How to Create the Best Streaming Bundle for $20 or Less
How do we save the most money when cutting the cord? It’s not easy, especially as streaming services raise their prices. The average household spends a small fortune on several streaming products and services, but if you’re really trying to save money, here’s the best bundle for your buck.
Every on demand streaming service comes in under $20/month (for now), so your best bet is to churn each service every month. If you have a favorite service, you could certainly lock it in for a full year, but most services don’t spin out enough content to merit a full 12-month subscription. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck if you churn and simply binge each catalog every month.
Sample Streamable Calendar
- January: If cold weather keeps you cooped up, turn to Disney+ for some digital comfort food like “Star Wars.”
- February: It’s the shortest month, so it’s time to try some bargains like Apple TV+ or discovery+ (both $4.99), or Hulu or Paramount+ (both $5.99)
- March: While you wait for spring to arrive, HBO Max gives plenty of entertainment for adults, toddlers, and everyone in-between.
- April: Why not give Peacock a whirl to enjoy WrestleMania and browse through their catalog? You could also choose to spend the month learning a new skill for summer, thanks to a MasterClass subscription ($15/month).
- June: It’s summer blockbuster season, so keep your kids (and yourself) entertained with the huge library of movies from Disney+. Can you make it through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe? Can you watch every Pixar flick? Finish the month with a pre-Independence Day viewing of “Hamilton.”
- July: If you’ve gone half the year without Netflix, you can sign up in July to see what you’ve missed.
- August: Shake up the end of your summer with another grab bag of inexpensive services. Consider CuriosityStream ($2.99-$9.99/month), Funimation ($7.99/month), Hallmark Movies Now ($5.99/month) and/or Acorn TV. Hulu or Paramount+ can round out your entertainment options.
- September: Football is back, so fire up Amazon Prime Video to watch the Thursday games and browse through the huge Amazon library.
- October: HBO Max will give you some solid horror movies for Halloween, and you’ll need those 31 days to go through an all-time great show like “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood,” or “Game of Thrones.”
- November: As the weather turns colder and you think ahead to the holidays, fire up Disney+ again for some family-friendly classics.
- December: Netflix has exclusive access to some wonderful Christmas originals, so it’s the perfect choice to have for the holidays.
Whatever you don’t spend on a monthly subscription cost, you can allocate to digital rentals or purchases from Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV app (formerly iTunes), Google Play, Vudu, or AMC On Demand to build out your library.
If you have a library card, apps like Hoopla or Kanopy can provide free movies and TV on demand. (Check with your library to see which service they support.) If you still have a DVD player, most libraries have a decent selection of films you can borrow for free.
There’s also a staggering amount of free content available on YouTube, so remember to check that out if you’re ever bored.
Live Local TV
To watch live TV, it’s worth the one-time investment to pick up an antenna. This should give you access to your local CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, and PBS channels.
Remember that your local news station likely offers video on their website. You can also check VUit and Local Now to see if the station in your area is streaming.
Since Philo is raising its price to $25/month, that puts it out of our budget here. If you’re inclined toward family entertainment, you could consider frndly TV for $5.99. That gives you 15 channels like Hallmark Channel, Game Show Network, and Outdoor Channel. But the frndly lineup is all content that would function just as well on demand, so you don’t really need to have it live.
Ad-Supported Live TV Shows and Movies
Today’s cord cutters have a ton of options when it comes to free, ad-supported services. Some of these are strictly on demand, while others offer a channel-like lineup of 24/7 programming.
- Pluto TV
- CW Seed
- IMDb TV
- Roku Channel
- Glewed TV
- Shout Factory TV
- Nosey (tabloid daytime TV)
- WaterBear (nature documentaries)
- Rooster Teeth (gaming, animation, comedy)
- Le Cinéma Club (one film each week)
Since sports channels are the biggest cost to any streaming service, there are no bargains to be found here. Use your antenna for any live sports, and hit your favorite sports bar if there’s a game that’s not available over the air.
If you are a WWE fan, Peacock will give you those events for as low as $4.99/month. We also know Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football, so you might choose to carve out a spot for that in your budget in the fall. ESPN+ is also a fair value at $5.99/month, so you can turn that on whenever your favorite sport is in-season.
How to Decide
If you’re having a hard time deciding which service to prioritize, this survey suggests HBO Max is best for action, biography, documentary, fantasy, film-noir, history, horror, music, mystery, war, and western movies.
Hulu gets high marks for adventure, animation, comedy, crime, drama, musicals, reality TV, romance and sports movies.
Disney+ is the winner for musicals and sci-fi.
Also, 39% of Americans say Netflix has the best content, but your taste may differ. Some content also bounces from service to service, so take that into consideration.
Again, we recommend cycling through these services each month to find your favorite. There’s no penalty for canceling your membership!
If You Just Want One Subscription
You can stay under $20/month if you sign up for the Disney Bundle with Hulu (No Ads) for $19.99. That will save ~$6 a month, compared to the list prices for Disney+ ($7.99), ESPN+ ($5.99), and Hulu No Ads ($11.99) separately ($25.97 total). That bundle gives you sports, family entertainment, and some quality blockbusters for all ages. The bundle price is a solid value, and something unique in the streaming landscape.
Although it can be difficult to keep your streaming budget under $20/month, it’s not impossible. Many of us sign up for services, only to forget we’re paying for them. If you set a calendar reminder for the end of each month, you can churn through services and keep your costs under control. If you really need a premium live TV streaming service, you could always access a free trial from one of the services that offer one.
Consider what is most important to you and allocate your budget in the months your favorite shows will appear on the services. Supplement your premium subscriptions with the wide variety of free streaming services and you should have no trouble finding something to watch!