Want to put a thousand bucks back into your wallet in the coming year? If you’re paying around $100 per month now, pulling that plug would more than do it and without leaving you high and dry for TV entertainment.
It’s been three months now since we cancelled our cable TV service. While I can’t say we dialed our monthly entertainment costs back to $0, we have reduced the cost more than $100 a month.
What we had before: basic cable service including several premium sports packages like ESPN and movie channels. My husband is a sports fanatic, while I approach the level of “junkie” when it comes to cable news.
What we have now: local free broadcast channels and access to movies, TV and sports that are available live and online as well as an audio feed for cable news channels.
STEP 1: GET AN ANTENNA. If you grew up fiddling with rabbit ears on top of your family’s television set to get rid of snow and ghosts, you may be getting a little creeped out right now. Relax. In today’s digital world, with the way that digital signals are transmitted, TV reception comes in crystal clear or not at all. All you need is a decent antenna to add to your TV’s built-in digital tuner. Depending on your location, you may be able to get by with an indoor antenna. Not that close? You’ll probably need an outdoor antenna to get decent reception.
This is really all you need if you are content to watch free television broadcasting. But if you like to watch movies on demand and enjoy all that broadband Internet connectivity has to offer, you have options.
STEP 2: GET A BOX. A broadband connection lets you hook your television to the Internet and stream shows and movies to your TV. If you have a “smart TV,” this connectivity is already built in. If not, all you need is a streaming box that sits between your router and TV, which will allow you to access specialized Internet channels that offer TV content. There are dozens of choices, ranging in price from about $50 to $400 or more.
The most popular of these devices are Roku and Apple TV. Hint: Having used both, I can promise you that Roku (everydaycheapskate.com/roku) is much easier to use, and at under $100 for the model with all the bells and whistles, it is quite an amazing piece of genius. You may have a streaming box already if you have a newer game system like Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Many Blu-ray players can stream Internet channels as well.
Much of the content that comes through these boxes is free, but you’ll be watching older shows and movies, and many will be ad supported. If you want newer shows and content (we do), you will need to subscribe to one or more streaming service like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. After lots of consideration, we have settled on Netflix (everydaycheapskate.com/netflix) because of original TV programming for shows such as “Downton Abby” and “House of Cards” (to name just two out of the thousands) and Amazon for movies, which is part of our Amazon Prime membership ($79 per year).
STEP 3: ADD A DVR. I’ll be honest. We love to record programs for later viewing so we can skip through the commercials. After all kinds of research and consideration, we’ve made TiVo our DVR of choice. TiVo is a very user-friendly device. A basic model costs about $150 plus $15 a month for the TiVo service. This brings our monthly TV costs to about $30 as opposed to our old Time Warner Cable bill of $130 per month. Yep, that’s $1,200 a year we are not spending for TV entertainment.
Regrets? We’ve had a few, but we’re dealing with them quite well. My husband is still mourning the loss of ESPN. As for my need for cable news, I am subscribing to SiriusXM Internet radio, which gives me the audio feed to my favorite cable news shows via my computer headphones for $14.49 per month.
Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at mary@everyday
cheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.