There’s bound to be some overlap in the online services that you and your family members use. So, why pay for separate accounts? Discounted family plans put everything in one place, and make it easy to entertain or empower your family without breaking the bank.
These web-based family plans can also be useful to friend groups or roommates. Just be sure that everyone is keen on paying their fair share, and set up privacy or financial boundaries if you’re signing up for a service like Apple Family or Amazon Household.
Office 365 Home: Software and Cloud Storage for Cheap
Office software is often essential for work or school. And, while Microsoft Office may sound like a weird thing to pay for in 2020 (after all, Google offers similar tools for free), Office 365 Home is actually a pretty badass productivity suite.
For $100 a year (or $10 a month), you get a six-person Office 365 plan that includes access to the premium versions of all Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, and Access). Each member of this plan gets a terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage (a great deal on its own), along with the ability to collaborate with other Office 365 users on any device.
Amazon Household: Prime Benefits for Everyone!
An Amazon Prime subscription gives you more than just free shipping. It also provides access to a mess of Amazon services and discounts for Amazon-owned platforms like Audible. But paying for multiple Amazon Prime subscriptions would run your wallet to the ground—which is where Amazon Household comes in.
Amazon Household doesn’t cost any more than a regular Prime subscription. It covers you, another adult, and four teens or kids. And, with an Amazon Household set up, you can share:
- All Prime Benefits: This includes delivery benefits, Prime Video streaming, free Prime books, and any Prime-related Kindle benefits. Household also includes Prime benefits on Amazon-owned websites, like Audible, Woot, or Twitch Prime (a gaming platform).
- Share Paid Content: Household allows you to share any paid content, like digital movies, eBooks, Kindle apps and games, digital music, and Audible audiobooks.
- Amazon Photos: All Prime members (and each member of a Household) have access to unlimited photo storage on Amazon Photos. They also have access to a shared family photo album.
- Alexa Features: Household members have some linked Alexa features, such as notifications and photo slideshows.
Again, the benefits of a family plan are relevant to anyone who pays for a Prime subscription. Even if you don’t consume digital movies or audiobooks through Amazon, the money saved by sharing your Prime account with a partner or roommate is worth the time that it takes to set up a Household.
Apple Family: Share Apps, Movies, Books, Games, and iCloud
Apple’s Family Sharing program is essential for families who own a few iPhones, iPads, or other Apple devices. Simply set up a free Family Group (with up to six people), and your account purchases and subscriptions will automatically link to your family member’s Apple IDs. This way, you don’t have to buy apps, games, books, or movies more than once.
Additionally, Family Sharing saves you from paying for more than one Apple Music ($10), Apple Arcade ($5), iCloud ($3 or $10), or Apple TV+ ($5) subscription (and unlike Google, Apple doesn’t charge extra for subscription-based family plans). You can share photos albums and family calendars with other family members, or track the location and screen time of each other’s devices. And, of course, Apple’s Family Groups system is full of robust parental controls and content filters to keep kids safe.
Google Families: Share Apps, Games, Subscriptions, and Cloud Storage
Google Families is the Android equivalent of Apple’s Family Sharing program. It enables you to share purchased apps, games, movies, subscriptions, and storage with up to six family members at a time. You can even use Google Families to share notes and reminders through tools like Google Assistant, Google Calendar, or Google Keep—great news for families who need an extra bit of organization.
Google owns a ton of different subscription services, and most of them work with Google Families. Let’s list them out now:
- YouTube Music/Google Play Music ($15/Month for 6 Accounts): Google’s music streaming services. They’re affordable, they have large libraries that are comparable to Spotify or Apple Music, they integrate well with Google’s services, and they work while your phone is locked (unlike basic YouTube).
- YouTube Premium ($18/Month for six Accounts): Ad-free version of YouTube that includes YouTube Music and allows for offline and background play. This is also included with a YouTube Music or Google Play Music account.
- YouTube TV ($50/Month for six Accounts): A cable-like streaming service that gives you streaming access to live TV and on-demand shows.
- Google Play Pass ($5/Month for six Accounts): Hundreds of popular games and apps for just $5 a month.
- Google One ($2, $3, or $10 a Month): A powerful, easy-to-use cloud storage.
- Stadia: A game-streaming service that’s set to support family features in the future.
Like Apple’s Family Sharing program, Google Families is free and easy to set up and gives you power over parental control features like app management and screen time. Even if you aren’t a bit fan of Google’s apps and services, it’s worth setting up a Family just for the parental control features.
Music Streaming Family Plans: Save a Few Bucks a Month, Eh!
While they aren’t as all-encompassing as Amazon, Apple, or Google’s family plans, music streaming family plans can save you a few bucks a month, and they don’t require a whole lot of commitment. They occasionally provide access to some parental control features or optional Family Playlist features (assuming that you actually want to listen to what your family or friends are into).
Here are the music streaming services that offer discounted family plans, along with some info on why they might be right for you:
- Spotify ($15/Month for six Accounts): Spotify’s family plan includes parental controls and an optional Family Mix playlist. It’s easy to set up, even if your family or friends are already paying for a Spotify account.
- Apple Music ($10/Month for six Accounts): An Apple Music family plan is the same price as a regular plan and works with parental controls. But people who aren’t in your Apple Family Group can’t piggyback on your subscription—a hang-up that may prevent you from sharing an Apple Music subscription with your friends.
- Pandora ($15/Month for six Accounts): All accounts on a family plan have access to an exclusively shared playlist. You also won’t miss out on any Pandora Premium features.
- Tidal ($15 or $30/Month for five People): Tidal offers its Premium ($15) and lossless Hi-Fi ($30) services for families but doesn’t have any additional features like family playlists or parental controls.
- YouTube Music/Google Play Music ($15/Month for six Accounts): Google’s music streaming services. These services are a fantastic option for anyone who uses Google Families, but it’s worth noting that these services do not support Google’s parental controls or content filters.
- Amazon Music Unlimited ($15/Month for six Accounts): Amazon Music Unlimited isn’t as robust as other streaming platforms, and its family plan doesn’t include any parental controls, but it has a large library and works beautifully with Amazon smart home devices and Kindles.
All in all, Apple Music may be the best and cheapest option for actual families who have the time to set up a Family Group. But popular options like Spotify and Pandora, which are easier to set up with not-actual-family members, may be the best option for groups of friends or families who don’t want to deal with an Apple Family Group.
Gaming Family Plans: Yeah, They Exist
Gaming companies are notorious for pushing customers to buy extra copies of their favorite games and apps. But in some situations with some platforms, you can avoid buying extra copies of whatever game your family members are interested in.
These family plans tend to be a bit restrictive and may limit what games you can actually share. In fact, some of them aren’t really family plans, just services that won’t come down on you for using a single account on multiple computers. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
- Steam Family Sharing (free for five People): You can share your Steam library with five accounts. But, for whatever reason, only one account can access the shared library at a time. Other accounts have to use the library while offline, which eliminates the ability to play multiplayer games with your family.
- Epic: Epic doesn’t have a family plan per se, but the service allows you to access your library from multiple computers simultaneously. This service is notable for handing out free games.
- Twitch Prime Games: Like Epic, Twitch Prime Games won’t come down on you for using your account on multiple computers at the same time. It also works well with Amazon Prime and Amazon Households, so it’s a solid option for families that are full of gamers.
- Switch Online Family Memberships ($35/Year): A Switch Online Family Membership is essential to anyone who owns a Switch. It allows different player profiles to access online features, and it can be shared across consoles.
- Apple Arcade ($5/Month for six People): A service that offers exclusive mobile games on iOS for free.
- Google Play Pass ($5/Month for five People): A service that offers popular games and apps on Android for free.
- Stadia (Eventually): The Stadia game streaming platform will eventually offer family plans or work through the existing Google Families system. In the meantime, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
- Local Minecraft Games: Save money on separate Minecraft accounts by hosting a Minecraft LAN party! This doesn’t matter much for game consoles or tablets, but it’s essential for kids who play Minecraft on a laptop or computer.
Again, these gaming platforms may not fulfill all of your family’s hopes and dreams, but they should save you some money on games that you might have otherwise bought twice.
As new services crop up, we’re sure to see changes in how family plans and family pricing are done. We may even see some more robust family plans for gamers, or premium family plans from Apple and Google that include add-on streaming, gaming, and productivity services automatically.
But in the meantime, we’re happy with what we’ve got. Most web-based services can be turned into a family plan, and all-in-one family plans from brands like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are easy to set up and could save you a ton of money.