This is a new bill that we didn’t need to worry about a decade ago. Sure, about 40 per cent of Aussie households had pay TV in the form of Foxtel, Austar or the older OptusVision (remember that?). But it was still a luxury, paid for by a minority. Most of us bought albums and songs on CDs or on iTunes and had a membership at the local Video Ezy or Blockbuster (remember them?).
Now, more than 70 per cent of Australian homes are streaming television, movies and music, and we’re forking out more than $2.7 billion a year on it. As of 2022, the average home has 3.3 TV/movie subscriptions and two music subscriptions, which adds up to a bill of about $500 to $600 a year.
So, here’s the problem: in the early days of Netflix, streaming was a money-saving hack in itself: dump pay TV, subscribe to a couple of streamers, save about $500 a year, laugh all the way to the bank.
That’s still an easy saving for Foxtel subscribers. But now we all need to watch our streaming costs, too. We’ve reached the era of “peak streaming”, where there’s so much good content spread across more than 20 different platforms that if you want to watch all of it, it’ll cost you about $150/month – the same as a premium Foxtel subscription.
Prices are also rising – Netflix used to be $10 a month for a standard subscription, and now it’s $17 (unless you’re happy to watch ads on the new $7 budget tier). So if we’re not careful, our streaming bills can blow out and suck hundreds of dollars from our bank accounts like little vampires – even when we’re not using them.
So let’s look at how to keep these thirsty little suckers at bay.
Maybe the most useful piece of information I can give you about streaming services is this: you can turn them on and off, like a TV! Welcome to the world of “stream-hoppers” – money-savvy TV aficionados who jump from one service to another, bingeing their favourite show and then moving onto the next, while pausing them in between.
It’s entirely possible, but they don’t make it easy. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the “off” switch for most streaming services is well hidden, so I find it’s always easier to do so by logging in on a computer rather than your phone.
You can return at any time. Most services will remember your likes and dislikes and other data for more than six months. Some will even offer you another free trial to come back.
When you cancel, you’re not cut off immediately – if you’ve paid for a month, you’ll be cut off at the end of a month. So you can subscribe and cancel immediately if you’re worried about remembering to do so later. Sometimes they’ll even “pay” you to come back!
I’ve dabbled with both Spotify and Apple Music in the past. In the end, we settled on a Spotify family subscription, but I think both have their strengths.
While researching this, I went back for a closer look at Apple Music and noticed they were offering me ‘one month free’ to come back, even though I’d cancelled in the past. So I took it for the month and decided I’d try them both out again for a while and see which one I preferred. And yes – I did remember to cancel one of them after the free month. I’ve also heard of Netflix offering people a second free trial if they didn’t complete their first one.
In our family of four, we came up with a simple rule to stop our streaming habit from spiralling out of control. I call it the “Pick a Winner” rule. Each member of the family is allowed to pick one streaming service at a time and only one. If we stick to it, we’re signed up for four services at any given time and no more.
In one month, for example, my 10-year-old might pick Stan* for All Blacks games, my 12-year-old might pick Binge for Modern Family, my wife and I might pick Apple TV+ for Ted Lasso and Kayo Sports for the footy. With the footy season winding up, I might cancel Kayo Sports for now and sign up to Netflix for Animal Kingdom, and so on.
Here’s another way to decide which subscriptions to keep and which ones to switch off:
• Draw a line down the middle of a page to create two columns. Call one of them “Angel Subs” and call the other one “Vampire Subs”. Put each of your subscriptions in one column or the other.
• Angels are the subscriptions that save you money, compared with what you’d pay otherwise for renting TV, movies and music on an ad hoc basis. Vampire subscriptions are the ones that cost you money by sucking it out of your direct-debit account without giving you real value in return.
• Then drive a stake through the heart of all the Vampire Subs (or at least the ones you can live without) and cancel them. Don’t worry – you can always come back.
Reviews.org has estimated the cost of streaming over a lifetime at $19,300 and found that cancelling just one service could save you almost $10,000 over time.
This is an edited extract from Easy Money: 7 Steps To Bust Your Bills by Joel Gibson, published by Simon & Schuster, RRP $29.99.
*Stan is owned by Nine, the owner of this masthead.
Source: Thanks smh.com