I’m all about cutting costs where I can so that I can spend money on the things most important to me. One such area I recently cut is TV. There are so many options for watching shows and movies that my husband and I decided to forgo cable when we moved into a new apartment this fall. We weren’t sure how long it would last, but we’re very happy with our arrangement. I wanted to share what works for us in case it’s also a viable option to save you money. But first, most of this is predicated on the fact that our internet is fast enough to support HD streaming. If yours is not, I’m sorry to say that video streaming may be more frustrating than the savings are worth!
How I Save on Cable Costs
Areas vary, but in NYC the basic cable plan available to us with 20+ channels was $20 per month. We could add HBO for $10 more or pay $40 per month for 70+ channels. As we talked about what shows we wanted to watch, we realized we wouldn’t watch that many channels anyway. Our favorite shows tend to be available on the major broadcast networks, so we invested in an antenna. We’re pleasantly surprised by the 50 channels we receive, some of which are HD. We get many football games and most of the shows we like. For the other shows, I watch them free on Hulu or with our Netflix account. I also know that if I miss a show like Survivor, I can watch it the next day or so by going to the network’s website. Sure, a DVR would be nice for recording movies and shows from 500 different channels, but it’s hard to justify that cost when I know just how cheaply I can watch everything I really want.
The Options, Broken Down
So where would you begin in ditching your cable company? Some TVs have stronger built in antennas than others, so if you need to buy one in order to pick up more free channels, do your research first. I searched my street address in antennapoint.com and antennaweb.org to make sure that purchasing an antenna wouldn’t be futile. This helped me determine what stations were in my area and how strong of an antenna I needed to buy. A one time purchase of $24 was worth not paying $20 every month. The maker also seemed very willing to help in the event that the antenna didn’t fetch as many channels as we expected, so I felt confident making the purchase.
If those channels aren’t enough for you to watch your favorites, and assuming you already pay for internet service, see if you can watch them for free on Hulu or on the network’s website. You may be surprised to find networks like HGTV, Showtime, and HBO offer some free and paid shows. If your watch list is small, it may be most cost effective to go this route even if you have to buy seasons. iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Instant Video are other sources of buying individual episodes or seasons of shows.
If your watch list is larger, like ours, subscription based streaming is your next option. Not all of the services were created equal, so you’ll want to jot down the shows you can’t miss and do a little research. Fortunately the good people over at Lifehacker have done some of the work for us. They maintain a handy list of the top rated television shows and which service will allow you to watch them.
Hopefully there’s a clear winner and one service has everything you want to watch. If not, subscribing to more than one service may still be cheaper than your cable provider. Both Hulu Plus and the basic level of Netflix are $8 per month, which comes out to $96 per year, but you can add the Netflix DVD service or additional devices for multiple streams at one time. Amazon Prime Instant Video is $99 per year, and if you’re a fan of ordering products from Amazon, have a Kindle, or would like unlimited photo storage in the Amazon Cloud, their additional benefits might win you over. All three services offer a free trial period if you’d like to really see who should win your affection.
With the exception of Amazon, a perk of online subscription services is that you aren’t usually locked into a contract. Some television providers seem to be known for their tricky contracts and habit of raising costs. If you like flexibility, this is a great reason to favor TV streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu Plus.
By the way, subscribing to streaming services doesn’t mean you’re limited to watching everything on your computer. There are actually many ways to integrate a computer and television, but if you aren’t a tech guru who can easily figure that out, there are many people who love that sort of thing. Ask a friend, and make him or her some food for their consultation services on how to set up your ultimate entertainment system.
The Final Numbers
Internet fast enough for streaming HD video, Netflix, and the one time antenna purchase will cost us $540 for one year (that hurts a little as I write it). A bundle of cable with 70+ channels and internet slower than ours would cost $65 per month, or $780 annually. That’s a difference in $240! We could, of course, opt against television completely to save $120 this year, but I enjoy watching morning news over coffee and the shared laughs that come with watching sitcoms to unwind with my husband. Those simple pleasures are worth it to me.
Have you kicked your cable company to the curb, or would you consider it to save some money?
Photo courtesy of flash.pro.