It was about a year and a half ago – Christmastime – that my husband and I began to talk seriously about getting rid of cable. We’d chatted about it before, but as a stay at home mom of a baby girl, I didn’t think I could survive my days at home without television. I’d start the day with a morning news show, switch over to some Rachael Ray, The Price is Right, and then HGTV or Food Network for the rest of the afternoon. I rarely sat down and watched those TV shows – it just provided what I thought was much-needed background noise and the illusion of some adult conversation and stimulation (however one-sided it was). But it was just after Thanksgiving that I decided to turn on some Christmas music (via our Blu-Ray player’s Pandora App) instead of my usual menu of daytime television. I was simply amazed at the change in my day. I was so much more motivated – even cheerful – as I went about chores around the house. That was the day I realized that not only did I not NEED cable – I was better off without it!
And so, frustrated to a breaking point with the terrible service and rising rates of our cable company (Comcast) and armed with the newfound knowledge that I actually could survive without television through the day, we cut the cord. And I can honestly say that we haven’t looked back.
Are you thinking of dropping your cable subscription and “cutting the cord?” Here are some things you may want to know.
You can still get live TV for FREE.
Just because we don’t have cable doesn’t mean we had to do away with live television completely. We get PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX for absolutely free AND they’re in HD – with an antenna. It’s great to turn on PBS Kids for my daughter in the mornings or watch the evening news. We have this antenna – my husband mounted it in the attic and ran the cable down through the walls to the wiring panel in the basement, where he connected it to the splitter that feeds all of the cable TV outlets in the house. So that means we can put a TV in any room, plug it into the cable outlet, and get the signal from the antenna. Unfortunately, depending on your location, there’s no real guarantee that you’ll be able to get a good signal from every network – the website TVFool.com is really helpful in knowing where your closest transmitters are, what kind of signal to expect at your house, where to aim your antenna, etc.
We have a Netflix subscription, as well as access to Amazon Instant Streaming through our Amazon Prime subscription. Of course, you’ve got to have a decently fast internet connection to be able to stream video, but as long as you have that, you can watch television until the end of time with the amount of programming available on these two. Hulu Plus is another option, but we tried that for a few months and barely used it, so we dropped it. Netflix has a great selection of kids programming, too – so I can still turn on an episode of Sesame Street for my daughter while I’m making dinner. And Amazon will be adding a big list of HBO shows to their Prime Streaming service starting on May 21! The best part about streaming shows through Netflix or Amazon is that you can start them whenever you want to sit down and watch something – AND not have to sit through commercials!
UPDATE: There is a new service called Sling TV providing a $20/month streaming cable service, including ESPN, CNN, HGTV, Food Network, and many other networks! It plays through your Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick (and right now you can get a free Fire TV Stick with a 3 month subscription!). We’ve had it for a month or so and are loving it – it’s so easy to use. So if missing sports games or House Hunters marathons has been holding you back from cutting the cord, this may be the answer for you!
Play Streaming Shows to your TV.
There are a several different options to play your streaming shows via Netflix, Hulu, etc. on your television. The first is a smart TV. We have a Samsung smart TV, and I would NOT recommend it, for this reason – TV manufacturers are in the hardware business and aren’t very good at software, so the apps on the TV are very glitchy. In fact, the Netflix app on our TV works less than half the time. Also, if you think about it, once a TV manufacturer has come out with a version of a smart TV with specific software, they have little to no motivation to continue to develop that software and come out with updates, bug fixes, etc – they’d rather just have you buy a new TV. So, I would recommend a regular TV with a separate “smart” device like a Roku or even a wi-fi enabled Blu Ray player or gaming device, since it is much less expensive to replace the smart device when you want an upgrade rather than the entire TV.
Another option that I would HIGHLY recommend is a Chromecast – it is totally affordable (only $35!), and allows you to stream anything from your Chrome browser directly to your TV. Many networks have the most recent episodes of their shows available to stream on their website, or you can watch them via Hulu. A Chromecast allows you to play those shows on your computer but “cast” it to your television. Plus there are Netflix and Hulu apps that are Chomecast compatible, so you can even stream Netflix from your phone or tablet onto your TV. (That’s what we use to stream Netflix when our smart TV is being dumb.)
A similar option to the Chomecast (and equally affordable) is the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which doesn’t allow have the “cast” option to stream directly from your computer, but it does have lots of apps that allow you to easily watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, WatchESPN, and more. It’s super easy to install and set up, too. We just purchased one for our bedroom TV and are really happy with it.
Fill the void.
If you were like me and thought you just needed the background noise of the television, switching to music can be a very positive change. I’ve got a few different Pandora stations that I’ll turn on during the day depending on my mood and what I need to get done. Growing up, my mom would always put on Billy Joel or Chicago on Saturday mornings when we cleaned the house, so there’s nothing like some “We Didn’t Start The Fire” or “Saturday in the Park” to get me in the mood to clean! There are so many different options – online streaming radio, satellite radio, an mp3 player, or even some old fashioned radio – it doesn’t matter how you do it, but try putting on some music more often! Or if you’re looking for a quiet couple of minutes on the couch to just zone out, get out a magazine or a book!
Do the math.
Cutting cable will save you a LOT of money. Unfortunately, we still have to give Comcast some money each month for internet, as they are the only high speed internet provider in our area…DSL isn’t fast enough for streaming video, and rural central PA doesn’t have Fios. But we were able to call and get on a promotional rate for a year, so we are currently paying $30/month for high-speed internet. (It’s easy to get on a promo rate with Comcast, if you can handle being on hold for a long time – just call and tell them you’re thinking of dropping your service and they’ll transfer you to “customer retention” where they will offer you their current promotion.) Before the switch, we were paying $130+ for our cable and internet. That’s a savings of over $1,000 a year!!!
I can honestly say that since we “cut the cord” a year ago, we haven’t looked back. I never thought I’d be able to get rid of cable, but it was surprisingly easy! And the best part is, I think our family is better off because of it – and our wallet certainly is, too!
So – where are you on the cable TV spectrum? Committed to cable? On the fence? Or proud cord-cutter?