Netflix, Amazon Prime, NowTV... Sign up to them all to reap the unique benefits of each and you might not be able to pay for your mortgage!
Meet your freebie Sensei
Our miserly thrifty reporter ‘in the field,' John Davidson, Product Manager at Money Dashboard, has been doing everything he can to avoid paying / pay as little as possible for the max return of quality streaming entertainment; and because he's a magnanimous fellow too, he wants to share his pearls of wisdom with the discerning public.
This blog post isn't so much about choosing a product and sticking with it; it's about paying the least possible for max. amount of viewing pleasure!
It is probably worth saying at this point that this is made up entirely of John's opinions and suggestions and does not necessarily reflect those of Money Dashboard.
TV for £1 or less
Before you go on, or in case you can't be bothered, it's highly noteworthy that, for the next month, NowTV are offering you the chance to try out their Entertainment (Tv) service for just £1; their library includes stuff like Game of Thrones and True Detective. Think how much Game of Thrones you can eat in a month! <Homer>mmmmm, Game of thrones</Homer>
This is key.
Some providers require you to input your bank details even if they aren't going to take payment in the first month - but they will take payment in subsequent months if you don't cancel in time. If you're trying anything on a free trial, make sure to set a highly visible alert or calendar reminder to yourself for a few days before it expires, so you can ensure you cancel it before you start getting charged (assuming you don't want to continue using the service!)
The process for the top providers are detailed below. Let's go.
Sign up to Blinkbox
That's it. Don't rent anything. They've got your email address now, and it's in their interests to make you become a customer. There's a good chance they'll start sending you offers - movies for just a £1 on a certain day - 25% off your next purchase etc.
It's a nice surprise when you receive it, and Blinkbox has a wealth of up to date movies that far surpasses any of the other streaming services I'm going to go into, so you'll never not be in a position where you can't find a movie to watch, if you want to take them up on their offer to do it on the cheap.
Obviously, if you do find something, and you're signed up to another service as well, check that you can't already see it via your existing provider as part of the subscription fee you're already paying.
Sign up to Amazon Prime on a month's free trial
Amazon Prime, in the writer's opinion, has a comparatively poor selection of movies and shows, so much so that the month-long free trial was sufficient for me to see all the movies available (that I hadn't already seen) that I wanted to see + one season of a decent show I knew I couldn't get elsewhere (Bosch.)
After that, I was more than happy to pull the plug on my subscription and move on. Of course, it may be the perfect service for you, with the free shipping aspect, but it definitely wouldn't be able to satisfy my viewing entertainment appetites every month!
When choosing what to watch in the month, try and choose movies and shows you won't be able to get on your upcoming free trials with Netflix and NowTV (it's easy enough to scan their libraries without actually signing up.
You've just seen a bunch of films (and premium TV shows) for free :)
Sign up to NowTV* Movies on a month's free trial
*It's important to note that NowTV is divided into two separate services; NowTV movies for films, and NowTV Entertainment for shows/'boxsets'.
At the time of blogging, I can get a month's free trial with NowTV movies, but not with NowTV Entertainment. However, I was delighted recently when I received an offer to try out NowTV Entertainment for just a £1 for first month, (after which, crucially, I can cancel), in an email from Vouchercloud.
Top tip: Sign up to Vouchercloud and get alerted to such offers in their emails! We don't have an affiliation with them, I just think they're cool!
NowTV Movies has a far more extensive range than Amazon Prime - again, through the month, go for movies you know aren't available on Netflix.
You've just seen a bunch of films for free, two months in a row :)
Sign up to Netflix on a month's free trial
Ok, you've got the hang of it now, only you now might want to optimise what you want based on what isn't available on Blinkbox.Bongo. You've just had three months of entertainment for free!
Now it's up to you to decide whether any of those services merit the subscription charge every month.
Bear in mind, those companies still having your email address is a plus. What they want more than anything, is to make you theirs, so look out for offers and incentives to sign up properly for any of these services.
1. Pause your accounts
When you're going on holiday, the selection has got a bit stale etc. If you cancel your account with Netflix, you can pick it up again, with all the watching history, ratings etc. at any point up to 10 months later. NowTV Movies also make it easy for you to cancel, but come back at a later date.
Basically, you never want to be paying for more than one streaming service subscription at once, and these services make it easy for you to flit between them every couple of months, watching one service's new additions, whilst the other service builds up a decent stock of new stuff in their library.
2. TV for the long haul
Having done all the free trials, I predominantly use Netflix, but then when I find the selection has got a bit stale, pause it for a month or so, whilst switching NowTV on for a couple. After a couple of months Netflix's library has built up nicely again.
Blinkbox is a cherry on the top for the whole thing, providing the odd ‘treat' film, ideally discounted with one of the special offers they'll be sending you to desperately try to get you to use their service!
3. Set up a spend tracker
What kind of post would this be without a plug for Money Dashboard? To be fair, I feel like the Spend Tracker tool in our free personal finance manager and budget tool is the best way to keep track of spending on things like online TV and entertainment. Set up a spend tracker using our new Money Dashboard app to keep track of anything you spend on say downloading movies, committing to monthly subscriptions or going to the cinema to keep your TV watching in line with your budget.
About the author
Your correspondent in penny-pinching getting value for money, John Davidson, is a keen money saver and long time Money Dashboard user. He recently attended a comedy stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was named Sexiest Guy at The Fringe 2015. Described by colleagues as short and sassy, he often tells the team about the latest deals he's getting and money back on things.