With the cost of living crisis putting pressure on household budgets at the moment, subscriptions are often the first payments people cancel.
A recent study found that the number of households that subscribe to at least one video streaming service in Great Britain dropped as the cost-of-living crisis led some (particularly younger households) to forgo entertainment in favour of saving money. The investigation found that 16.9 million or 58 per cent of households now have at least one paid subscription, a quarter-on-quarter reduction of 215,000.
Which? has rounded up ways to save money on services, from Amazon Prime to Spotify.
- Share your subscriptions
Sharing streaming subscriptions within a household is one of the quickest ways to save money. Most services have plans that could help users save money, without losing their personalised features. For example, Spotify offers a Premium Duo plan for £13.99 a month for two people in the same household, saving £71.88 a year compared to the price of two individual subscriptions. For larger households, the Spotify Premium Family plan for £16.99 a month allows up to six users to get premium benefits, saving a whopping £515.40 a year over six individual subscriptions. Amazon Prime also allows users to share benefits with another person in their household, halving the cost of having two separate accounts.
- Pay annually rather than monthly and save up to £16.88
Users can save by buying a year’s membership in one go, rather than paying monthly. For example, Disney+ costs £7.99 a month, or £79.90 for the year – saving £15.98. Amazon Prime costs £7.99 a month or £79 for the year – saving £16.88.
- Rotate monthly subscriptions
Those who have multiple TV and film subscriptions could save money by rotating what they pay for each month. Netflix, Now, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ will allow users to cancel monthly subscriptions at any point with no exit fee, so if you can plan what you want to watch you could alternate to save. For example, if you subscribed to both Disney+ and Netflix (standard) at a monthly rate, you would pay £227.76 a year in total. However, if you alternated months you would pay just £113.88 a year (six months of Disney at £7.99 and six months of Netflix at £10.99).
- Do your research and compare prices
If there’s a specific programme they want to watch, viewers should first research which platforms have it, and if it’s on multiple platforms check to see which one is cheaper. For example, Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders are available on both Netflix and BBC iPlayer. The cheapest Netflix subscription is £6.99 a month, but if you already have a TV licence, BBC iPlayer is free.
- Downgrade your plan
Switching to a cheaper subscription plan is another simple way to save. For example, Netflix has three different plans – basic (£6.99), standard (£10.99) and premium (£15.99). The basic plan only lets you watch on one screen at a time – but for those who live alone, and don’t share an account with anyone, switching to this plan would save £48 a year. Amazon Prime also offers a basic membership called Prime Video for £5.99 a month – it doesn’t include other benefits such as free premium delivery, but it could be worth it just to stream shows. It would save users £24 a year.
- Calculate if it’s really worth the money
If customers are only using a subscription a few times a month, it might not be worth it. For example, the Pret coffee subscription costs £25 a month and grants the customer up to five hot drinks a day (one every 30 minutes). A regular-sized latte in Pret costs £2.95, those buying three per week would spend £35.40 a month, saving £10.40. However, a black coffee costs £1.40 and would cost £16.80 a month for three per week, in which case customers would save £8.20 by buying them individually.
- Make the most of free trials
Music streaming services, Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited and YouTube Premium all currently give new users a one-month free trial. Users should remember the date the trial ends to avoid accidentally paying for the next month.
- Cancel what you don’t use
It’s easy to lose track of active subscriptions, especially if paying out of several bank accounts. Apps like Money Dashboard and Snoop give users an overview of all their bank accounts in one place and can help users spot subscriptions they don’t need or want anymore. Some banking apps also have features that make it easier to stay on top of bills.
- Use free alternatives
All 4, ITV Hub, and My 5 are available for free (as long as you are not using them to watch live television). For free music, BBC Sounds allows users to listen to live radio, as well as a range of podcasts and music playlists. Alternatively, local libraries often offer free e-books, magazines and newspapers.
- Check for bundles
Many mobile providers offer free extras with contracts that could give access to popular streaming sites for up to two years. For example, Vodafone offers up to 24 months of Amazon Prime, Spotify or YouTube Premium with certain pay monthly deals, and EE offers a ‘special benefit’ for the length of the mobile contract. This currently includes BT Sport, Apple Music or Apple TV+ However, it’s important to make sure any new phone contract is right for you before taking it out, and make sure you shop around for the best deal.
Reena Sewraz, Which? Money Expert said:
“From streaming your favourite films and songs to getting your fill of coffee, many of us find paying for subscriptions is now normal, but the costs can quickly add up. With the cost of living crisis putting pressure on household budgets, many people will be reevaluating their subscriptions to save money.
“However, we found many ways to save on a range of subscriptions. If you live with others and have multiple subscriptions for the same services, it’s worth sharing a subscription to cut the cost. Paying annually rather than monthly is often cheaper, and you could even rotate your monthly subscriptions, rather than paying for more than one similar service at a time.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? is highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
- All prices and deals mentioned in this release were correct as of 30 May 2022. Pret a Manger prices are taken from its Regent’s Place, London branch.
- Kantar found that the number of households that subscribe to at least one video streaming service in Great Britain dropped as the cost-of-living crisis led some (particularly younger households) to deprioritise entertainment to save money.
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent