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These Tips Can Help You Reduce Streaming Costs for Netflix, HBO Max and More

Avoid spending all your holiday funds on TV streaming subscriptions.

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

2022 is winding down and we can recount all the good TV we streamed, including Stranger Things 4, House of the Dragon, Andor and Rings of Power. But if you do the math for your streaming service subscriptions, you may find you're spending $500 per year or more. The "Big Three" -- Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max -- cost $462 for their most popular plans when you tally what you're paying on a monthly basis. You can finesse your streaming service budget, however. 

Look at it like this: You have a bunch of active subscriptions, you watch until your favorite series ends its seasonal run, then look for the next thing. But is it worth keeping multiple accounts if you're not watching anything on them? I don't think so. 

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Check out this money-saving strategy and some useful pointers on how to make it work best for you. 

Read more: Best Live TV Streaming Service for Cord Cutting in 2022

Rotate your streaming services

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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. 

The incentive? You save your coins and avoid content droughts. Let's say a popular title like The White Lotus, Willow or Dancing with the Stars is set to premiere on a service. Find the total episode count and wait until they're all available at once on a platform. You cancel HBO Max, 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 World Cup. Once the season wraps, cancel the service or move to a cheaper platform with fewer channels, like Sling TV

Read more: Best Streaming Device for 2022: Picks From Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple

Warwick Davis holds a flamethrower in a scene from Willow

Why pay for three months of Disney Plus to watch Willow when you can binge all eight episodes in January for the price of one month? 

Disney Plus

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. 

Tip No. 2: Sign up for streaming service deals

Look for discounts on streaming services. For example, Hulu just ran a $2 Black Friday special. 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 $3. Lastly, be sure to check with your mobile carrier to see which ones offer free streaming subscriptions.

Read more: Best Streaming Service Deals From Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile

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, like Peacock's recent deal for $1 per month for 12 months. 

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.