Even as the economy is improving, the costs of goods and services are still rising. For many of us this not only means finding ways to stretch our food and shelter dollars, but our entertainment dollars as well. For some this might mean dropping cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of online streaming services. For others it could mean dropping all services and relying solely on over-the-air transmissions and free services like the public library. Below is an outline of the entertainment options available for every type of budget.
Free services include relying solely on over-air transmissions from broadcasters; public library resources, including electronic loans; and free streaming from broadcaster sites like NBC.com or Hulu’s online site. Although these services are free, you might need specific equipment, which could cost you money if you don’t have them already.
To view over-air transmissions you will need a digital television or a converter box that can read the digital broadcast signals. You can also access these signals on a PC that has a TV Tuner through a program like Windows Media Center. If your PC does not have a built-in TV tuner, you would need to purchase one. Digital converters and PC TV tuners can both cost upwards of $30.
To stream content you will need high-speed internet access and, for the best results, Geek Squad recommends that you have a minimum of 6-10 Mbps download speed to view streaming videos. You will also need a web-enabled device, like a PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone, which can cost upwards of $50 if you don’t already have one.
To view this content, you will need a DVD or Blu-ray player, which can cost upwards of $30 if you don’t already have one. While checking out these materials is usually free, you could see hefty fines if you return them late.
Not including any of the devices you might need to access the services, depending on where you live, and what’s available in your area, the minimum internet speed for free streaming could cost upwards of $20 per month.
Low priced services are subscription services that you can join for a fairly small monthly fee – usually less than $10 per month. These services include Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBO is also offering a stand-alone subscription service in 2015.
To access these services, you will need to have high-speed internet access, and a web-enabled device. You might also need to subscribe to several services to get all of the content you need.
For example: Hulu Plus has first-run television broadcasts, but it doesn’t do older shows or even previous seasons. Netflix does older shows and previous seasons, but no first runs. Both have movies, but if you want to watch popular blockbusters, you will usually have to rent them a la carte, or pay extra to upgrade your Netflix service.
Depending on the number of subscriptions you have, and how much you pay for internet access, you could pay upwards of $50 a month for the services and internet access.
Higher-priced services are the subscription television services, like cable and satellite. These services are usually higher than the moderate-priced services, but it ultimately depends on the provider.
For example, you could spend approximately $60 a month on your internet access plus Hulu Plus, HBO GO, and Netflix. However, because providers like AT&T provide internet access as one of their services, you could take advantage of one of the U-verse promotions plentiful at ATT.com and spend about the same amount on a TV and internet package.
To access these services, you will need a working television; the cable or satellite company usually provides all of the equipment you need as part of your subscription.
Some companies offer access to ON-Demand through your box, and might require the box to be connected to the internet. These companies also have websites where you can access your programming from your PC, Mac, or tablet and you will need high-speed internet access for that as well. However, as previously stated, internet could be included with the television programming as part of a package deal.
Adding premium channels, like HBO and Showtime, tends to increase the cost, but there are also ways around that.
- Some service providers offer discounts and specials on premium channels, including free channels when you sign up.
- These companies also offer specials to current subscribers; sometimes the subscriber has to ask, but sometimes the company sends out notices.
Another option is to use a moderately-priced subscription service, like Netflix DVDs or HBO’s stand-alone service, with your higher-priced service, instead of subscribing to the premiums.
What are some of your favorite low-cost entertainment options?