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How to cut your costs on TV and music streaming services

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With household bills climbing, it is time to start looking at cutting back on those unnecessary subscriptions. Streaming services are a godsend to keep you entertained when the winter nights draw in but with more and more competing for your attention, here are 10 ways to narrow them down, find deals and save some cash.

Decide which ones to cut

The most effective way to save on streaming services is to cancel the ones you do not use regularly. Take a look at the time you spend watching each TV service you subscribe to and you will probably find you watch some far more than others. There is no automated way to do this across various devices but some services such as Netflix allow you to review your activity, which may help.

Some services are better for TV than films and vice versa, so prioritising one or the other helps keep the content you watch most available while reducing the cost.

Sky’s £9.99 Now entertainment is packed with box sets but has no films, for instance.

Lots of films and TV shows are duplicated across many different services, too.

The free app JustWatch helps you find where the content you want to watch is available and how much each service offers.

For instance, you will find 22 seasons of Midsomer Murders on BritBox (£5.99 a month) but you will also find four for free on ITV Hub.

View image in fullscreenNeil Dudgeon as DCI Barnaby and Nick Hendrix as DS Winter in Midsomer Murders, available on BritBox. Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Switch between services

Most streaming services can be paid for on a rolling monthly basis, so you can quickly switch between them and save by only paying for one at a time. Many of the hottest TV shows are exclusive to particular services, with new episodes released once a week to keep you subscribing. The best way to watch them all for the least money is to wait for all of the episodes to be made available and then just pay for a single month and watch them all in one go.

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It can be hard to avoid spoilers, and you will be behind the times with friends and colleagues, but time it right and you will at least be able to watch the season finale with everyone else. Switching between the services this way can save you lots while you do not miss out on content.

Use free trials

Many of the services offer free trials, which you can cancel before they expire to avoid being charged. If you want to watch only one TV show on a particular streamer, binge-watching during a seven-day trial means you can see it all for free. Cycling between email addresses and members of your household can unlock multiple free trials, too.

Switch to cheaper services

Many streaming services have more than one level of subscription, often based on picture quality and the number of screens you can use simultaneously to watch the same or different things. For instance, Netflix’s premium subscription costs £13.99 a month if you want to stream it on four screens at once and for up to 4K ultra HD quality. If you only have an HD TV, switching down to a standard plan saves you £4 a month or choosing basic for standard definition saves you £8.

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If you want to cut the cost of watching Sky’s content, its Now streaming service offers it for less each month and on a rolling basis, split by categories such as entertainment, cinema and sport, so you can pay just for the type of content you want.

Find bundles and deals

View image in fullscreenAre you paying for streaming services you do not regularly watch? Photograph: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

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Buying your streaming services in bundles or deals with other subscriptions can work out cheaper. For instance, many mobile phone contracts come with the option of a video or music streaming service. EE’s “smart plans” can include Netflix, Apple Music or Apple TV+, some of O2’s plans include six months of Disney+, Prime Video, Amazon Music or others, Vodafone’s “with entertainment” plans include Prime Video, Spotify or YouTube Premium and there are many more.

Similarly, you may be able to get streaming services cheaper through your pay-TV or phone provider. Sky’s Netflix add-on costs £5, saving 99p a month, while O2 offers £2 off Disney+ a month.

If you are committed to a particular streaming service, paying for a year upfront can save you money. Disney+, for example, costs £7.99 a month but you can buy a year for £79.90 – 12 months for the cost of 10.

Threaten to cancel

You cannot haggle with most streaming services but a few such as Now will sometimes try to keep you as a customer when you threaten to cancel. It is not quite the same as ringing up and bargaining but if you go to your account online and follow the cancellation process you may be asked why you are attempting to leave. If you select the “too expensive” option or similar, you may be offered a discount.

Look out for family plans

For those services that do not allow multiple users at once, family plans can save you money over separate subscriptions. Spotify’s ad-free service costs £9.99 a month but you can save £5.99 with its £13.99 a month “Duo” plans for two people or up to £42.95 with its “Family” plans that cost £16.99 a month for up to six accounts at the same address. It is the same with Apple Music, which costs £9.99 a month or £14.99 a month for a family plan for up to six people, and YouTube Premium with YouTube Music costs £11.99 for one account or £17.99 for a family plan for up to five people.

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View image in fullscreenMusic streaming services such as Spotify allow multiple users at the same address to share a family plan. Photograph: Digital Vision./Getty Images

Get a student discount

Many streaming services offer a student discount through services such as Unidays, Totum or Student Beans that prove you are at a qualifying college or university. Spotify is £5.99 (£4 saving) a month for students, while Apple Music is £4.99 (£5 saving) a month and comes with free Apple TV+, too. YouTube Premium with YouTube Music costs £6.99 (£5 saving) a month, while Amazon Prime is £3.99 (£4 saving) a month for students.

Earn cashback

Some of the streaming services have cashback offers via certain credit cards or cashback sites. It is worth checking within your banking app in case it has offers. Also check out the cashback sites: you can get 64% cashback on Apple Music at Quidco or 70% at Topcashback, or £10 cashback on an annual Disney+ subscription from both of them. Be warned, cashback can sometimes be declined for various reasons so do not bank on it.

Pay with a gift card

Some streaming services such as Netflix, Now and Apple Music or Apple TV+ can be paid for with gift cards or vouchers, which can sometimes be bought for less than their face value.

Bigger retailers such as Tesco and Amazon often offer 10% off in periodic sales, meaning a £100 gift voucher is available for £90, while smaller online retailers usually offer gift cards with smaller discounts of up to 5% depending on the value.