How to Save Money While Streaming Videos Online

Published: December 7, 2017 - 9:00am EST

Devices featuring streaming services

Everyone loves to kick back and watch a movie, TV show, or YouTube video once in a while. Some may even enjoy watching videos on-the-go occasionally. Unfortunately, this can be problematic due to the fact that streaming videos can result in having to pay lots of money to your mobile service provider.

If you’re tired of getting hit with data overage charges after streaming videos on your mobile device, we’re here to help. There are a few things you can do to save money when video streaming, and in this article, we’re going to tell you about them. Before we get into that, let’s talk about why video streaming can end up costing you so much money.

Why is video streaming expensive?

Video streaming is expensive because it usually requires a high amount of Internet data in order to stream a high definition video, TV show, or movie. The higher the video quality and longer the length of the video, the more data you’ll use and the more it will cost you in the long run.

When you watch a video on your mobile device without a Wi-Fi connection, you’ll be using your mobile data provided by your cellular carrier. If you have a high or unlimited amount of data included in your monthly cell phone plan, this isn’t an issue. However, if you have a smaller amount of data included in your plan and accidentally use more than your plan allows, you will likely be hit with data overage fees on your next cell phone bill, which in some cases, can be even more than your monthly bill itself!

Now that we’ve covered the reasons why streaming videos can be expensive, let’s talk about some ways you can save money while streaming videos, TV shows, and movies.

Ways to save money streaming videos

1. Reduce the quality of the video.

Streaming videos in HD (high definition) generally uses a higher amount of data than a low-quality video does. If the website or app you’re streaming video from gives the option to decrease the video quality, set it to the lowest resolution offered to keep data usage lower.

Reduce video quality function

2. Connect to a Wi-Fi network whenever possible.

If you don’t have a large amount of cellular data in your mobile phone plan, it’s easy to use it all up pretty quickly. To avoid using all of your data, try to connect to Wi-Fi whenever it’s available to you. If you’re at home, work, school, etc., there will likely be Wi-Fi available to you for free. Many restaurants and other public places also offer free Wi-Fi, especially in larger cities.

Connect to Wi-Fi on an iPhone

3. Keep an eye on the Wi-Fi icon to ensure that it stays connected.

Sometimes, devices will automatically disconnect from a Wi-Fi network if the Internet seems to be running slowly or if the strength of the connection is poor. Check the Wi-Fi icon on your device (usually shown in a menu bar at the very top or bottom of a screen) and make sure you stay connected to the network.

Some devices have a setting that you can change to ensure that your Internet connection doesn’t switch from Wi-Fi to cellular data just because it’s not running at a high speed. On iOS devices, this setting is called “Wi-Fi Assist,” and on Android it is referred to as “Smart Network Switch.”

Wi-Fi assist function

4. Always download content while on Wi-Fi.

Depending on what platform you’re using to stream video content, you may have the option to download videos to watch later, eliminating the need for an active Internet connection when watching a video. If your preferred platform allows this, download videos you’d like to watch while you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, so that you can watch them later even if Wi-Fi is no longer available. This is a great way to reduce data usage.

If Netflix is your streaming service of choice, you can learn how to watch movies and TV shows offline here. Hulu has announced plans to introduce offline viewing in the near future.

5. Test how much data you’re using over a month to develop a baseline.

If you aren’t able to download videos to watch offline later, or if you don’t have Wi-Fi available to you and you have to use your cellular data, do a test run to see how much data you’ll use, on average, if you stream a single episode of a TV show, for example.

After watching one video/show/movie, check how much data you used during that time period. That will give you an idea of how much data is used in a set amount of time.

6. Periodically check your data usage.

To ensure you don’t go over your data limit, check your data usage every so often while streaming a video online. This will help you keep track of the amount of data you’re using so you aren’t totally shocked when you get your next cell phone bill.

Monitor your data usage

Those are our best tips for saving money when using video streaming sites and apps. Using any of these tips or a combination of all of them can really help you cut back on the cost!

 

That does it for this article with our top tips for how to save money while video streaming. If you’d like to learn more about online video streaming, check out our Internet TV article. Curious how much of your data is being used when you’re watching Netflix? Head over to this article on Netflix data usage.

Support TechBoomers

TechBoomers offers free articles that teach people how to use technology to make their lives easier (and more fun!). To support our work, some of our content contains links to websites that pay us affiliate commissions when our users visit them through us and make purchases. Learn more about how this works.

Add your comments below. We'd love to hear from you!