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How My Family Lives Without Cable & Stays Entertained

How My Family Watches Television Without Cable

Heads up: this is not a post about how our family doesn't watch TV. We are a busy family, like any other, but we do love to watch our favorite shows and sports. Instead, I want to share how our family manages to enjoy television with out spending a ton of money on cable TV service each month.

We decided to cut the cord nine years ago, and haven't looked back. We've had to adapt our methods as networks and subscriptions have changed, but I don't think we missed anything we have really wanted to watch. Here is how we do it today. 

 

First, some reasons why we chose to get rid of cable:

Nine years ago, when my husband and I bought our first house, we had cable installed. The low rate promotional/start-up costs lured us into making the cable plunge. Then we realized we were slammed with $75 installation fees PLUS a $18/month device rental and DVR storage fee. We were a little shocked to see the $25.99 a month we had been quotes was really more that $50 per month.

My husband and I both grew up with cable tv so we thought ... this is just what you do! In our single years we lived in apartments/rentals that included cable in the monthly fee, so we were seriously clueless about what it really cost.

Twelve months later ... you know what's coming ... that bill went from $50 to $99 per month! Yikes! What?!  

Other things to do with your money, besides spending it on cable TV.

Now, let me make this clear: there'ss nothing wrong with having cable. We actually loved having it, but as we compared the cost against the things were trying to save for, the $1,188 per year was just too much. That the price of that West Elm sofa I really wanted, a sweet vintage chair or two, a week at a beach vacation spot, a new laptop, or a chunk of change to pay off our mortgage!

I actually think we might have been okay with the big bill if we had really been using our cable to the fullest extent. But the expense made us stop and evaluate if we were using all the cable company was offering ... and the truth was, we weren't. We were only watching about 10 of the 220+ channels ... the main networks channels, ESPN, and HGTV. Like everyone else in America, we were too busy binge-watching Lost and Friday Night Lights on Netflix to have time for any of those other channels. We decided to take the plunge to get rid of cable and, we have never looked back.

Here is how we stay entertained:

 

 

We own an Apple TV and a Roku device.

I don't think you need both, but we just ended up having them (one was a Christmas gift). Still, it's pretty nice having access to all the programming available on both devices. The Apple TV doesn't have an app for Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Roku doesn't give me access to everything on the iTunes store. When we finish our basement renovation, we'll be looking to upgrade to a smart television. Most smart TVs have the Amazon Video app, so eventually we will pass the Roku along to someone else, or sell it. Here is how we use each of our devices.

Apple TV:  

  • Netflix
  • Movie Rental
  • Movie Purchases (You can do this on Amazon but all of our devices are Apple Products to it just easier for us to use iTunes)

Roku: 

  • Amazon Prime Instant Video (the only thing we use this device for)
  • It has Netflix and most things Apple TV has, but not have iTunes. You can rent and buy movies from Amazon.
As you know, there are many devices that can do all the above streaming options. These are the two my family chooses to use.

 

We use an antenna for local channels.

Broadcast TV is still indispensable (for now) for sports, which is why we have an antenna. I love college football. My hubby loves March Madness and NFL. We also are obsessed with the Olympics and a few other special sporting events. Most of our teams games are played on local channels, so we watch them live via HD broadcast. It's nice to be able to watch the morning or nightly news, and the occasional live show if we are home.

 

  • ABC
  • NBC (Olympics and "This is Us")
  • Fox (which sometimes broadcasts Fox Sports during college football and basketball)
  • CBS (NFL)
  • PBS (Downton Abbey... we miss you. PBS Kids we love you)

Our antenna cost $19 (Target); it's small but mighty, and we have used it for four years without any hiccups. Our television is next to a window so it gets great reception there. You may need to experiment with a few antenna options before finding the one that works best for you. The Wirecutter's roundup of best HD indoor antennas (antennea?) is the place to start.

 

 

When we renovate the basement and move our television situation down there we plan on using this highly rated antenna from Mohu. It's white and can be installed anywhere. It is also paintable! To see what Mohu antenna works best for you area click here.

 

We use iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video

iTunes:

We buy and rent movies here. If we are passionate about seeing something currently broadcasted we choose to buy the season or purchase an episode if we miss it live. We watch "This is Us" live each week because we are home and the kiddo is in bed. If we miss one, iTunes makes it easy to catch up.

Netflix:

95% of our show watching happens on Netflix. There are so many (earlier season) network shows, original series, and movies to offer here. The truth is, we just don't have time for television most week nights due to homework, activities, and renovation projects. By the time we actually have time to commit to a series ... the network shows have been picked up by Netflix.

Amazon Prime Video:

Honestly, the Amazon Prime Instant Video is just a bonus for us. If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with Netflix, but since we already subscribe to Amazon Prime, the streaming video access is a nice addition. I don't even count this as part of our television bill. Amazon Prime does have some great original shows, free streaming movies, and of course movie rentals.

If you're dead-set on watching current-season network shows, 
don't forget Hulu for only $7.99-$11.99 a month.

My Kid is Entertained:

My kid will definitely grow up with a different television experience than I had, but I'm glad for it. There are so many great options for him and I also have more control using parental controls of Netflix and the absence of commercials.

The Financial Benefit

We now have a monthly bill of $9.99 a month with a one-time $20 antenna cost. That means over 8 our total television bill has been $950! Compare that to the $700/year cable was costing (before the prices went up).

We saved $8,170 dollars over 8 years by cutting the cable cord.

Important: to rely on streaming for television you will want to pay a little more for faster internet. Even while paying $15 more for internet, we still have saved thousands of dollars our our cable bill. 

 

 

 

What we miss the most...

HGTV and Food Network: I knew I'd miss these two channels. Netflix is starting to get more design-oriented shows lately, but the pickings are still slim.

ESPN: Okay... this is the one we miss the most. It actually hasn't been a problem until the last few years. Until recently you could watch your regional and some national games live on ESPN.com for free. Now you have to have a cable login.

What we are now considering...

Eight years ago it felt a little rebellious to cut the cable cord. Today, companies are making great products to to help you do so. We have recently been considering adding in one of these new cable apps. 

Sling TV: 

Subscription options from $20-$40 with add-ons. The $20 option offers 30+ channels including ESPN channels and HGTV (eeek!!). Each option has a price bump and offers different channels. For $40 a month you can get all the channels they offer. You still need an antenna for basic local channels. There are no installation fees, no DVR storage fees, no cancelation fees, and no contracts. The best part: the monthly price will never increase. You can watch all shows live or via video on demand if you miss something. All you need is a streaming device to download the app.

We have considered subscribing only during the months of college football and March Madness since we can cancel anytime.

DirectTV Now:

Direct TV now has more channels available than SlingTV. The cheapest plan offers 60+ channels for $35 dollars. Unlike Sling TV some channels are only offered "live" and some channels are only offered VOD. Most the ones I care about are offered as both. Local basic channels are included, so you won't need an antenna. Although not all areas are fully supported yet, my guess is they will soon follow suit. 

 Sling TV offers a free Roku Express and $50 off a new Apple TV if you pre-pay for three months subscription. Direct TV offers a free Apple TV for pre-paying three months.
How My Family Lives Without Cable and Stays Entertained
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Have you cut the cable cord? If so, please share any tips you have.

Have you seen this family room makeover with removable wallpaper on the television wall? I would never watch the television because I would be too busy staring at the darling wallpaper.

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Jennifer Farley on Mar 14, 2017:

@Carre That is really good to know. I think we are going to do the 7 day trial soon so I am excited to see how it all works. We were thinking of adding the DIY package as well! Thanks for sharing.


Carre on Mar 14, 2017:

I cut the cord a few months ago but did get sling - which I love! I literally have never looked back. I got the extra $5 package which includes DIY tv, which I love. Plus I love the sports and ESPN options. I highly recommend sling!


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