How to Pull the Plug on Cable or Satellite

 

Want to put a thousand bucks back into your wallet in the coming year? If you’re paying around $100 per month now, pulling that plug would more than do it and without leaving you high and dry for TV entertainment.

If even the thought of such an extreme measure feels for all the world like losing your favorite binky, I understand. Oh, boy do I.

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It’s been three months now since we cancelled our cable TV service, loaded up the cable box, DVR and remote control and dropped them off at the local Time Warner office. While I can’t say we dialed our monthly entertainment costs back to $0, we have reduced the cost by more than $100 a month.

What we had before: Basic cable service including several premium sports packages like ESPN and movie channels. My husband is a sports fanatic, while I approach the level of “junkie” when it comes to cable news.

What we have now: Local free broadcast channels and access to movies, TV and sports that are available live and otherwise, online as well as an audio feed for cable news channels. 

STEP 1: GET AN ANTENNA

If you grew up with fiddling with rabbit ears on top of your family’s television set to get rid of snow and ghosts, you may be getting a little creeped out right now. Relax. In today’s digital world with the way that digital signals are transmitted, TV reception comes in crystal clear or not at all. All you need is a decent antenna to add to your TV’s built-in digital tuner. Depending on how close you live to a stations’ broadcast towers, you may be able to get by with an indoor antenna. Not that close? You’ll probably need an outdoor antenna to get decent reception. We have this indoor model and it works great.

This is really all you need if you are content to watch free television broadcasting. But if you like to watch movies on demand and enjoy all that broadband internet connectivity has to offer, you have lots of options.

STEP 2: GET A BOX

A broadband connection lets you hook your television to the Internet and stream shows and movies straight into your TV. If you have a “smart TV” this connectivity is already built in. If not, all you need is a streaming box that sits between your router and TV that will allow you to access specialized Internet channels that offer all kinds of TV content. There are dozens of choices, ranging in price.

The most popular of these devices are Roku and Apple TV. Hint: Having used both, I can promise you that Roku is much easier to use and the model with all the bells and whistles, it is quite an amazing piece of genius. You may have a streaming box already if you have a newer game system like Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Many Blu-ray players can stream Internet channels as well.

Much of the content that comes through these boxes is free, but you’ll be watching older shows and movies. If you want newer shows and content (we do), you will need to subscribe to one or more streaming service like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. After lots of consideration, we have settled on Netflix ($8.99 per month) because of original TV programming for shows like Downton Abby and House of Cards (to name just two out of thousands) and Amazon for movies, which is part of our Amazon Prime membership.

STEP 3: ADD A DVR

Now that we have installed an antenna and added a streaming box to provide Netflix and Amazon, we have replaced most of what we had with cable for about $15 a month plus that $15 in upfront cost for the antenna.

I’ll be honest. We love to record programs for later viewing so we can skip through the commercials. After all kinds of research and consideration, we’ve made TiVo our DVR of choice. TiVo is a very user-friendly device. A basic model costs about $150 plus $15 a month for the TiVo service. This brings our monthly TV costs to about $30 as opposed to our old Time Warner bill of $130 per month. Yep, that’s $1,200 a year we are not spending for TV entertainment.

There are many other DVRs that do not require a monthly service. The most popular are PrimeDTV, Magnavox and Brite-View. We are particularly fond of TiVo because it works so well and is so easy to use.

Regrets? We’ve had a few, but we’re dealing with them quite well. My husband is still mourning the loss of ESPN. As for my need for cable news, I am subscribing to SiriusXM Internet radio, which gives me the audio feed to my favorite cable news shows via my computer headphones for $14.49 per month.

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23 replies
  1. Leanna
    Leanna says:

    You discussed in 2015 your current use of an indoor antenna and I meant to save that issue of Everyday Cheapskate. Does anyone know the brand name of the antenna?

    Reply
  2. Cath
    Cath says:

    And for those of us living on really limited budgets, there’s the library for a wealth of dvds and cds, as well as printed books and audiobooks. Never had cable, so we never miss it.

    Reply
  3. cfraun
    cfraun says:

    Mary, I too would like to know how you get your internet service and from whom. I pay 125 a month for a combo pkg of phone, internet and cable from Comcast. When I signed up, the cost was 70 dollars for all three, and it just keeps going up and up. I really want to cut the cord, but don’t know how I can get internet in my area without having to have Comcast. 🙁

    Reply
    • Andrea B
      Andrea B says:

      Look up competitors and see if Comcast will match. Most companies would rather lower their profit margin that lose a customer completely. Also see if since you are a loyal customer for ____ years, if they’re honor the new customer pricing. Never hurts to ask, worst they can say is “No”.

      Reply
  4. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    I am 45 years old and have never had a television my entire adult life. When I moved out at 18 I never hooked up cable. After a few weeks I never missed it. I was raised on tons of television and watched it endlessly. If I can get over it so can anyone else. There are so many other things to do besides watching the idiot box. I hope some of your readers will take your advice and enjoy their new found freedom.

    Reply
    • Andrea B
      Andrea B says:

      I have a 32 year old friend who never has had a tv. He watches news on the internet, but that’s it. He’s not missing out either!

      Reply
  5. Amanda Wolf
    Amanda Wolf says:

    We also are cord cutters, in Olympia, WA. We just cut cable about 4 months ago after buying Roku 3. We dropped Comcast and bundled our phone and internet with Centurylink. We now have high speed internet (and phone) for $54 a month. Subscribed to Netflix and Hulu Plus ($16 per month). Antennas will not work where we live, so we have to rely on Hulu Plus for latest TV shows. And, for my husband’s ESPN / The Walking Dead addiction, we’d have dinners at his parents and watch football and The Walking Dead. It’s a win-win. More quality family time plus saving money.
    Old bill: $215.
    New bill: $75.
    I couldn’t be any happier.

    Reply
  6. Emily Booth
    Emily Booth says:

    I use Amazon Prime and Netflix. I pay $16 a month for both and AP comes with free 2 day shipping and the Kindle library! I also use the library for DVD rentals. I also found, when I missed an episode of Last Tango in Halifax, that it was available for free at the pbs website! I can also see first run movies at the theater for $5. There are many low-cost alternatives to cable. Unfortunately, part of my monthly assessment goes to pay for the building’s cable but what I pay currently out-of-pocket is way cheaper than what I would’ve been charged at the discounted rate for my building. It pays to shop around. I am going to try those RCA rabbit ears!

    Reply
  7. Birgit Nicolaisen
    Birgit Nicolaisen says:

    We pay $10.88 for our basic cable, we used to get half a dozen channels. Just got a flat screen TV and we get even more stations now still for $10.88 a month. Not planning on changing things anytime soon. No movie stations, no DVR, no netfliks…but we do just fine. And if we miss a show we still survive! I did purchase all 3 seasons of Downton Abbey, but that’s my own problem. LOL

    Reply
  8. Andrea B
    Andrea B says:

    We don’t have netflix, hulu, or any additional services. We watch free over the air antenna tv (about 24 channels, including ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, 6 different PBS stations, MEtv, AntennaTV and CW), and we have high speed internet for $30 where we watch a few shows on the network providers’ website (mostly Lifetime for me). All about priorities – and spending my life in front of a tv isn’t one of them for me. I also check out dvds from the library, read a lot, have a lot of hobbies, and “Keeping Up” with anyone just isn’t a major interest. My husband grew up with the tv always on, and he now enjoys just a few shows as well, recognizing that most aren’t worth his time. We probably have different priorities than most – but at 31, we’ve never been in debt, paid cash for both of our brand new cars, put down $95K on a 160K house, and have a retirement account. On a 30-35K a year household income. My priority is living within my means.

    Reply
    • RV
      RV says:

      Nice job, Andrea B! It’s just so inspiring. Could you, please, explain exactly how you did this (we are on a limited income too,but there is NO WAY we could save as much money). Please, please advise!

      Reply
      • Andrea B
        Andrea B says:

        It’s not for everyone, but it’s just me & my husband, and we don’t keep up with the joneses, even a little. I wrote up how we live here: http://themarketsquawk.com/2012/07/25/cutting-costs-for-the-household-with-budget-priorities/

  9. Maria Stahl
    Maria Stahl says:

    We did this about 4 years ago now because of my husband’s job loss. Very rarely miss it. Where we live, antennas don’t do any good (far from towers, deep in a valley) or I would love to install one; we get by with basic cable Internet, Netflix at 7.99 a month, Amazon Prime at about $6.66 a month and then we subscribe to Hulu every so often (usually when they have a special), then we cancel.

    One correction: Downton Abbey (not Abby) is not “original programming” like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. It’s from the Beeb.

    Reply
  10. Maryann
    Maryann says:

    We cut cable about 2 years ago because of job loss. I have a friend who lives about 5 minutes away and she still has cable, so when there’s a show or series I want to see I go down to her house for an hour or two a couple days a week. Yes, I watch my show, but I’ve also developed a deeper friendship with this woman as a “side effect!” We also get the PBS channels, CreateTV, some cooking shows like Essential Pepin, Martha’s Cooking School, etc., as well as a bunch of travel shows and sports on the major networks when we want to watch that. We have AppleTV also, and bought an antenna first thing, too. There is no dearth of television in our house! Thanks for the encouragement, Mary.

    Reply
  11. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    OK…Thank you for providing inspiration/basics to further investigate this. My $127./mo with att u-verse includes level two(expanded basic) TV, also providing almost exclusively for me my ongoing news junkie hit, Internet and land line. I just a couple weeks ago upgraded my prepay cell to smart phone ($35/mo unlimited text, data, email,primitive internet, 300 min voice) with the intention of soon dumping land line. Now to resolve internet/computer. I can’t (and won’t) downgrade computer/internet connection to the world. Can you provide inspiration on how to resolve the computer/wireless connection? Thank you so much! I’m now feeling hopeful of cutting the cable.

    Reply
    • Andrea B
      Andrea B says:

      I don’t stream from netflix or hulu, but I do watch tv shows online with no problem. I pay $30 a month from time warner (it’s called “basic”, one step above dsl). the most expensive is $65 a month i think. If a competitior offers internet service, either TWC or the competitor will probably match. (Our only competitor was AT&T, who was the same price but twice as much to install).

      Reply
  12. Denise Goodson
    Denise Goodson says:

    How much is your monthly internet bill and who is your service thru. Half my bill is for internet and by the time I add 15 for this and that, I am back at $129 a month.

    Reply
    • Andrea B
      Andrea B says:

      Mine is $30 for “basic” (one step up from DSL) from time warner. At&T is the same price for me.
      The trick is not to add it all back. Pick what’s best for you! (I don’t add any of it back)

      Reply
  13. Donna Pheneger
    Donna Pheneger says:

    When WFLA (and their owners) and Dish were having trouble coming to an agreement, DH hooked up the computer to the tv to get our NBC shows. Granted we were a week behind on shows but that didn’t matter. One could probably do this with all your shows.

    Reply
  14. Jela
    Jela says:

    I scrapped my cable over a year ago. Went into a panic the first couple of days and now I can’t imagine paying that much for it ever again. I have the Apple TV which I love and use both Hulu Plus and Netflix. For $16 per month I’m never at a shortage of something to watch. I don’t regret it for a minute!

    Reply
  15. Beck
    Beck says:

    We live in the country and when we originally moved here there was no cable available. When it finally came through we still didn’t hook on. We have always had an antenna on the roof and now get around 28 free channels. PBS, Create TV and several other shows like that in addition to movie channels. When we go on vacation and the hotel has cable there may be a cooking show I wish we had but that is it. We get more than enough sports on Sundays 4 channels worth.. We get about 5 religious channels too. We occasionally check out a movie at the library. It is all free. When you talk about saving a $1,000 a year and $10,000 over 10 years I have no clue why more are not turning off cable. Kudos Mary.

    Reply

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