Streaming services raise prices again. How to avoid paying too much.

A few things in life are inevitable: bad weather, taxes and streaming service price increases.

Netflix’s main plan — high-definition video with two simultaneous streams — was $8.99 a month in 2014, and now it’s $15.49 a month. The company’s competitors including Disney+, Hulu and Apple’s Apple AAPL -0.19%

TV+ is also raising prices. Even Amazon AMZN 1.88%

raised its monthly fees for Prime, which includes streaming video.

Worse, many of us juggle many services. I can’t miss “Succession” on HBO Max or “Severance” on Apple TV+. Among U.S. households that pay for video streaming, nearly 60% have three or more subscriptions, and more than half pay at least $20 a month, according to Nielsen. In response to the deluge of options, services are exploring discounted bundles with rivals that sound a bit like the cable packages we thought we left behind.

Speaking of cable, the live TV streaming services — which were already much more expensive because they’re trying to replicate a full cable program — are raising prices again. Sling TV‘s

the basic package has doubled since 2017. Music services have also crept forward, although not as dramatically. Most recently, Apple increased its music subscription by a dollar a month.

If you’re not careful, these increases can eat into your monthly budget. But you can save with some strategic subscription tracking, plan switching, service hopping and (legal!) account sharing.

Move to a cheaper level

If you’re willing to put up with ad breaks, you can save by choosing ad-supported plans.

Paramount+, Peacock, Hulu and HBO Max already have them. On Nov. 3, Netflix introduced a $6.99 per month tier with ads, $3 less than its basic membership. The company said customers can expect an average of four to five minutes of ads per hour. Child profiles will not see advertisements. There are a few trade-offs: the ad plan doesn’t allow offline downloads, and some content is blocked.

Disney DIS 0.33%

+’s $7.99-a-month plan with ads will be available on December 8, when its ad-free tier rises to $10.99. The company promised to keep interruptions down to four minutes every hour and said kids using their own profile won’t see ads.

Play musical chairs

While annual subscriptions typically come with discounts, going month-to-month offers more flexibility. When “House of the Dragon’s” run ends on HBO Max, you can cancel that plan and then sign up for Apple TV+ in time for a new season of “Ted Lasso.”

When you sign up for a service and all the episodes you want are available, immediately unsubscribe and start binge-watching. If it’s not a free trial, most allow you to stream until the end of the billing cycle. (An exception is Amazon Prime, which ends the day you cancel.)

Share logins and share the bill

Family plans offer a discounted group price that becomes cheaper when shared with more people. They generally let you share a subscription between four to six people and allow multiple devices to stream content simultaneously.

Many services – including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Disney+, Sling and HBO Max – require plan participants to live at the same address. However, others do not.

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Amazon Prime and all of its shipping and content benefits—starting at $14.99 per month or $139 annually—can be shared by two adults who don’t live under the same roof. And Apple One, a bundle of services including Apple Music, TV+ and more, can be split between six people living in the same country for plans starting at $22.95 a month. (For music only, Apple Music’s family plan is now $16.99 a month, but still a good value if you share.)

Account moochers’ days may be numbered. In March, Netflix rolled out fees for additional users to crack down on password sharing in some countries in Latin America, and said it could launch a similar system in the United States next year.

If you’re sharing services with friends, the Fuse bill-splitting app can simplify the transaction. When you add your group’s Fuse-assigned debit card number to a subscription, the company automatically deducts everyone’s shares from their associated bank accounts.

The Rocket Money app reviews your bank and credit card statements – and can warn you about price increases on subscriptions.


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Rocket money

Track your recurring costs

Review your credit card statements and app store settings for hidden subscriptions you don’t use. After doing an audit, I discovered that I have been paying for an old password manager for two years – even though I use a different service!

App subscriptions are especially easy to miss. iPhone users: Open Settings, tap your name, then Subscriptions. Android users: Go to the Play Store, tap your profile picture, then tap Payments and subscriptions. You may also have subscribed to premium channels through other platforms. Check memberships and subscriptions in your Amazon account settings.

Apps can also help track recurring expenses automatically, but you should be comfortable sharing your financial account credentials with third parties.

Rocket Money, formerly Truebill, is a money manager app for iPhone and Android that’s particularly good at browsing bank and credit card statements. Recently, the app alerted my colleague Christopher Mims that his monthly Hulu plan had increased by over $2. Rocket Money’s free version offers plenty, though its premium plan (yes, another subscription) starts at $3 a month, with features like your very own service-cancellation concierge.

Check out free options

Just a casual observer or listener? There are many free streaming options for video and music. You might just have to sit through some ads and be OK with missing out on the most popular shows of the moment.

You can listen to Spotify for free with ads with few songs. You cannot play certain songs on demand. You must shuffle playlists or albums of your choice and cannot skip more than six tracks per hour. Amazon recently expanded its Prime Music catalog, included with a Prime membership, to 100 million songs, rivaling the catalogs of Spotify and other streaming audio services. But a similar shuffle-only catch applies. On-demand games require an additional $8.99 per month.

Kanopy, which requires a membership at a participating library, offers a free, ad-free catalog of movies and shows.


Photo:

Nicole Nguyen/The Wall Street Journal

For free movies and TV shows, Amazon’s Freevee, Paramount’s Pluto TV, Fox Entertainment’s Tubi, and the Roku Channel have intermittent commercial breaks. To avoid ads, try services like Kanopy and Hoopla, which require a membership at a participating local library.

You might be surprised how much content is available without a paid subscription. Check out Reelgood, a video search engine with a handy filter for free offers. If you enjoy a good rerun or a cinema classic, there is plenty for you – without the creeping prices.

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Write to Nicole Nguyen at nicole.nguyen@wsj.com

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