date.

Tip No. 2: Sign up for streaming service deals

Look for discounts on streaming services. For example, Starz is now $3 per month for three months, a drop from its regular $9-a-month rate. You can also take advantage of the Disney Bundle, which provides access to Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus in a single package for a reduced price. And eligible Hulu subscribers can add on Disney Plus for $2. Lastly, be sure to check with your mobile carrier to see which ones offer free streaming subscriptions.

Tip No. 3: Pick one or two default streaming services

Subscribe to one or two must-have services for the year, and select only one or two more options to fit your monthly budget. Rotate the bonus service(s) according to what you want to watch, ensuring you don't miss your favorite shows while sticking to your monthly spending cap.

Tip No. 4: Use monthly billing only

Avoid annual subscriptions and pay attention to your auto-renewal payment dates. Your billing cycle can help determine when it's the best time to quit a service, even if you've only signed up for a free trial. The only advantage to signing up for an annual plan is when the price is drastically cut down.

Tip No. 5: Don't cancel your subscription, pause it

Hulu allows you to pause your subscription for up to 12 weeks, and Sling has a similar option with stipulations. Check with your streaming provider to see if you can take a temporary break without canceling.

Give it a shot, and if you don't like it you can always resubscribe. For more excellent tips on streaming TV, check out this guide to Netflix's hidden tricks and our tips on the best VPNs.