Between the global pandemic and possible financial uncertainty going into the new year, many Americans will be trading their annual holiday getaway for a “staycation.”
The good news is you can, in fact, have a great time at home this fall and winter, while keeping the family engaged and entertained. Best of all, you don’t need to break the bank.
If you’re home for the holidays, the following are a few suggestions to getting the most out of it, with a handful of thrifty tips to help you do more with less.
Cut the cord already
As USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham has covered in depth, providing a defense for cheap TVs and comparing different streaming services for their value, millions of people are saving money by finally ditching cable.
There are several streamers to choose from, and if you pick only a couple – such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+ and Apple TV+ – it’s still considerably less than a monthly cable package, which can be well over $200 a month.
Also, consider AVOD services, which stands for “ad-supported video on demand.” Some of the more popular options include: Vudu, Tubi and IMDb TV, as well as YouTube, Crackle and Popcornflix – each of them offering thousands of TV show episodes and movies. You just need Wi-Fi and a device to watch it on.
► If you want to turn your regular TV into a smart one, and significantly enhance its audio at the same time, Roku just launched its aptly named Streambar ($129). Simply connect the included HDMI cable and join your Wi-Fi to begin streaming content in up to 4K HDR (high dynamic range) quality – if your television supports it. Some of its services are free, while others require a subscription.
Another smart way to cut the cord is to consider an over-the-air DVR, like the Tablo DUAL LITE ($149), which gives you access to live TV broadcasts – including news and sports – which aren’t available on most streaming platforms, like Netflix. To use this product, you’ll need an over-the-air HDTV antenna, internet connection, recording storage (like a hard drive), and a WiFi-enabled device like Roku or Apple TV.
Borrow rather than buy
If you prefer thumbing through a great novel over staring at the TV, of course you can buy ebooks and audiobooks, but did you know you can also borrow them from your local library? Yes, for free.
You won’t need to drive to the library, nor are there late fees to worry about.
So long as you have your library card and the Libby by OverDrive app installed on your device, there are tens of thousands of supported libraries worldwide. On the day it expires, it won’t be accessible on your device – unless you extend the loan period.
And no, it’s not just old classics available, but many of the newer New York Times bestsellers, too. Libby also boasts an impressive built-in e-book reader, graphic novel viewer, and audiobook player.
In fact, e-readers like the Kobo Nia ($99) have OverDrive built in, allowing you to wirelessly reserve and download ebooks on your device. Because of its glare-free 6-inch screen, Kobo Nia is better for reading outdoors than tablets.
Also, your Amazon Prime membership ($12.99 a month) gives you access to free Kindle ebooks, as well as Prime Video (movies and TV shows), Amazon Music, unlimited online photo storage and access to Twitch videos.
Free calls, texts
While this might fall into the “duh” department, remember you can keep in touch with friends and family, anywhere in the world – and with video, too – without having to pay for it. And you have a huge choice in services, like Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Meet and FaceTime.
Services like Facebook Messenger and Houseparty also support interactive games, so you can have fun while having a virtual happy hour with friends.
And speaking of saving money, did you know you can make free phone calls and texts, and even get a free incoming number? The TextNow app, for iOS and Android, lets you make unlimited calls to any 10-digit number in the U.S. and Canada, over Wi-Fi.
The ad-supported app first asks what city you’d like your number to be from and will find an available local area code for you to use. You also get free voicemail, customizable ringtones, call forwarding and other features.