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My Family Has Been Happily Cable-Free for over 2 Years. Here's How...

12:46 AM


You've heard the phrase "cut the cord." You know that there are more affordable options than cable or satellite service for watching your favorite shows.  Maybe, however, you just haven't done the math, or are worried about gaps in seeing the content that really matters to you.

I'm happy to report that, since 2012, we have been cable-free.  We were subscribers of a cable service for almost 4 years, hooked into the low $30 rate that they offered for the first year of a new contract.  As the programming costs neared the $70/month mark, however, and the programming became awful, we knew it was time to look at other options.

Here is a rundown of what works in our house to get us the programming we want at LESS than $30 a month. (Select links to shopping or service sites may be my own referral links, but opinions and experiences are 100% authentic):

For local stations:

When we want to watch news, local live sports, or anything else that we don't have to stream, we use an amplified antennae from Mohu, called Curve.  Up until this past month, we were barely getting any local channels on our HDTV, even with one of those indoor antennae that is supposed to work with all the new digital channels.  We hooked up the Curve unit so graciously provided to us to try from Mohu, and the difference was night and day.  This unit comes with an amplifier that you plug into an outlet, giving it a much-needed boost.  It claims to pick up frequencies for 50 miles, depending on interference.  We were able to get football games from the station 60 miles away -- in English!! (This ia big deal, because with our old antennae, we could get the football game, but in Spanish for some reason.)

Mohu also has a more powerful option for people living the in the country -- like us -- or who need even more range.  The Sky HDTV Outdoor/Attic Antennae is geared up for a 60 mile range, and you don't need to be a DIY guru to install it.

For streaming content:

We cannot commit to just one service provider for streaming content, mostly because they are always changing their licensing agreements.  One provider may offer new episodes of our shows, but another may have all the archived content to a show we haven't ever seen.  We split our watching time between Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Netflix streaming, currently.

Hulu Plus - This service runs $7.99 a month for the basic version, which gives you access to new shows the next day (after midnight) and commercial-free movie viewing.  We also really like watching the movie trailers on this service, as it helps us to know what new films are coming out that we'd like to see. We actually took the plunge and subscribe to the $11.99 a month plan, which gives us commercial-free viewing for most shows. This is important to us as a family with young children in the home, because many of the prime time shows have commercials which are NOT kid-friendly. It also saves us about an hour to an hour and a half a week with commercials we don't have to watch!

Amazon Prime - This service is $99 a year, but we use it so much for the free shipping, Music library, photo storage, and Kindle lending library features, that we don't really count it as solely an entertainment service cost. We can view thousands of TV shows and movies, which we mostly use to binge watch older seasons of shows (currently, Suits). For new release movies, we will pony up the $2.99 - $4.99 cost to view it outside of the free viewing plan.  This is a nice treat for the kids one to two times a month -- or for date night!

(For the occasional new show that is not being streamed anywhere, we may subscribe to the entire season at a discount through Amazon, as well.)

Netflix - Because there are shows that only Netflix offers (like many of the reality TV cooking shows), we also subscribe to this service.  At $7.99 a month, we get quite a bit of the kids' favorite shows, as well, including Cartoon Network favorites, their Star Wars: Clone Wars, and our family-favorite episodes of MacGyver.  (Plans can cost more if you want HD viewing, and the ability to watch on more than one screen at a time.)

All of these services are viewed on our mobile devices, or on our family TV with either our Roku 3 (which also offers a wide variety of other channels, including YouTube, PBS Kids, and several faith-based channels) or on the other TV's in our home with the ChromeCast.

SlingTV - Owned and operated by a cable provider, SlingTV is as close to cable as you can get. A Basic subscription starts at $20 a month, with add on packages available for $5 each. This includes channels such as Food Network, HGTV, ESPN, Disney Channel, History Channel, and many more of the top stations. We usually only subscribe to this during the college football season, and also pick up the Kids add-on package (which includes Disney XD and Boomerang, among others) for an additional charge. Since we really don't watch much of "live" TV, and many stations these days just replay the same episodes over and over, this is only a good buy for us during football season.

(Note: Sling TV has become increasingly popular, causing some streaming "congestion" when trying to watch sports channels at peak times -- such as during Bowl Games. We have found that you can get the ESPN app to watch on your phone or Roku device and log in using your Sling TV password. The viewing experience is much better, and you can watch the same commercials as those watching the game, as opposed to some of the lame SlingTV ads that they show from their app.)

For sports: 

Before the Sling TV offering, we had limited options for watching our beloved Huskers play in Big 10 Football.  We do catch live games, when aired locally, with our Mohu Curve.  If it happens to not be airing on the ESPN channels (and instead hits the Big10 network), we listen to the rest on the radio.  Once in awhile, we find it worth it to hit the local restaurant that shows the game or even hit The Amazing Pizza Machine, which has a big viewing room with all the games playing!

Other services we will use when there is a promotion (Walmart gave out $5 movie credits for VUDU in their Marketside pizzas awhile back), include:

VUDU
MGo (Watch your first movie for $1 and earn rewards for every purchase made.)
iTunes
Google Play

VidAngel - We are also BIG fans of the new VidAngel service, which lets you buy digital copies of movies for $20, then sell them back for $18-19 dollars (depending on whether you want HD or SD). You can use their included filters to remove objectionable content, such as swear words, nudity, or violence, or you can just choose to remove the ending credits, if you want to keep the movie in tact and just get the good deal. They currently stream almost all new releases, as well as as some oldies. (They also have all of the Star Wars movies to stream for a low price of $1 for each title after buy back!)

In total, with our family getting all their favorite shows, 3 new release movies a month, and 1-2 new seasons of shows that aren't offered for free, we get almost all of our entertainment for a cost of less than $30 a month.  This is without a contract, excessive DVR rental fees, and a pretty good offering of parental controls I would need to make sure my kids are watching decent content. (Note: the best parental controls are actual parents, but many of the services I mentioned do have "Kids" dashboards to keep them on safe content for when I'm not in the room.) We also see far more new release movies on this budget than we ever did with cable.

Are you looking to cut the cord? What's stopping you?

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31 comments

  1. Very informative! I am forwarding this info to my husband. We recently ditched our dish and have been unable to pick up local channels with regular antennas. We've been stuck in "No T.V. Limbo" for a while trying to make up our minds what we want to do next---not going to another satellite company for sure!--I think your information might help us decide. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, except for sports, we have EVERYTHING we need. But even 5 games a year isn't enough to justify the extra $500. We have 6 kids, and some might want to go to college. LOL

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  2. We too ditched cable television service, though for us it was in the summer of 2013. How freeing it was to go from paying nearly $100 per month to just $8 for Netflix! My mom, uh, shares her Hulu account with me, and we went in half-and-half on Amazon Prime, so there's that. :D

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  3. We just cut the cable last month, we estimate we'll save over $1000 a year and that's after buying a Roku for our living room. I also signed up and do searches on bing and got 1 month of HuluPlus for free and will keep doing that to get it free each month. So far we are happy.
    Samantha

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  4. We have not cut cable...but I do renegotiate prices with our cable company at least once a year. Still...I'm quite tempted:).

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  5. We have actually never had cable so have saved all these years whatever it costs.

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  6. I would love to cut the cord - my household pays about $260/month for cable! It's ridiculous. There are a ton of great options now for sports and all that, but the one thing my mom can't let go of is TFC - The Filipino Channel.

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  7. I'm interested in "cutting the cord", as I would LOVE saving all that money for cable. We've used Netflix in the past, but it was too expensive to keep both it and our cable. We're sorely behind on being able to watch new releases.

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  8. Yes we cancelled our cable last month and just use Netflix and our computers to access everything we want.

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  9. Yes, I do not have cable and save approximately $85/months. I watch a few show online otherwise do not watch tv.

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  10. We cut out our cable about 4 months ago! It saves us about 80 dollars a month!

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  11. We cut our cable when we moved to our new house - we save $95/month!

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  12. We only have basic cable. However, I would like to cancel it and it should save us around $15 a month

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  13. We have basic cable at the moment seriously considering getting rid of it very soon!

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  14. I had to cut cable.The prices kept going up but the service didn't improve. I do pay for Netrlix and Hulu but the price is minimal for what you get. I went from $180 to under $20. I call that an improvement.

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  15. We have not cut cable. I wish we could but I just don't think it's for us. Thank you!!
    crystalfaulkner2000 at yahoo dot com

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  16. I cut cable too, years ago. I haven't watched regular broadcast TV in decades, and I haven't missed a thing. I do love to binge on Netflix though :) and this Chromecast sounds like just what I need to watch things on my TV. These old eyes just can't see those tiny screens like they used to. Being able to continue to watch on my bigger TV screen would be a blessing!

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  17. I haven't completely cut cable, but I've cut back to basic and subscribe to Netflix.

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  18. Not yet but we are moving and planning on it! My kids love PBS and we rarely watch tv so it sounds great!

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  19. Sounds like a fab way to save money but I have not cut my cable as of yet. I just can't seem to pull the plug.

    kport207 at gmail dot com

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  20. Whenever my husband and I moved into our first home we decided to not buy cable. Three years later and I still don't miss it. I like to be able to pick specifically what I want to watch online/rent a movie every once in a while. This way, we aren't spending countless hours in front of the TV, and we don't have a huge bill :)

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  21. I cut cable back in July when I got home from visiting my boyfriend for two weeks. I knew I was starting school less than a month later and since I wasn't able to watch everything on my DVR then, what made me think I could during going to school and working full-time? I happily pay for a Netflix subscription and sneak my boyfriends Comcast account here and there to watch Walking Dead and American Horror Story. I'm pretty content. :)

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  22. I've been trying to convince my husband we need to do this to save money. I will have to show him this post!

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  23. We have cut cable and save about $80 a month.

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  24. I have not cut. I just get the basic channels but I did renegotiate my deal with Comcast so I could keep the new sign up rate for another year saving like $120 a year.

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  25. I haven't cut it, but as the other options keep expanding, it's becoming more likely.

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  26. I have not cut cable yet, but with them FOREVER increasing their rates, it will be a done deal very soon

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  27. I haven't cut my cable yet, but I have been talking about doing so with my family members. It's great there are other streaming options available today!

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  28. I haven't cut cable yet. I know we can do it, because we watch a lot of Netflix!

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  30. We haven't totally cut the cable, but we are down to the very basic. Need to use a little box and separate remote in order to even work it. It has saved us a lot of money (not sure how much as my husband pays the bill). Need to totally cut it out!!

    Entered giveaway under the name of Jill

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