Sorry this post is so delayed – my web host had a server issue that took almost a day to resolve….awesome!
If you’re interested in financial independence with a side of frugality – and if you’re reading this right now I’m going to assume you are – then we should talk about cable television. Like many of you, I had cable for YEARS – I thought it was just a normal part of growing up. You move out on your own, you sign up for utilities, and you get a cable and internet package – simple!
Well, when Mrs AB and I moved in March of 2012 we decided not to get cable at our new place. So we have been cable free for almost 18 months and it has been great. Our cable/internet bill dropped over $75/month (it’s since crept up, but it’s still much cheaper without the cable part) and honestly – life is better without it. So how do we watch TV?
To get over the air network TV, we use an antenna. We tried several small indoor antennas while we were in our rental house and got pretty predictable results. We ended up being able to get the main network channels 70-80% of the time, which was good enough for most of our needs. When we moved into our new house we decided to upgrade our equipment to industrial strength. I did a lot of research online and settled on the Channel Master CM4228HD from Amazon. It’s probably a little overkill since most of the channel sources are pretty close to our house – but better too much power than too little I guess!
If you plan on installing a large attic-mounted antenna like I did, make sure you have enough space to get it in there. We ended up using a 10-foot fence pole and attaching the antenna to the top part of it. We used some two by four sections of wood to stabilize the setup and attach it to the roof rafters. As you can see from the picture at the top, it’s a pretty hefty setup.
Once the antenna was all setup, the next step was to turn on a TV and scan for channels. Unfortunately, our first scan revealed 0 channels… something wasn’t right. The previous owner had tried multiple TV services (satellite, cable, other) so there were multiple sets of wires in the attic. We ended up spending a LONG time to test and sort through which wire went where and which one could be disconnected. Even then, we ended up accidentally disconnecting the internet for a couple of hours.
Once we figured out the right cables to connect our first scan only revealed 8 channels – even less than the 14 we had previously been receiving with a cheap indoor antenna! Our problem was soon solved with the purchase of a signal booster. Once we added the booster we went from 8 channels to 64 channels!!!!! I know we’ll only watch a couple of them, but it’s awesome to know the rest are out there – and the ones that we do watch now have a stronger signal.
We probably spent $150 on the supplies for our “super antenna”, but that pays for itself pretty fast! We get crystal clear reception of Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and others. While we don’t have a DVR to record shows and watch them later, we are able to watch live programming. So how do we watch cable TV shows and other non-live TV?
Roku – If you’re going to “cut the cord” and get rid of your cable TV, then having a Roku, Apple TV, or something similar makes the transition so much easier. We have had a Roku 2 XS for over a year now and it’s been great. It gives you access to a TON of content that you can play via the internet on your tv.
Netflix – For $7.99/month plus tax – we have Netflix streaming and it’s great. We use it mainly to watch full seasons of TV shows. They have lots of options, and if you can’t find anything to watch on Netflix – then maybe you’re a little too picky. We watch Netflix on our Roku most of the time.
iPad Apps – This is one of the iPad’s hidden gems. Most network and cable channels have apps where you can watch recent episodes of their shows. The best part – all of this is free! If you don’t have an iPad, you can also use a computer to go to the website of most channels and find shows to watch too.
Friends and Family – I’m lucky that my in-laws spend an obscene amount of money on their cable package, so we can always run over to their house to watch movies, cable shows, etc.
Hulu Plus – If you live far from a broadcast area or don’t have the ability to put up a big antenna, this could be a great option. Of course, if you’re just dying to watch all your network TV shows right after they’ve aired – then this is a great option. We don’t have this in the AB household, but it gives you access to most networks’ current season shows. You can play this on the Roku as well – which is a great plus.
Not so Fast…
So now that you’re ready to get rid of your cable subscription and bank that $50, $75, or even $100+ a month – you may ask yourself “this sounds awesome, but are there any downsides?” Unfortunately, there are a few – but for me they don’t outweigh the positives.
Sports – If you’re an avid sports watcher, you may have a hard time cutting the cord. Other than the big shows that are broadcast on the major networks, it’s tough to watch sports without cable. Of course, if you only rarely watch sports, you can use your savings from not having cable to go out and watch the “big game” at a restaurant or sports bar. Mrs AB and I have been known to do that a time or two.
Internet Speed – If you have a slow or unreliable internet connection, then most of the other watching options (Netflix, HBO to Go, Hulu Plus, etc) won’t work well. We have a pretty speedy connection and it still struggles at times – especially during peak viewing times – so just keep in mind that things aren’t going to be perfect.
Signal – Even with the perfect setup, you may get a crappy signal some of the time. That’s just the price you pay for picking up a signal from outer space with an antenna…yeah, it’s not that bad, is it???? 🙂
Do I think the negatives outweigh the benefits? Hell no! I’d get rid of cable every single time knowing what I know. I think other than the financial independence / reduced expenses part, it has forced Mrs AB and I to be more creative when planning our evenings and weekends. It’s too easy just to sit on the couch all night watching whatever mindless entertainment is on. Of course, we can (and still do) accomplish this with our current options, but we actively try to think of alternative options since we’re not trying to get value out of our cable subscription. If you’re on the fence about it – just try it for a couple of months and see how it works for you and your family – you may be pleasantly surprised!
Have you cut the cord? Tell us about your experiences and what you use as a substitute in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!