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CTCG stands for Cara's Tips for Consumer Finance. As you may guess, this is a site that focuses on helping consumers wise up and make smart purchases, both online and offline. And as you might gather further, my name is Cara. I live in the Seattle area and work professionally in the Internet field. I am also an avid shopper who spends thousands of dollars online buying both products and services. The long and short of it is that I've learned quite a lot in my many years of being a consumer. This site is my way of giving something back and helping other people out there find the best information they can about shopping in an intelligent way.

Who doesn't love a good deal? I know I do, and one of the main criteria I used to decide whether or not to purchase something is to determine if I am getting a good bargain. But it's easy to fall into the trap of buying something simply because it is cheap. And studies have also shown that many people who buy inexpensive items actually end up spending more money because they buy more things overall. So like all things in life, nothing is simple, and to be a smart consumer, you need to factor all of these things in.

Streaming Services - Are They Worth It?

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Today, I'd like to talk a bit about streaming services. For many people, they are quickly replacing traditional TV and cable. They certainly have a lot of appeal, as they allow you to watch programs whenever you want. Streaming services like Netflix are largely responsible for modern viewing behaviors such as "binge watching."

The main streaming services worth considering are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. For the majority of people out there, Netflix will be the no-brainer choice. Not only is it the largest streaming service by far, it also has the greatest number of original programs. And Netflix programs are, on the whole, very well-made and highly acclaimed. They include shows like House of Cards, Jessica Jones, Orange Is the New Black, Marco Polo, Daredevil, and other hit shows. In addition to originally programming, streaming services also offer previous seasons of popular shows on network television. This can include shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, Marvel's Agents of Shield, Arrow, and lots of other popular programs.

In the beginning, streaming services did not offer the best picture quality, but this is no longer the case at all. All of them deliver HD-quality streams, and so long as you have a sufficient Internet connection, your viewing experience should be superb.

Most people have cable bills between $50 - $100. Streaming services, however, cost around $8 a month. The downside is that it's not live TV, and if you watch sports programs, you will definitely want to keep some sort of service that allows you to watch programs live. A possible solution is to use a new service called Sling, which offers 20 or so cable channels including ESPN and other sports channels. If you get a streaming service alonw with Sling instead of cable, you would no doubt save a lot of money. Many people are in fact starting to ditch cable altogether, and this has many cable companies understandably panicking.

So what about the other streaming services, such as Hulu and Amazon? Since they cost roughly the same price as Netflix and offer less original programming, I personally would not choose them. In addition, Hulu has commercials, which are completely absent on Netflix. For some people, Amazon Instant Video (the name of their streaming service) may be a smart option since it is bundled together with Amazon Prime, which allows you to get free shipping on things you buy from Amazon. In other words, if you shop at Amazon on a regular basis, you could probably save some money by being a member of Amazon Prime and using their streaming service instead of the one offered by Netflix. As for Hulu, it is in my opinion an okay service, but probably not worth getting because your other options are better.

jessica jones on NetflixWill streaming services and services like Sling ever replace cable companies? I believe they eventually will, as they add more and more features. It's been said for many years now that TV and Internet will eventually merge, and we are finally starting to see this happen. But no doubt, cable companies will try to stand in the way of this happening. It will be interesting to see how everything will unfold in the coming years.

If you only watch a couple of TV shows every year, and even cheaper option may be simply to buy the programs you watch. Amazon and Itunes both offer entire seasons of TV shows that you can purchase. They are a bit pricey, costing you around $2 per episode, but again, if you only watch one or two programs, then you will save money by purchasing the TV shows and forgoing streaming services or Sling.

Whatever you do, you have plenty of options on how to watch TV these days, and with the plethora of choices you have, we can safely say that consumers will come out the ultimate winner.