Cable TV Too Expensive? Why Not try Cheap Alternatives to Cable?

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Cable television is expensive. Sure, those big cable packages give you several hundred channels to choose from, but are you watching enough of them to justify the cost each month? For the majority of us, there are a handful of television shows or channels that we watch regularly. There may even be a few shows…

Cable television is expensive. Sure, those big cable packages give you several hundred channels to choose from, but are you watching enough of them to justify the cost each month? For the majority of us, there are a handful of television shows or channels that we watch regularly. There may even be a few shows that you think you “can’t miss.”

I used to have “can’t miss” shows, but then my wife and I started talking about cable TV and whether or not we really need it. We were getting ready to move to a new state, so we did what many people would think is impossible – we cut cable and sold our TVs. That might be a bit extreme for some people, and I’m not saying you should do that. We have since bought a new TV (we have one in our home), but we have not subscribed to cable TV again, and we have no plans to do so.

If you thought about canceling cable to save money each month, then try these steps in this article. You can ditch cable and still watch TV!

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV Had Huge Impacts

There are many benefits to cutting cable TV. The two major benefits we experienced were more time and more money. Who couldn’t use more of both of those?!

The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.

The second change is our budget. Our cable and internet package was roughly $90 per month, and this was about 7 or 8 years ago. Prices have since risen quite a bit in most markets. That was too expensive for what we got out of it (the base TV package, with no premium channels, was over $50 a month after the introductory price expired). We only rarely watched TV, and then it was usually limited to a few channels. We cut the cable TV service and elected to pay for faster internet service. We pay a lot for Internet service, but we are paying for a service we use.

How to Ditch Cable and Still Watch TV

The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.

What you need: You need two things to replace your cable TV – 1) a digital antenna, and 2) an Internet connection.

Digital antennas are awesome. You can get an inexpensive digital antenna at any electronics store for less than $40. Here is the cool thing about digital TV – you get a perfect signal, or you get nothing. You don’t have to deal with the fuzzy picture and static sounds of yesterday’s rabbit ears. The best part is that many TV stations now broadcast in HD. So you can get HD quality television over the air – which believe it or not, is often better quality than what you would get through a cable TV connection because of signal degradation and compression.

The Internet is your friend. As long as you have an internet connection, you can still watch some television. Many of the TV networks post videos of their shows on their websites which are available to watch for free. There are a number of other websites which provide hundreds of television series links, and allow you to browse the shows and watch all from their website. Some of the sites provide the service for free, while others charge a few bucks a month to users but either way, you’re going to save a lot of money compared to your existing cable bill.

Cheap Cable TV Alternatives

You can watch television series and movies on your computer monitor or laptop, but if you’re laughing at the thought of giving up your 47” television in favor of watching your shows on a small computer screen – don’t worry. You can still use your television when using the internet to watch TV.

Many of the newer televisions have connection options for hooking your television screen to your computer as the monitor. Once connected, you can navigate the internet, find and select your shows and hit play all while using your TV as the monitor. It’s a little more complicated with older televisions, but it can still be done.

Several companies offer hardware solutions you can set up with your TV to connect to the internet. You may also be able to use S Video cables and a DVD or Blue-Ray player to get the connection established. If you have an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii console – you can stream movies and television series directly from Netflix or other online companies.

One of my personal favorites is Amazon Prime, which gives you access to thousands of free TV shows, movies, and documentaries, and there are thousands of other movies and shows available on a pay per view basis. There is a monthly fee to use Amazon Prime, but it is much more than just a TV subscription as you can also get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, borrow Kindle books for free, and more – all for less than $8 a month (Amazon Prime is one of the best deals in the tech world, in my opinion!).

More Alternatives to Cable TV

Streaming TV Options: Some of the more popular streaming TV options include:

Most of these plans have different levels and options, depending on which plan you sign up for. My personal favorites for movies and documentaries include Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. If you want to watch more on-demand network television, then you may be better off going with Hulu. Hulu Plus and Hulu Live allow you to stream live network shows, including sports and other live events. You can compare Hulu and Hulu Plus in this review.

Network Websites: Some network websites also feature the ability to stream shows. But this option is more restrictive than using the streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

You can also find many television shows on Youtube.com. The video sharing site is not actually intended for television shows, but many people take the time to record and upload their favorite television series. You will have to watch more than one video to get a complete episode, but they’re typically labeled with the name of the show, the episode number, and then “video 1” or “video 2”, so you can piece together the various videos you need to watch to see the whole show. While a little inconvenient, if the goal is to save money, even Youtube.com is a good option for cutting your $60 or $130 cable bill!

Don’t forget your local library! Most libraries stock a wide range of videos and DVDs of movies and television series. You can borrow them for free just as you would books.

Reducing your fixed expenses is one of the best ways to reach financial freedom, and dropping your cable TV costs is a great way to free up cash flow every month. Even dropping cable and adding a service like Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix can save you several hundred dollars per year.

Have you dropped your cable TV subscription?



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Robert says

    Interesting article. I think in some ways that cable may go the route the land phones. However, there is so much advertising money I do not think it will continue to be free. However, I think you will see lower costs in the next 5 years as cable and dish networks compete for internet business.

    I travel some internationally for work, and I know I catch up with a lot of TV that I like over the internet now, provided I can get a decent internet connection.

    It will certainly impact TV down the road, that is for sure.

    • Ryan says

      BMT, many of the networks are actually raising the prices they charge cable companies because their revenues are down. It is having he opposite affect of your prediction, and many basic cable plans are becoming more expensive. The competition between the major providers is the only thing currently keeping pricing in check. We still have our cable for the time being, but I wouldn’t be opposed to dropping cable at some point – we rarely watch much TV. Unfortunately, the channels we watch most often are cable only channels! 🙂

  2. Hank says

    I’m a big fan of the instant tv shows and movies that are available on Netflix. I recently bought a Roku box so I can watch those instantly on my TV. You can also do the same with an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii, etc. This is a great free option if you already use Netflix and have an internet connection.

  3. Kimberly says

    Hulu is the way to go! I hardly ever watch TV shows on TV anymore, too many commercials. Even if I want to watch a network show I wait until the next day to watch it on their website – the quality is good and they only run a 30 second commercial during the breaks, versus the typical 20 minutes of commercials during an hour long program.

  4. K.C. says

    We haven’t had cable for over twenty-five years. When we travel, we channel surf cable in the motel. Despite the number of channels, we rarely find anything that really grabs our attention.

    We bought the adapter boxes for our old analog TV’s and watch broadcast digital. Our favorite channel is Retro TV. They broadcast old TV series (we’re old, too). Some good stuff. We have been disappointed in the quality of broadcast digital, however. The picture is constantly breaking up. We get “No Signal” way too often. Maybe it’s the cheap adapter or cheap antenna. Anyway, “not as advertised” by the government. The quality and reliability of broadcast analog was much better.

    We supplement our entertainment with old movies on VHS tapes we buy at Goodwill for a buck a piece.

    • Ryan says

      K.C. That’s a great way to save money, especially if you aren’t much of a TV watcher. I don’t personally watch much TV, but the shows my wife and I watch tend to be on cable – often the Travel Channel, Food Network, Discover, History, ESPN, and The Disney Channel for our little one. That said, I don’t think we would be heartbroken to cut the cord and go without – just as long as I can keep my fast internet connection! 😉

  5. Dan says

    My wife and I recently dropped our premium cable channels and kept basic cable and internet service. We are saving $100 a month and not missing a thing! Between PBS and Netflix the kids can watch their favorite shows and I still get ESPN through my Xbox 360. I wonder why more people don’t do this?

  6. Eric says

    I just got rid of my cable yesterday! I still have two TVs, but they are now powered by a Roku, Xbox, and antenna. I am happy to pay $9 per month for Netflix streaming, but $67 for cable was a lot for something that I didn’t use all that much.

    • Mike says

      Hey there Eric, you said that you got rid of cable and got a Roku, and a antenna. So you are running everything off the internet, what service do you have and how much is it?

  7. Kris says

    Wow, that’s great! I lived without cable TV for about 2 years and it was a great decision, although we still had a TV with rabbit ears and could get 3 or 4 channels. I did more reading, enjoyed listening to sports on radio, and enjoyed the quiet time. And it saved us a bunch of money, too.

    • Ryan says

      KDB – We’ve been using our time packing – which isn’t nearly as fun! But I think we’ll end up having more family together time and other fun activities. I’ve enjoyed it so far. 🙂

  8. Evan says

    While I believe The Wife and I watch way too much TV, I couldn’t imagine getting rid of it. But stepping out of the comfort zone actually may be a good thing, however, it doesn’t matter because there is zero chance The Wife is letting me get rid of the TV lol

  9. Peter says

    Up until a couple of years ago I had never paid for cable or satellite tv. I wrote in one post about how I still got all of my favorite shows via streaming alternatives, and how I wasn’t really missing anything by not having cable. I realized after we got cable (at my wife’s behest) that I HAD been missing watching all of my favorite sports teams because for the most part sports is one of the biggest things you can’t really get in all the free streaming options. Now that I’ve had the sports for a couple of years, I’d have a hard time dropping it I think. At the very least, however, we’re making sure to not pay too much for our TV. We just switched from Comcast cable to Dish Network when our promo deal expired and we had to pay $85/month for cable alone. When they wouldn’t droip our rates we switched to Dish Network and got more channels for about $40. I’m sure we’ll have to do the same again in a year or so when our new deal runs out. *sigh. If only all the sports teams streamed their games live for free!

    • Ryan says

      Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).

  10. NatalieMac says

    You may need to check with your internet provider before you decide to switch to streaming only options and see what kind of usage limits they enforce. A friend of mine just got burned when he suddenly found out his ISP didn’t appreciate the bandwidth usage and cut off his service for the month after he streamed 10 hours or so of video. He had to ride out the rest of month with no cable and no internet.

    • Ryan says

      Good point, NatalieMac. I haven’t seen any usage limits on my plan and they didn’t mention it when I asked. But certainly something to look out for!

  11. Melyssa says

    Wow, you took it a step further. Even though cutting the cable is temporary, I don’t think my husband would allow it. I think TV is overrated and was paying the $90/month for Internet and cable. I didn’t completely cut cable, but lowered the package to $15/month and supplement with Netflix, which we LOVE! We are still saving about $30/month, so I’m happy.

  12. brokeprofessionals says

    I’ve had a few posts on this subject at my site, but the basic gist is:
    you do plan your watching more, but you may find yourself wasting time in different ways (like spending more time on the internet).
    Netflix is a godsend with its streaming video.
    -Where you really miss out, as discussed above, is with sports. Also, one-time live “event” type television, like the Oscars.
    -Also, you can’t bundle television and cable, which sometimes saves money.
    Still, in the long run you will probably save time and money by getting rid of the cable box. We did it for probably 6 months, but then football season came around. Come to think of it…..football season is just about over again…

    • Ryan says

      I only watch a minimal amount of TV anyway, and the only thing I watch live is sports (I can’t stand awards shows, but I know many people love them). It truly is a case by case situation – what works for me certainly won’t work for everyone, and vice versa. 🙂

  13. brokeprofessionals says

    The hardest part is, if your married, getting two people to give up TV at the same time and staying that way.

  14. Briana says

    I’ve been trying to convince the Mr. to cut cable, since we don’t watch it enough to be paying over $100 for it. But try to take a man away from his sports, and be met with a struggle.

    • Melyssa says

      Ah yes, sports. That’s a pretty big one. I am quite fortunate that my hubby isn’t into sports. It would be me, but I enjoy playing the sport(s) more than watching it.

  15. Money Reasons says

    Congratulations on breaking free from the cable company! It’s funny how most of the News shows are garbage anyway… We do like the history channel and TLC though. But overall if I could axe the bill I would.

    After all, axing the cable line would save both money and time (a win-win)!

    Good call, I hope you can hold out for a long time… I’m envious!

  16. Daddy Paul says

    I agree dropping TV from your life can be the best move you ever make. I told my son that there would be plenty of time for TV on my death bead.

  17. Richard says

    In March 2010, we got rid of one of Comcast’s “value packages” (what a joke) and reduced to basic cable. We’ve saved $1,000 and will let the $70 monthly savings pile up month after month, year after year. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along without things you don’t really need. Keep paying for things like premium cable TV and you’re likely to end up broke at age 50 and perhaps destitute at age 60.

    Why let Comcast bleed you dry with increase after increase after increase? Stop it today. We did a year ago and are very happy we did.

    You don’t lose a$1 million simply by misplacing it. You lose it $50 at a time. Cable is one of the greatest wastes of money there is.

  18. Bryan says

    Good tips i want to add that you can get a digital tv antenna that will allow you to watch tv for free from stations that broadcast over the air. They are digital rabbit ears and you can watch tv in high definition

    • Ryan Guina says

      Thanks, Bryan. I updated the article to reflect this. My wife and I use a combination of a digital antenna and Amazon Prime as our main means of watching TV. It saves us hundreds of dollars every year compared to a monthly cable TV subscription!

  19. Adam says

    It’s been quite a few years since I’ve used cable TV. I have a 40″ Samsung LCD in my bedroom that I use a monitor for my computer, and I watch videos on.

    For the technical neophyte, I recommend picking up the Sony NSZ-GS7. A slightly cheaper option is the Vizio Co-Star, but the remote for the Sony is better, and I think most people will appreciate that.

    For the technically competent, I’d recommend setting up a Home Theater PC. A $70 AMD A6-5400K should handle all of your HTPC needs. If you’d like to game as well, consider a more expensive A8 or A10. Of course, you need to couple this with a case, PSU, motherboard, RAM, HDD, wireless 802.11n adapter, wireless keyboard/mouse, and OS. Most people who go this route aren’t starting from scratch, but if you are, it’s a significantly more expensive option than a set top box.

    So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.

    • Adriana says

      I understood none of this. What does the SONY do? Is it helpful if I connect my MAC laptop to my TV? I want to cancel my cable service.

  20. Nensi says

    Funny, I just resurrected my blog and was writing a post on ditching cable when I went out to look for some stats and ran across your post! We have similar ideas, only I think Netflix is a much better deal. I look forward to reading more. Perhaps, if I can get my blog off the ground we can do some work together.

  21. Robert says

    I just bought a couple roku boxes ($20 off on Cyber Monday). I will be buidling an antenna (very easy, very inexpensive, better quality than you can buy in the store). We will be cutting the cord before the end of December and going with the tons of free roku channels, Hulu Plus ($7.99/month) and Amazon Prime ($79/year).

  22. Helena says

    I found the article interesting. After I lost my job, I spent time looking for cable alternatives. I ended up buying a e-book entitled “Remote Control: Stop Losing Money And Easily Take Control Over What You Watch on lulu.com. I saw someone talking about it on the Breaking Bad facebook page (I am a Fan). It cost me $6.37 and basically taught me how to put a program on my laptop that allows me to access movies, TV shows, anytime I like. I now only pay for my Internet charge. No more cable for us. My kids love it when we have movie night and I love that I don’t spend $160/month any more. Oh, and it also had a money back guarantee, so I figured what the heck. Anyway, hope that helps someone too.

  23. Jana says

    Yes, I dropped my cable many years ago. The cost was outrageous and also wanted to hurt the biased Leftist media. I still have a flat panel and I can hook up to local channels which includes the three major channels and all their tv shows. I just don’t though. I turn it on and think I’ll just have it as background noise like I used to. I can’t stand it. And I’ve watched some of the tv shows and they’re truly just horrible. I watch some things on YouTube, like the old Unsolved Mysteries, but generally I just don’t need tv.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Yes, Amazon Prime requires an internet connection to stream video. I recommend getting cable internet vs. dial up or DSL. DSL may be fast enough, but dial up will not be. A basic cable internet package should be enough for streaming video. Try the minimum plan, but if it isn’t fast enough, then bump up the service one level, try that, and repeat if necessary. But you should be fine with the basic package. Also be sure to check how much data streaming you have to be sure you don’t go over the plan limits, as that may be expensive, depending on your internet provider (many plans offer unlimited downloads, but it’s still a good idea to check).

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