10 Ways to Save Money on Cable and Streaming TV

Our TV experts suggest 10 ways to save money on cable, satellite, and streaming TV services.

Inflation is jacking up prices everywhere, and entertainment is always the first budget-cut. Here are some money-saving tips on TV service to mitigate the sacrifice.

An over-the-shoulder shot of a man watching TV.

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Do due diligence

Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a shopping list and spent more than you should? Whether you’re buying groceries or TV service, a little planning goes a long way. Use these tips:

  • Determine how much you can afford to spend on TV.
  • Make a list of your needs (local channels, specific cable channels, DVR service) and wants (premium channels like HBO Max or sports add-ons like NFL SUNDAY TICKET).
  • Research cable TV providers in your area and see which ones have what you want for the price you can afford.
  • During your research, look out for any deals or promotions, or discounts for seniors, military, healthcare workers, teachers, and low-income families.
  • Stick to your budget. When ordering over the phone, politely decline any suggested additional services that don’t fit your plan.

Watch out for second-year price hikes

If a cable or satellite TV provider has you sign a two-year contract, you should know that your monthly payment will increase big-time in the second year. Find out the exact monthly price of your TV package in the second year.

Add the advertised first-year price and the second-year price, then divide by 2 to see the real price of your TV plan per month. If it scares you—and it probably will—try another provider.

Pro tip: To avoid a second-year price hike, try DISH Network. It has affordable, transparent pricing that’s guaranteed not to change for two years. And it’s our pick for the best overall TV provider.

Never, ever get a basic cable TV plan

Even if your TV needs are basic, basic cable plans are a terrible value. You’re paying $20–$60 a month for the same channels you’d get with an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna, which costs only $25–$60 once. And they’re super easy to install.

Shop around instead of bundling

With almost every cable provider ditching bundling discounts and offering à la carte TV and internet plans, the only remaining benefit to bundling is having one bill for multiple services. And how much is that worth to you, really—especially if you make automatic payments?

If you shop around for the best deals on TV and internet service in your area, you’ll probably still be able to save money. And you’ll also have the option of choosing simpler, more flexible—and often more affordable—live TV streaming services instead of cable or satellite TV.

Bundle streaming services

Mixing and matching streaming services beats virtually any cable or satellite TV package in terms of content, flexibility, simplicity, and—best of all—price. In our guide, 8 Streaming Bundles to Replace Cable, we offer the following:

  • Suggested—and customizable—configurations of live TV and on-demand streaming services for movie lovers, binge-watchers, sports fans, families, tight budgets, and more.
  • Information on how to create your own custom streaming service bundles.
  • Our thoughts on existing streaming bundles (AMC+, SHOWTIME/Paramount+, and the Disney bundles) that can save you even more money.

Choose annual streaming subscriptions—if you can afford them

If you can afford the substantial up-front cost of annual streaming subscriptions ($30–$100 a year per service), you can save 16%–40% on your streaming TV bill.

Actually use your streaming services

Since many streaming services are under $10 a month, it’s easy to have too many subscriptions—and small amounts add up. If you find yourself binge-watching mostly Netflix series and never watching Disney+ ($7.99 a month), Shudder ($6.99 a month), or Paramount+ ($9.99 a month), you’re wasting $25 every month.

Streaming services don’t have contracts, so don’t be afraid to cancel them. You can always subscribe again later.

An over-the-shoulder picture of a man watching Netflix and eating popcorn

Free trials are your friend

Almost every streaming TV service offers at least a free 7-day trial. Some even give you 30 days free. Take advantage of them, because free is free—and, if you don’t like the service, you’ve already saved money by canceling before the trial period ends.

Embrace free streaming TV services

There are so many free, ad-supported streaming TV services with live channels and on-demand content. Yes, ad breaks are tedious—but you’ll get used to them when you’re able to access so many movies and shows. We recommend Pluto and Tubi to start.

Negotiate with your TV provider

If you’re near the end of your cable or satellite TV contract, your payment is about to go up. Call your TV provider and politely explain that you’d rather switch providers than pay the higher rate. Many providers will offer a discount or a special package to keep your business. For more tips, check out our guide on negotiating your cable bill.

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