Friday, October 15, 2021

Cut Back on Recurring Stream Costs

As a streamer, one of the most important skills you can cultivate is the ability to manage your spending. After all, if you want to stick with this passion for the long term, you need to make sure it’s financially viable. I truly believe Twitch streaming shouldn’t require you to buy anything at all, and throughout this resource I’ve often suggested honing your ability to solve problems without your wallet. In the recent entry How to Avoid Overspending on Streaming, I explored the psychology of purchasing, and how we can unwittingly find ourselves falling down financial rabbit holes. This time, I want to shed light on the bank account’s silent killer: recurring costs. Anything you regularly spend money on in order to produce your stream should be heavily scrutinized, because the compounding charges of these items can climb much higher than you’d expect. 

In this entry, we’ll explore three major categories of recurring stream costs- subscriptions, essentials, and dependencies- and we’ll consider how you can cut back on each without damaging your content offering. Some of them may require changes of mindset, and a few hard decisions may need to be made, but any change worth making is usually difficult. If you want to keep your streams viable for the long-term, it’s worth looking into your recurring costs. 


Most Twitch streamers pay for a few different subscriptions. This includes online networks like Xbox Live, game memberships like Humble Bundle, game-specific services like MMOs, or Twitch-related tools like chatbots. You may even be paying subscription costs directly to other Twitch channels. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with shelling out for any of these things. They can all provide entertainment, utility or support for your friends. But it is worth looking into them, and making sure that there aren’t any unnecessary charges mixed in. 

If you play most of your multiplayer games
on one platform, you may be able to cancel
subscriptions to the others.

For example, I used to be subscribed to both PS Plus and Xbox Live. But eventually, I realized that because I had been mostly playing games on PC, I wouldn’t need either of these subscriptions at all. That allowed me to cut out two yearly subscription charges in a single stroke. For your own channel, there will be different situations and priorities, but you may have a similar revelation. Maybe you don’t really play that one MMO anymore. Or you decide you only need the online benefits for one of your consoles, instead of multiple. Even subscriptions to other Twitch streamers should be examined. It can be prickly to think about pulling the plug on your support of their content, but think about it: if they really care about you, they wouldn’t want you to pay anything you couldn’t afford. Subscriptions are particularly dangerous because they’re so unobtrusive- our credit cards get charged month over month and we forget that it’s happening. Make sure you’re keeping on top of them. Cutting down on a few of these can make a big difference over the course of a year. 


The one thing that everyone needs in order to go live is an internet connection. And while it’s not likely that you’ll be able to remove this subscription from your monthly statement and keep making live content, you may be able to reduce it. It’s possible you’re paying for higher internet speeds than you need. In the entry Getting Your Stream Output Settings Just Right, I helped you to understand how much bandwidth is required to broadcast your shows. I also helped you build a buffer space of bandwidth which can be allocated to other things your household may use the internet for. But anything above this buffer number is likely going unused. Check your internet service provider, and see if they offer different plans. If there’s a lower-tier one which still sits comfortably above your buffer number, it may be worth looking into switching. This could save you a lot of money, without impacting your stream’s performance at all. 


Then there are purchases which aren’t necessarily required to stream, but may feel that way because of the type of streams we produce. Among variety streamers for example, games are the big recurring purchase. It’s common to feel like we need to keep up with all the new releases, lest we be stuck playing something nobody cares about anymore. I’ve been in this position before on previous channels I’ve run, and it can be a very suffocating feeling. It also left a big dent in my bank account every month. So when I started my current Twitch channel, I created a monthly budget in a Google Spreadsheet. Every small or large game I’d buy on a Steam sale was logged. Then, if I didn’t use the full budget at the end of the month, I’d let some spill over into the next. This has allowed me to buy new games in a sensible way, without cutting the practice out altogether. 

I've always been concerned for the main characters
of Dead Island. They drink so many energy drinks!

Many streamers also like to buy supporting items for their broadcasts, usually to increase the overall entertainment value of their shows. This may include food, drinks or props that are used on-camera all the time, like a spicy chip they’ll eat every time someone sends a certain amount of Cheer, or a beer they’ll drink every time they die in Dark Souls. Depending on how often you stream, these kinds of purchases can really start to add up, especially if you begin to build your stream’s identity around needing to have them every time you go live. They also carry the dubious cloud of potential health hazards, so it may be worth considering how you can cut back on aspects of your stream which require you to eat or drink something. 

Lastly, it’s very popular for streamers to buy items to give away during their shows, which can be used to bring in new viewers and cement existing ones. These giveaways can incur some major costs, not only in making the initial purchases, but when trying to send the gift to the lucky winner. You should be wary of giving away any physical item. Shipping can be a killer, especially if it’s international. One easy way to lower costs while still doing giveaways is to limit your prizes to digital content. 


It’s very likely that at least one aspect of your recurring stream costs can be lowered right now. The problem is that we all get so used to these charges, and the benefits they bring, that we begin to tell ourselves we couldn’t possibly remove anything. But with a little creative thinking, you’ll be able to continue getting most (or all) of the benefits for a fraction of the price. When you cut back on your recurring stream costs, your wallet will thank you. 

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