Get rid of cable: A simple how-to
August 10, 2012
My husband and I gave up on any kind of cable or dish service a few years ago when we could no longer afford it. Lucky for me, my husband is super smart about these things and a bit of tech-nerd (but a cute tech-nerd!), and he figured out ways for us to still enjoy some of the perks of cable and DVR without having either.
Since then, we've shared our secrets with lots of friends and family so they, too, could happily get rid of their cable bill. I've been seeing a lot of people asking questions on the internet lately about how to make the transition, so I thought I would share what we do.
Here's a simple how-to for canceling cable from a wife who hardly knows anything – trust me, if I can figure it out, so can you!
To get us started, here's the cost breakdown of what we do now that we don't have cable:
- One-time outdoor antenna purchase for local channels: $50
- One-time Roku purchase: $60
- Hulu Plus monthly cost: $7.99
- Streaming Netflix monthly cost: $7.99
- MLB.TV yearly cost for watching unlimited major league baseball: $110 (this was actually a gift for my husband, so we didn't pay for it)
Total monthly cost: $16 (not including MLB.TV since it was a gift)
Total one-time cost: $110
As you can see, it was definitely worth it for us to cut out cable. $16 per month is way more affordable than any dish or cable service. Here's how you can do it too:
Step one: Get an antenna
First, you need an antenna to get local channels. They still sell indoor antennas (rabbit ears) as well as outdoor antennas, but they are smaller than you remember from the past. Outdoor antennas work better than indoor ones since the signal is better. We bought an outdoor antenna at Target that is a rectangular box about the size of a book. They do still sell those big wire antennas that you remember from pre-cable days, and we have contemplated switching to one several times because we tend to have bad reception in wind and rain. It depends on where your house is and how strong the signal is in your area.
If you purchase an outdoor antenna, you'll have to connect it to your TV with cables. Because our house was previously wired for a satellite dish, we already had cables running from outside, under the house and into each room, so we easily hooked up the cable from the antenna outside to our TV. If you don't have this set-up, you'll have to do a little extra work running cable through your attic or under your house. But if you are switching from Dish or cable, you probably already have the set-up.
Step two: Connect to the Internet
Once you get local channels, it's time to rely on the internet for convenience and more options. Services like Hulu Plus and streaming Netflix allow you to watch episodes of your favorite shows or, in some cases, even cable shows. What I love also about subscribing to these services (both have a low monthly fee) is the ability to watch full seasons of TV shows – especially in the summer when nothing is on.
So how do you watch internet TV on your television? If you have one of those fancy new TVs that have built-in wifi, you can access the internet from your television. That means you can download (or perhaps your TV came equipped with) apps from services like streaming Netflix and Hulu Plus, so you're already set up to watch your favorite TV shows anytime once you subscribe to them.
If you don't have a TV with wifi, there are a few other options:
- If you have an Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo Wii game system, these all connect to the internet and offer apps for streaming Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more.
- You can simply connect your computer to your TV with a VGA or HDMI cable (which one depends on your computer and TV inputs) – this works best if you have a laptop that you can easily set up by the TV. If you use this option, I suggest you look into putting a free app like Plex on your computer. Plex pulls shows from all different websites and puts them into one place for your convenience. You can save your favorite shows and even create a queue for shows you haven't watched, which makes it very similar to a DVR. The downside here is you don't have a remote, and need to get up to switch between shows. However, you might be able to purchase a universal remote for your computer (Apple sells them for Macs) or you might be able to download a remote app for your smartphone for as low as $0.99.
- Your third option (and my favorite) is to purchase a Roku (or a Boxee or Google TV). The Roku is a tiny box that connects to your wifi and hooks up to your TV. It comes with a remote and you can download apps for all kinds of channels like streaming Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, HBO, MLB.TV, Amazon Instant Video, and much, much more. The apps are free to download, but you can't access some of them without a subscription. Hulu Plus is great for watching your favorite shows, Amazon Instant Video works well for renting movies, and sports apps like MLB.TV are the perfect alternative to pricey cable sports channels. The Roku makes watching TV really easy! It's a one-time purchase of $59.99.
If you or your husband are a fan of sports and are worried about missing out without cable, don't fear! Major League baseball offers subscriptions to MLB.TV for as low as about $80/year – and you can watch any game at anytime on your computer, Roku, Xbox, iPad, or smartphone. NFL Game Rewind allows you to subscribe to football games at various price points, and even the NHL has Gamecenter Live so you can watch live games.
Is it affordable?
To figure out if canceling cable is worth it for you, add up all the yearly subscriptions you would pay to watch what you want. Do you want to subscribe to a sports app? How about Hulu Plus so you can watch your favorite shows that you miss throughout the week? How often do you rent movies, and is it worth it to just pay per movie instead of subscribing to movie channels? Add up all the subscriptions you would pay for per year without cable and see if it's less than your current cable bill. Odds are, it will be.
Do I miss cable? Not really. There are some luxuries you miss out on without it. For instance, before we purchased our Roku we weren't able to fast forward through shows, which used to bug me. And unfortunately with internet TV, you are forced to watch occasional commercials (I was spoiled when we had a DVR!). Local channels rarely have something entertaining on them, but that's why we subscribe to Hulu Plus and Netflix streaming.
All in all, none of the inconveniences above are worth a pricey monthly cable bill.
So have you made the switch from cable yet?
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disclosure: this post contains affiliate links