Getting rid of cable leaves you with a ton of options for TV viewing. Cut through the confusion with these helpful charts and ideas!
This guest post was written by Katie of Living the Stream. Enjoy her money saving tips!!
In the spring of 2017, I looked at my cable bill. We were spending $224 per month on our cable and internet package. At the time, we had 3 kids under 5 and barely watched any TV (we were too tired!).
It was time to get rid of cable.
As I researched getting rid of cable and streaming TV, I was overwhelmed. There were streaming devices (couldn’t I just use my Smart TV?), streaming services, Netflix, Hulu (and Hulu Live? What’s the difference?), HBO Now vs. HBO Go.
What about an antenna? Do I need one of those?
Getting Rid of Cable: How We Pulled the Plug
After lots of research, we are now a cable free household. My 1 ½ year old even knows how to operate the TV. (I am a little ashamed to admit this, but it just goes to show how easy it is!)
We are also huge sports fans and we haven’t had to miss watching a single game.
(If sports are a concern of yours, don’t miss this guide to watching all the sports without cable!)
What Is the Cost Breakdown?
Streaming is a booming industry right now. There are lots of different products and companies out there vying for your business.
That’s why I created this guide to help you weed out features that you do or don’t want.
Let’s find the streaming options that are best (and cheapest) for your family!
Here are the breakdowns of my parents’ cable bill and the breakdown for my bill for streaming TV.
Streaming TV does have some upfront costs. You are buying your own equipment instead of “renting” it from your cable company.
But don’t worry! Within the first year, you’ll have recouped those costs and you will be saving money.
An antenna is essential for everyone looking to get rid of cable.
But this isn’t a huge monstrosity that has to be mounted on your roof! New indoor HDTV antennas can be mounted on your inside wall or window.
We use our antenna for local news, weather and sports. We actually watch a lot of sports from local channels.
If you’re looking for recommendations, the Mohu Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna is a great choice!
You will need a streaming device for each of your TVs.
Even if you have a Smart TV, you’ll want a streaming device. That’s because a device will give you access to a larger number of apps than Smart TVs.
I love Roku, and it’s the one streaming device that I suggest to everyone. Rokus get software updates every so often to update their content, interface, and to fix any bugs.
Most TV companies rarely update their Smart TV software.
How to Choose the Right Roku
Let’s say that you have 3 TVs in your house.
I recommend that you get a Roku Ultra for your main TV. It has the capability to be plugged directly into your router for the fastest and most reliable connection.
For your other TVs, I suggest Roku Streaming Sticks. The remote on the Roku Streaming Stick can also control the power and volume on your TV. That’s a nice feature!
As for savings, let’s compare to the above cable chart. My parents are charged $10 per month for each of the 3 DVR boxes in their home. That’s $360 per year!
If you buy one Roku Ultra and 2 Roku Streaming Sticks, that is $200 total, and these should last you well beyond a year!
Best Wifi Options
When watching TV without cable or satellite, you will need a fast, reliable internet connection. I suggest a minimum of 50 mbps (megabytes per second).
If you have lots of devices on your home network (phones, tablets, computers, smart thermostats, smart doorbells, home security etc), you will need a faster speed.
Start with less than you think you’ll need. Your internet provider will be more likely to offer you a deal for more speed than if you drop to a slower speed later.
Saving Even More Money!
Do not rent a modem from your internet company. You will save money in the long run if you buy your own!
I have an ARRIS Surfboard SBG7580AC, which costs around $180. It is capable of speeds up to 1.4 Gbps (that’s 1400 Mbps). So as home internet speeds continue to get faster and faster, this machine will be able to handle it.
- Internet speed of at least 50 Mbps (go with less than you think you need)
- Buy a modem – we recommend ARRIS Surfboard SBG7580AC ($180)
- Buy a streaming device for each TV – we recommend Roku Ultra ($100) and Roku Streaming Stick ($50)
- Buy an antenna for your main TV – we recommend Mohu Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna 60 mile range ($60)
For a household with 3 TVs, the equipment costs come out to $440. That seems like a lot, but remember, this will save you money in the long run.
Remember that being frugal is all about making purchases that last. It’s not always about choosing the cheapest option!
You may be locked in to a multi-year contract with your current cable company. But you don’t have to wait until the end of your contract to get rid of cable!
There are usually early termination fees for ending your contract early. You may have to do a little research to see how much this fee will be.
But even if the fee is high, it’s worth doing the math to see if you’ll save more money by terminating the contract.
Think about it this way: my family saves $134 per month by getting rid of cable.
If I had 6 months left on a cable contract, I would save $804 over 6 months. Let’s say the cable company had an early termination fee of $450.
Even after paying that fee, I would still save $354 over those 6 months!
What Is the Best Alternative to Cable?
There’s a lot of information to digest when getting rid of cable! But once you conquer the short learning curve, it’s super easy.
Here are the choices that range from cheapest to the option that gets you the closest to your typical cable experience. (The pricier option still saves our family over $134 per month!)
Option #1: Antenna Only
Note: this option does not require home internet!
Equipment needed: Antenna
Monthly cost: $3-5 for the first year, then free after that
First up, an antenna is the cheapest and most limited option. New antennas can be mounted inside your house. You’ll have access to channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS (among many others) for free.
An antenna will get you free TV but there is no DVR, no pausing live TV and no OnDemand options. You just get live TV. Remember, you can supplement with DVDs from your local library.
So, with this option, you could be watching TV for just $35 or $60 per year. That’s $3-5 per month!
Option #2: Antenna, Internet, Apps and On Demand Streaming Services
Equipment needed: Internet, Modem & Router, Streaming device (1 per TV) and Antenna
Monthly cost (minus equipment costs): $61-84 per month (includes internet)
For a little more equipment than Option #1, a whole new world of streaming opportunities is available to you. With an internet connection and streaming device, there are tons of apps you can access.
All of the apps in this option, I call “On Demand” apps (like Netflix). There is no live TV, unless you have an antenna.
Here is a run down of some of the most popular apps:
If you subscribed to all these apps every month, your bill would be high. The beauty of streaming TV is that, you can add and drop your subscriptions whenever you want.
Netflix and Amazon Prime
Now, you do have to pay for an entire month at a time. They won’t prorate your subscription. If you pay $11 for a month of Netflix, you will receive service for that entire month, even if you cancel your subscription after 2 days.
At my house, we always have Netflix and Amazon Prime.
I don’t include Amazon Prime when looking at our monthly savings since we mainly use it for Prime benefits. (Prime TV is just a nice bonus!)
HBO and Other Premium Channels
If you have a favorite show you can’t stand to miss, you can still save money! For instance, we love Game of Thrones. So we always add HBO when it’s airing.
That’s also when we catch up on movies available on HBO. When Game of Thrones is over, we drop it.
PBS offers limited episodes of PBS shows.
When I want to watch Call the Midwife, I have to be sure to stay current with the episodes. There are only 2 or 3 available at a time. If I get too far behind, I’ll miss an episode. This is a small sacrifice for a free service!
PBS Kids is a free way for your kids to enjoy their favorite cartoons! My kids love Nature Cat, but there are usually only 3 or 4 episodes available for streaming.
(If you have kids, you know that they love watching the same thing over and over and over again.)
Boomerang is a streaming channel that plays old cartoons. It is a monthly subscription, but they have 1 or 2 episodes of some shows available on their app for free.
Many of the Live TV Streaming Services will have Boomerang included in their channel line-up. (I’ll talk about this later!)
YouTube has an app on Roku, there is lots of content on there that my kids love. All for free! We really like Cosmic Kids Yoga, it’s a rainy day must have in our house!
- Internet – 50 Mbps or greater (I pay $50/month but internet prices vary greatly)
Equipment you will need:
- Modem and router – $180
- Roku – $50-100
- Antenna – $60
This is what I recommend downloading from your Roku (or other streaming device)
- Netflix or Hulu ($11-$14 per month)
- Prime Video (if you are an Amazon Prime member)
- PBS and PBS Kids
- HBO Now ($14.99 per month)
- Boomerang ($4.99 per month)
Option #3: Live TV and DVR Streaming Services
This option includes all the information from above, adding on a Live TV Streaming Service. (Great for people who watch a lot of sports!)
Equipment needed: Internet, Modem & Router, Streaming device (1 per TV) and Antenna.
Monthly cost: $65-$130
Live TV and DVR Streaming Services will get you close to your “classic cable watching experience”. These services have a TV guide, ability to watch live TV, On Demand watching options, and some even include DVR.
In most cases, you will choose one of these services. The most important factor is what channels and shows you want to watch. Each service has a slightly different channel lineup.
Two other important factors to consider are “number of screens” and DVR. Number of screens refers to the number of “screens” (TV, phone, computer or tablet) that can be using your account to stream at the same time.
If you have a large TV watching family, where everyone likes to watch their own individual show at the same time, you may have some constraints.
But if someone is watching Netflix in the living room and someone else is watching Sling TV in the basement, this doesn’t come into play.
Here is the run down of the most popular Live TV Streaming Services:
We have tried almost all of these services, with the exception of the last 3. This is the most confusing part of getting rid of cable. There are so many choices!
I highly suggest taking full advantage of the free trials. There are 9 streaming services listed here. The majority of them have a 7 day free trial. That’s almost 9 weeks of free TV!
So test them out! Take notes!
Do you have to have a DVR? Try one that doesn’t have DVR. Did you miss it? (I didn’t! I was surprised!)
How is the interface? Is it intuitive for you? I found some of them hard to navigate.
Again, you may want to add Netflix, Hulu or a premium channel to supplement one of these streaming services. Those can come and go as needed too!
Sports fans can save, too.
For instance, use YouTube TV during college football and hockey season.
Once, hockey season is over and baseball season has started, switch to Sling TV. You can subscribe to a cheaper service but still catch all the baseball games.
There have never been so many options for getting rid of cable!
It isn’t as scary as you thought, right? I think you’re ready! If you have any questions or need an even more in depth foray into streaming TV, I am always happy to help at Living the Stream.