Btw, NO company sponsored this post. This is just our story and my endorsements are based on genuine appreciation.
If you itch to get your hands on Downton Abbey before the rest of the U.S., would love to watch the Olympics LIVE without a cable/satellite (“C/S” from now on) account, or even want to watch the hottest shows without a C/S subscription, then read on because this post is for you!*
(Another btw: This is the kind of post that I NEVER thought I’d write because I thought I NEEDED cable. Boy, am I happy that’s not true after all!)
Ever since I was growing up in Colombia, my family’s had cable. Back then it made sense because that was the best way to get access to premium US-based channels that carried the best programming.
Check out my favorite shows growing up!
But then we moved to the States, and a couple years later, we got a C/S subscription and we discovered many “gems” such as Real Housewives, HGTV, the Food Network, and ABC Family, among many others.
Then in 2013 (after many months of consideration and research), we finally unplugged. If you want to “cut the cord,” save hundreds of dollars each year, and restore some of your sanity, read on…
THESE ARE MY SUGGESTIONS IF YOU’D LIKE TO FOLLOW IN ON OUR FOOTSTEPS
1. Evaluate your Priorities
Do you REALLY need to watch every episode of Real Housewives or will you still be able to remain connected by just following them on Facebook and/or Instagram and/or Twitter? In my case, that was a resounding YES. I also get Us Weekly emails, so I’m bound to get an update about the previous night’s show (fortunately I only “care about” the OC and NJ ladies)–thereby making watching it rather unnecessary.
Learn why I left Facebook and why I came back under a pseudonym.
And that applies to practically every other show out there, so you really don’t need to watch them.
2. Check Out Other Alternatives
We had a Comcast/Xfinity subscription that we started to hate because its price kept escalating significantly every few months. Together with our Xfinity Internet (which we kept because it’s the best of the two other alternatives around here), we were practically paying $60 some month, then $80 other months, and so on. Ew.
At one point my parents abandoned Xfinity for the master bedroom TV and got a Roku, saving around $10/mo (that’s $120/year, btw). Roku is a little box full of Internet-based apps such as Netflix and Hulu plus, among many others. Back then, my dad got a small antenna to watch on-air stuff.
(We now have Aereo [more on that later] on both TVs, but while my mom uses Aereo in their bedroom, my dad prefers his physical antenna because it shows continuous programming. Aereo, on the other hand, asks you to select another show as soon as the previous ended. If you want to sleep to the TV this can be a nuisance.)
Our living room TV still had Xfinity + TiVo (which costs $15-$20/mo, depending on your plan), and I was as happy as a clam watching my TiVoed shows.
But then something hit me: I don’t need this!
I’d rather be able to buy a plane ticket to go somewhere instead of continuing to get ripped off like this. So we said ENOUGH and left the TV portion of our Comcast subscription, saving around $70/month (OR $840+ each year). But we still had TiVo for another couple months and since the early termination fee was $75, we decided to keep it (and pay the $30–$15/mo).
What alternatives were we considering to replace our Xfinity + TiVo?
• Roku was still our top choice
We wanted to keep the functionality of our TiVo but in a smaller box and for $0/month. We looked at Apple TV, which we liked overall as an Apple family, but weren’t fans of it not having the Amazon Instant Video app (we’re Amazon Prime subscribers, which also enables us to stream some of the best new and older shows and movies).
I researched a lot of other devices, but to be frank, they didn’t seem to be quite as popular and as backed-up as Roku, so we got another Roku box for our living room TV. One-time cost: $60.
• By this time Aereo had also made its SLC debut
Simply put, Aereo lets you stream live TV from (most) the same basic channels that you’d get with a typical TV antenna. Basically, if all you need is CBS, ABC, NBC, CW, FOX, and PBS, then Aereo has you covered with two plans: The $8/month one has just one recorder (so you can record one show at a time), and the $12/mo one has two (for recording two shows at a time). We later chose the latter mainly because when we had the $8/mo one, we’d encounter some “stuttering”(?) that’d make watching something really tedious. The $12/mo-experience runs more smoothly.
Aereo also works on ALL your devices!
• We’re head-over-heels in love with Redbox
Every time I see someone offer movie rentals for more than $2, I just want to laugh in. their. face. Our nearest Redbox is a short walk from our house, so NOTHING out there could beat that convenience.
Cost: $3/mo (since there are some months when we go Redbox-free, while on others we may watch around three movies).
• What would we do without Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime?
These services’ offerings are quickly growing and we couldn’t be more delighted. We’ve found AMAZING shows and movies that we get to binge-watch rather than wait a week for one episode.
Because waiting is overrated :).
An important distinction: We use Hulu to stream both current shows (such as Scandal, Grimm, and Beauty & The Beast) + older reruns and movies, while we record shows on Aereo mainly from CBS (Mentalist, Big Bang) and PBS (Downton and Sherlock). >> See? You can totally survive without cable!!
Sometimes I’ve found that the content of say, Netflix and Amazon Prime overlap, and that’s OK, because each also offers a LOT more by itself.
Cost for Netflix + HuluPLUS = $16/mo. Amazon Prime costs $80/year ($40 for college students!) but since we also buy stuff on the site, I’ll attribute 50% of that to its streaming service–around $3ish/mo. ==> Total cost for ALL of these: $19/mo.
• TunnelBear is great for watching stuff from other countries
This past February, I really wanted to watch the Olympics LIVE (when they’re meant to be watched) but didn’t want to submit to Xfinity’s will and pay $25 for its cheapest plan just so I could get a friggin’ username and password to access NBC’s online streaming.
So you can imagine my surprise when, one day, OUT OF THE BLUE, I spot a Forbes article (see link below) on my Twitter feed about precisely this same dilemma (i.e., how to watch the Olympics without a cable subscription), which many others faced. Some people borrow others’ C/S account info (kinda illegal); the author recommended TunnelBear instead, which changes your IP address to one from another country.
This is important for two reasons:
1) The BBC allows anyone in the UK (i.e., with a UK IP address) to watch online (live) streams of its coverage/shows (Which I did :D, so I was able to catch Shawn White’s sad loss and IPod’s climb to snowboarding fame right as they happened :/)
2) It can also help you discover what’s popular on Netflix in other countries, such as the UK as well: Simply turn TB on, switch it to the UK, then visit Netflix UK.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure: TunnelBear has two plans. Its free one gives you 500MB (which can run out after a few minutes of streaming) and its Unlimited plan costs $5/mo.
3. Make A Plan With Those Alternatives
The main suggestion that I wanted to stress here is that you need to know full well what to do ONCE you’ve decided to make the switch and cut the cord.
In our case, our top priority became getting rid of our TiVo box. A TiVo rep suggested we sell it on EBay, purchase the Lifetime Service plan (by which the user would enjoy TiVo FOREVER without paying anything each month) to make it more enticing–after it was purchased– and then transfer ownership to that buyer. To my surprise, it sold for MANY times its original cost within just HOURS after I posted it, and I used that money to buy the Lifetime plan. (Cost: $99–technically free?)
What would your plan look like? I hear people who say that if you have a joint TV/Internet C/S subscription and cancel either portion of it, the other portion will jump in cost a bit. And while that didn’t happen to us, I’d still say, SO WHAT? Because chances are we’ll still be saving at least $50/mo (or $600/year)!
4 & LAST: Learn to Live Without Your Favorite Shows
CNN. The Little Couple. Little People, Big World. 19 Kids And Counting. These are the four things I miss about not having cable. Fortunately, our Aereo has Bloomberg, which is like a glorified CNN but more focused on financial news, so I’m covered there. I also follow the last three on Facebook, so when they want their fans to get an important update, I get it. (I’m still looking for ways to watch them somewhere WITHOUT a C/S subscription, though. Help?)
OK THAT’S IT!
But before I go, let’s add up our new costs, shall we? Roku apps (Aereo, Netflix, HuluPLUS, and Amazon) + Redbox = ~$34/mo.
^That^, compared to the OLD costs (Avg. $80/mo for Xfinity + TiVo at $15/mo = $95/mo JUST FOR TV) yields a $61/mo difference. That is, we’re potentially SAVING over $730/year by making a few sacrifices and enjoying better alternatives.
Whew! I know this was kind of long/thorough but hopefully it’s very useful to those of you who are considering “cutting the cord”* and saving HUNDREDS of dollars each year as a result. Have YOU cut the cord yet? If so, how have you replaced your C/S subscription? If not, how come?
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This was the story of how our family “cut the cord” and began saving hundreds of dollars per year. It’s meant to provide tips but shouldn’t be taken as testament. If you’ve found something else/better, then please stick to that! (And share your tips with me!)
*I’m sure you’ll conclude that this post is for those who aren’t under contract with their cable/satellite company or whose contract is expecting soon. But don’t despair! If you’re under contract, just bookmark/Pin this post so you can come back to it when the time’s right. THANKS FOR READING!!
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A few days after this post came out, our family’s Internet (from Xfinity) bill went up and we got the second mailer from Comcast advertising a much, MUCH lower TV-Internet deal than we’ve had in a while. We’d also get to keep that price + HBO for a full year plus Showtime for three months. So we caved in and got our cable back. BUT that doesn’t mean the advice above doesn’t apply as it’s what allowed us to rather enjoy being off cable. (PS- Xfinity OnDemand and Homeland are the bomb.)