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Thursday, January 7, 2021

My daughter bought a Roku streaming stick for the family TV this fall: My frugal thoughts

A few months ago, my daughter Julia bought the least expensive Roku, spending about $25 at Target. What is a Roku (and other streaming devices), you ask? Streaming devices hook up to your television so that you can stream on a larger screen than your computer or phone and share with your entire family. Roku uses our existing wireless internet in our home. It's recommended that you have high-speed internet access, such as cable, fiber, or DSL.

There are no monthly fees. Once you buy the streaming stick, you're set. Simply attach the stick with an HDMI cable (usually included), set it up (takes just a couple of minutes), and begin streaming. The device is tiny and basically hidden from view. 

There are dozens of free channels available, providing music, television shows, sports, news, and movies. We stream our church's worship services in the family room with Roku instead of each of us individually watching on a small computer or handheld screen. We also stream free movies. There are several free services for content as well as paid subscription services. We have taken turns signing up for free trial accounts with various paid subscription streaming services (canceling before any fees accrue) for wider access to available movies. There's even a handy search feature for locating specific movie titles.

some of the free streaming services

Are we getting Julia's money worth on this? Doug (husband) and Julia are huge movie fans. This is right up their alley. In previous years, we'd check out stacks of dvd's from our local library. With the pandemic, the physical building of our library is closed, limiting our ability to dvd-browse. In addition, streaming provides a wider selection of free movies than our local library ever could. 

Our other former mode of getting movies for home-viewing has been to rent them from that well-known red kiosk. At near $2 a pop, kiosk rentals would become more expensive than Roku in just over a dozen movies. I know my family has watched more than a dozen free movies with Roku in just the last two months. 

Beyond movie watching, we've been streaming content from YouTube, opening the possibility to watch all kinds of content, including workout videos, cooking shows, DIY info, funny video clips, and old episodes of favorite tv shows. Again, money's worth? I think so. When you consider that we use streaming for more than just entertainment, but also for fitness and DIY projects for the large screen, we're getting a lot of use from our Roku.

Besides the content, some things I like about Roku:

  • The technology was super easy for me to learn. I'm not very tech-savvy, so this is saying a lot. The Roku was easier to figure out than learning how to use the television's remote or setting up the dvd player. 
  • It comes with its own remote. I had thought that smart TVs or similar devices would require using a laptop or phone with every action. You can access Roku with a smartphone, but the remote does most of what you would need.
  • We didn't need a special type of television. The only requirement was an HDMI connection. Our TV is a 2008 Samsung, so not super old, but getting up there in years.
  • The actual "stick" isn't even a stick. The device is smaller than a smartphone and can be placed anywhere on the TV with the self-adhesive tabs. It has a very low profile.
  • We get a much larger screen for streaming, which means our family has been more inclined to spend time in the evenings together, instead of us all scattering after dinner.
  • We can watch content without cable, a dish, or even an antenna. That means we can watch content anywhere on our property where we have wi-fi and can plug in a TV. 

We're cord-cutters, cutting cable about 30 years ago and relying solely on an antenna and dvd/VHS player for video content. For cord-cutters, cord-shavers (those folks who are trying to reduce the expense of paid TV access but not cut it out altogether), and cord-nevers (those who have never been tethered to satellite disk or cable), streaming devices offer expanded content at a very low cost. Other than Roku, brands include Amazon Fire, Apple, and Google Chromecast. 

We're enjoying what Roku can bring to us. At a one-time $25 cost, it's a frugal option for added entertainment content in place of cable/dish plans or dvd rentals from the red kiosk.


  1. Everyone has to find what works best for them and it sounds like this works well for yours!

    I tried a Roku stick several years ago but found it wasn't for me. We're not television watchers except on a weekend evening if we want to watch a movie. My daughter has netflix and can add us as users so that is where we tend to go. That is, however, somewhat limited in it's selections. Sometimes we watch youtube movies (free) and other times we just play a game.

    We also cut the cord to cable a long time ago and have a rooftop antenna that serves us well enough. We can find some good things to watch using that.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I agree with you, that everyone will have different needs and circumstances, so they'll find what works for them. We don't have a rooftop antenna, but just amplified rabbit ears. Even with just that, we've been able to watch a lot of free content. Our reception isn't great, though, with this kind of antenna and all of the very tall evergreen trees around us.

      So far, we're pretty happy with Roku and especially how easy it was for me to learn how to use it (I'm the least tech-savvy person in our family).

      I'm glad you've found what works for you and your household. (Yay for adult kids who pay for subscription services and other niceties for us old folks to enjoy!)

  2. Thanks for the Roku review. We are still fully connected, but as the prices keep going up, we may not stay that way. There is only one provider here for cable and internet, thus no competition, so there's no incentive to keep prices down. There are so many options out there, and combinations that I find it very confusing. My sister had a Roku stick, but then switched to Sling. However, I'm not sure of the reasons.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      our internet cost keeps going up and up, too. We need more competition in this area. I hope you find a solution that works for you and your household.

      Enjoy the rest of your day, Live and Learn.

  3. Another Roku fan here. We haven't had paid TV in many years, so use the Roku and various streaming services (we tend to switch off, but always have Amazon Prime). Every other year or so, we pay for the PBS Passport service and enjoy the shows such as Masterpiece, as well.

    1. Hi Cat,
      I love the PBS shows. We've never subscribed to Passport but may try it sometime. Our local PBS station has been more limiting on what you can watch online and how long it's offered without Passport. I guess they need the funding.

      I'm glad to hear that Roku has worked well for you.
      Have a good evening, Cat!

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I have heard of Roku but didn't really know what it was all about. We, like Alice, are not big tv watchers, but we do have the PBS Passport and it would be nice to be able to see things on our tv instead of our desktop. As you mentioned, it would also be nice for streaming our worship services. Our church provides free access to an online service called which we use frequently. It's like the Netflix of Bible study material (tons of content for kids, teens, adults, and so on) and we use it for family devotionals frequently so seeing it on a bigger screen would be handy. I may have to look into Roku more. $25 seems like a good investment for so much access.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thanks for sharing about rightnowmedia. I may mention this to the leadership of our church. I looked at the site and it looks like it has a lot of offer.

      Just a thought -- You may have a friend or family member who could show their Roku or other device to you in-person and you could get a better idea of whether or not it would work for you.

      Have a wonderful evening, Kris!

  5. We just got a Roku tv as a Christmas gift....and they set it up for us. However, I am very tech challenged. I do not know how to watch what I can get on my You Tube...and get it to come on the tv. Anybody offer some helpful hints?

    1. Hi Linda,
      On Roku's homepage (on the TV screen) there should be a section titled "streaming channels". Click on this. Then scroll down to "search channels" and click. An alphabet keypad should pop up. Click on the Roku remote OK button, then enter the letters of the streaming service you want, like Y for Youtube. Click the right arrow until you're off of the keypad and onto the Youtube icon. Click OK. You may need to sign up for an account or use as a guest user. This should take you into Youtube (or whatever streaming service you're after). Once in Youtube, use the search feature w/ alphabet keypad to find your video.

      Does this help or answer your question? If not, ask again. My daughter is home and can help me to help you.

    2. Hi Again, Linda,
      I just talked with my daughter. If someone already set up your Roku Tv then you may already have Youtube installed. In that case, go to the Home page. On the Homepage there will be a bunch of icons for the different streaming services in a block. Click on the right arrow until you're on the first icon, then click the down arrow until you find the streaming service that you're looking for. There should be a pretty large selection of streaming channels to choose from. Click on the one you want and use the search feature of that channel. I hope this helps.

    3. Thanks much! I will be exploring!


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