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Cutting costs after cutting the cord: How to save some money on your streaming subscriptions

With how easy streaming services make it to automatically pay for your subscription, experts say it's easy to forget you're paying for something you may not use.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Streaming has taken over the entertainment world, and chances are you probably have at least one service you're subscribed to. While some get used every day, others you may forget entirely and that money becomes lost.

"Lazy beats free every day," says Kevin Lehnert, a professor of marketing at Grand Valley State University's Seidman College of Business.

And lazy is how streaming services are marketed, a small amount of work for hours of content at your fingertips.

"It comes out of your debit, boom, boom, boom," says Lehnert, explaining the ease of paying for a subscription. "So you can have a Netflix or Disney+ subscription and forget about it."

The effort is minimal, but the cost can be great if you don't pay attention.

"It is important to know your limits," says Michael Martin, a financial advisor on the VerWys-Martin team. "Because yes, maybe I do get a lot of enjoyment out of my subscription from this one streaming service and I really enjoy it, but frankly, it's making me stressed. I'm getting behind in credit card payments, or simply, I just have to cut back on groceries a little bit."

So how can you put some money back in your pocket? An option is an ad-based subscription.

Let's say you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and Disney+ at these costs:

Netflix - $15.49/month

Hulu - $14.99/month

HBO Max - $14.99/month

Disney+ - $10.99/month

That total comes to $56.46 each month.

Now, we'll look at costs for ad-based subscriptions for each of those services:

Netflix with ads - $6.99/month

Hulu with ads - $7.99/month

HBO Max with ads - $9.99/month

Disney+ with ads - $7.99/month

That total comes to $32.96 each month, meaning switching to ad-based content on all four platforms would save you a monthly total of $23.50.

"Consumers are going to be a little bit more thoughtful on that," says Lehnert. "Especially if they're binging TV shows, where we're used to having ads built into that."

Experts also suggest taking a break for a little while. A benefit of streaming services is you can cancel at any time without being locked into a contract.

"We know we're going to subscribe to it for these two months and we'll cancel it and be on our way," says Martin.

If the show you want to watch is released weekly, try waiting until the season is done and watch it all at once, only paying for a short term.

"Once I've watched it, cut it for two or three months, save the ten bucks, 20 bucks," says Lehnert.

In the end, experts say managing costs comes down to isolating what kind of content you want the most.

"I'm getting a lot more shows and TV and entertainment experiences that I want, versus beforehand where I had hundreds of channels that I never looked at," says Lehnert.

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