Wednesday , November 25 2020

Budget hack: Replace Netflix, Apple Music and more with these free alternatives

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We’ve rounded up the best free options for replacing pricey subscription services such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple Music, Peloton and more.

Looking to save some cash and still stay entertained? Swap out all of the services you pay for — that includes Netflix, Hulu, Apple Music, DoorDash and Grubhub — for free alternatives. The free choices may not get you the exact same thing, but can often get you pretty close, especially if you’re one of the millions of people whose employment has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and you’re looking to cut costs where you can.

A lot of these free services operate with ads, unlike their paid counterparts. And the streaming services won’t let you download stuff to watch or listen to offline. But some have deals to go ad-free for free during the pandemic, which you can take advantage of now. 

Here’s how to replace all of the services you pay for with free ones. 

Replaces: Netflix

Crackle is an ad-supported streaming service that offers movies and some TV shows, including original content. You can find a variety of flicks old and new including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Adaptation, The Big Chill, Dr. Strangelove, Glory, It Happened One Night, La Bamba, The Natural, The Social Network and Star Trek: First Contact. In terms of TV, you’ll find more than 100 different shows, including a lot of sitcoms such as All in the Family, Roseanne and Who’s the Boss. But not every series has all seasons available. 

You can stream on Crackle without signing up for an account, and can watch on virtually any device, with apps for all mobile platforms, game consoles and major streaming devices. If you do create an account, you can save favorites, get recommendations and resume playback if you switch between devices. 

Read more: The best free stuff while you’re stuck at home

Replaces: Hulu Plus Live TV (or your whole cable subscription)

Two big caveats here: Pluto TV is, like CNET, a division of ViacomCBS, and you’ll find plenty of CNET, CBS and Viacom content on the docket here. And much of the programming on Pluto isn’t the same live TV channels you’ll find on pay cable or satellite, even if the channels have the same names. So, while news junkies will find live programming from CBSN, NBC News Now and Bloomberg TV, Pluto’s versions of MTV, AMC and CNN are time-shifted or alternate programming from those providers. 

Ultimately, none of that matters, because you’re still getting a wealth of streaming video that’s truly free (it’s ad-supported, of course). And because there are literally dozens of in-progress streams to toggle through in real-time, Pluto offers the best analog to flipping through the myriad channels on a traditional cable system (or paid streaming alternative, like Hulu). You can also browse channels by categories like news, sports, comedy and movies, and find on-demand TV content, though it’s mostly crime and reality shows. 

Pluto works on desktop browsers, through a Windows client, or through apps for Android, iOS and different smart TVs and channels for Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. 

Read more: Best free TV streaming services: Roku, Sling TV, IMDb, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Plex and more

Replaces: Apple Music

Spotify tops CNET’s list of the best music streaming services thanks to its easy-to-use interface, extensive catalogue and device compatibility. Plus, you can always listen to its full music catalogue for free, with ads. And now there’s even better news: In the wake of the pandemic, Spotify is letting you sign up to get three months of Spotify Premium totally free. This would normally cost you at least $9.99 per month. 

You can get the free offer if you have Spotify Free or it’s your first time subscribing to Spotify Premium. If you’ve subscribed to Premium in the past and cancelled, you can get three months for a flat $9.99.

Read more: Netflix alternatives: The 10 best free movie streaming services

Replaces: DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats

I know, it’s not exactly a service. But third-party delivery apps such as Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats often charge big delivery and service fees that add to your bill — not to mention the high fees that they charge local restaurants and the tip you need to pay the driver. The best option when you’re trying to save money and support local restaurants is to call the restaurant directly to pick up your food or see if it has an in-house delivery service. 

Read more: Best food delivery service: DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and more compared

Replaces: Your gym, or Peloton

Nike Training Club is a free app for iOS and Android with a variety of home workouts and programs to help you set a workout schedule. You can filter workouts based on what equipment you have at home, and find bodyweight-only exercises, yoga and training programs. 

Replaces: Online classes

MasterClass offers thousands of online lessons taught by veritable masters in their fields — we’re talking Gordon Ramsey on cooking, Ken Burns on documentary making and Helen Mirren on acting. While an annual membership costs $180, you can find a series of free courses called MasterClass Live available now. These include a session on building suspenseful thrillers with Dan Brown, the importance of science with Neil deGrasse Tyson and poker tips from six-time World Series of Poker champion Daniel Negreanu.

Read more: Gym closed? Here are some of the best home workout options

Replaces: Magazine subscriptions, cooking classes

If you’re spending your quarantine experimenting with cooking projects such as sourdough, banana bread or dalgona coffee, grow your cooking chops even more with the Food Network Kitchen app and subscription service. It brings live and on-demand cooking lessons from celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Ree Drummond to iOS and Android devices, the Amazon Echo Show 8, Fire tablets, Fire TV and Alexa. The app’s goal is to become your personal kitchen companion, helping you step by step while you cook. 

While the service usually costs $4.99 per month or $40 per year, Food Network is offering a 60-day free trial right now. 

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