Getting rid of cable is like trying to break up with a bad boyfriend: You really don’t want him anymore, and you swear you’re going to dump him. But you can’t quite find the cajones to follow through because you’ve been together for sooo long you almost can’t imagine being without him. When you finally get the nerve to tell him you’re leaving, he coaxes you back into his arms with promises. Suddenly, you’re in the throws of a relationship again, scratching your head, “Wait– Weren’t we supposed to break up?!”
If so, then you’ve been a victim of the “cable trap.”
Join the club!
I was sick of cable, though. For years, friends and I bantered back and forth about saving money and cutting the cord, but it was more TALK than ACTION. But recently, though, I decided that I would do something about it once and for all, and I did:
I GOT RID OF CABLE!
It’s been sort of an “experiment” for my family, to see if we could actually DO it (easier said, than done, right?). I thought for sure we’d be ready to rip our hair out after a month…….but……..
Here’s our little story about how we got rid of cable and found some cable alternatives that work well for our family.
Let the Numbers Speak
In our old cable plan, we had a triple play bundle for our cable, internet (20 mbps), and phone at about $155/month. And that was WITH a discount… For this experiment, I canceled everything with Comcast, and signed up for a promotional deal with Verizon Fios with internet only for $55/month for the first year, and year 2 of the agreement will be around $85. Even at $85, it’s still a bit cheaper than Comcast’s 50 mbps rates. The picture below shows you how this year alone we will save about $930 this year from our canceling Comcast bundle!
I’m not going to lie…..when all you’ve known is bundles and hundreds of channels, it’s a bit of SHOCK when suddenly you have to actively seek out what you’re going to watch, instead of flipping incessantly through boat loads of channels you don’t give a crap about. Now, watching TV is a purposeful event, which has actually been much more rewarding.
And the process of getting rid of cable is one that you need someone to walk you through, because it’s a bit daunting knowing what to do and when.
So I’ve put together this handy little step-by-step for those of you brave enough to walk on the “wild side” with us trail blazers. LOL
It’s time to end the “cable trap” and save money!
(P.S. Wow…..CNN got word of this post and interviewed me for a segment about us “cord cutters.” WATCH IT NOW!)
STEP 1: Drop the Bomb on Your Family
I really expected my family to look at me like I just sprouted a second head when I suggested we get rid of cable, which is their main source of entertainment (aside from the iPad), unfortunately. Surprisingly, hubby was on board, even though he’s the worse TV abuser at night; our 3 kids, well, what say do they really have, anyhow?? None.
But if your family is clearly addicted to their favorite shows, telling them that they may be taken away altogether, or watched in some alternative method, you might expect to get some death looks! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. Be sure to do your research first to tell your family where they can watch some of their favorite shows (see Step 5).
STEP 2: Warn Your Cable Company They’re Gettin’ the Boot!
If you’re like most people with cable, you’ve got your internet and cable TV bundled in a package, which is usually cheaper than getting them separately. (Honestly, the way they price their individual services at sky-high rates, but drop the price when you bundle, should be illegal! Just sayin’…..). In this step, you’re going to feel out your cable company to see how much they really love you and want to keep you. You’re going to try to get a phenomenal deal on your internet service only. Call and give them a head’s up that you’re thinking of canceling your cable. Tell them that you’ve been a loyal customer for ________ years, and that realllllly want to keep their internet service. What can they offer you? Write down their offer, the date you called, and who you spoke with. If possible, get an extension so you can talk to that same person again if you call back. Don’t make any changes to your services just yet, though. You’re comparison shopping right now.
When I told Comcast I was thinking of canceling their service, they tried to offer me a triple play package with less TV channels for $122, down from the $155 I was paying. The prices they quoted me for internet only were no good. I don’t think they were interested in keeping me as a customer. Shame on them. Buh-bye.
STEP 3: Cheat on Your Cable Company
Some forms of cheating are okay. Like rendezvousing with other cable companies. Competition helps you get a better deal. In my area, Verizon vs Comcast is the toss up between cable companies. Whoever the competition is in your area is who you’re going to contact. My recommendation would be to start on their website. Many times you can find deals and discounts that are exclusively for online customers, sometimes $30 – $50 in credits each month!
So I stalked Verizon Fios’ page. And I saw an awesome deal for internet only, at 50 mbps (which was faster than Comcast’s 20 mbps we already had), for only $55. Because I was a new customer, I was able to snag this deal, in exchange that we agree to a 2-year commitment. Not cool on the agreement, but I don’t ever plan on getting rid of my internet plan anytime soon, so yeah, we’ll take the 2-year agreement deal.
STEP 4: Locate the airwaves! They’re FREE!!!
If you’re a child of the 80′s or earlier (raising my hand), then you remember the infamous “rabbit ears” that sat on top of our TVs, right? You were able to pick up your local programming for FREE, because the your local broadcasting channels transmitted the airwaves for free. All you needed was a way to catch them. Somewhere along the way, cable providers decided to come in and make you pay for all those channels that you used to get for free, and then threw in some other ones that you never even watched. Crazy, right?! (Really, who needs 250 channels??)
Instead of paying a cable company to provide them to you, locate your over-the-air stations, and broadcast them yourself with an antenna. Go to Antenna Web. It’s a free site that allows you to enter your address to find out which broadcasting companies are nearby, and their distance. It also color-codes each broadcasting company/channel so that will know what type of antenna you should buy.
I entered my address and this is a screenshot of my results.
According to Antenna Web, my house location has up to 62 channels from 27 over-the-air stations that could be received. (Aren’t you curious to see how many I was able to get? Keep reading to find out…….)
Click on each station to find out more information. I clicked on FOX and found out that for this “YELLOW” stations 12 miles from my house, I would need a small multidirectional antenna. Good info to know…….Next stop, Amazon!
STEP 5: Buy a Roku 3…….and a Mohu Leaf Antenna!
A what??….Okay, if you’re like me and have been living under a rock, you might not know what these are. I just found out myself last month! The Roku 3 Streaming Player (the latest model, which I bought on Amazon for only $99) is a streaming device that allows you to stream Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO, and a whole host of other programing, channels, and apps right to your television. (NOTE: You need a cable service provider to access HBO GO, though).
It literally fits in the palm of your hand and is so easy to connect. Simply plug in the USB to your television, plug it into the power source, and–voila!–you’ve got instant TV viewing gratification! The Roku offers over 300 channels (which I think are more like apps, kinda), and a majority of them are free. Some of them require a paid subscription each month, for example, some movie channels or gaming channels. We haven’t paid for any of those, however. We stick to all the free channels. If you’ve got an xBox, you can use that to stream Netflix and such through your computer. But in my opinion, the Roku is far superior. For only $99 on Amazon, you’re getting a whole host of fun channels that you just don’t get with an xBox. And surely the Roku 3 isn’t the only little streamer out there (Apple TV is a good choice, as well). But since this I have experience with, and it works phenomenal for my family, I’m going to be biased and tell you to buy the Roku.
I have to admit……when the Roku first arrived…..I hated it. I gave it 5 minutes and decided it wasn’t going to work out. I even went to Amazon and requested a refund!!! (I’m such a drama queen sometimes….).
I was going through “live television” withdraws. Although I wasn’t a big TV junkie, I had to adjust to TV watching all of our TV “on demand.” After I had a chance to play around with the Roku and all its gazillion channels (over 300!), I fell in love with it, and think that it’s a great one-time investment for both my TVs!
There are 4 versions of the Roku, with the Roku 3 being the latest, and you may be wondering what the difference is between each Roku. I would recommend the Roku 3 because of HD quality, and it’s the only one that has a headphone jack in the remove, plus motion control for games like Angry Birds! With the headphone jack, someone can watch a movie without being disturbed or if there is inappropriate language for our kids, or if I am putting my baby to sleep, I can plug in the ear buds and watch programs without making a peep! LOVE that!
Antenna’s today don’t look like our old antennas. They’re sleek and easy to conceal, and work great! I ordered the Mohu Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna, which was $75 (although at the time of this post, it’s gone up to $84). I like that it’s paper-thin, has a flexible design, and simply hangs on the wall. Also, one side is BLACK and the other side WHITE so you can decide which color you want displayed on your wall. I’ve got the white side facing us
Watch this Mohu Leaf review YouTube that I put together for you showing you the Mohu Leaf in action!
Other Antenna Options
A smaller antenna isn’t the only option. If you’ve got big bucks to shell out, you can buy an antenna and pay someone to install it on top of your house. That’s what a friend of mine (you know who you are!) did, at a tune of about $500, which is a bit pricey, in my opinion. But he’s totally happy because A) he gets all the local channels to all 5 of his TVs, whereas you would need to buy a Leaf Antenna for each TV, B) the antenna will last about 20 years before needing to be replaced, and C) he will loses reception, whereas if you move the Leaf Antenna 2″ in a certain direction, you may lose a channel or two. So…..although pricey, this $500 installation can be a good if you have many TVs and don’t mind shelling out the money for a professional installation. Just Google your local directory for “antenna installation.”
***UPDATE JULY 30, 2013***
So this thing just came out– Chromecast by Google. My husband jumped all over me today when I came home and insisted that I must research it and include it here. Oh, and yeah, he says he bought one. Okay, so what is Chromecast? For $35, Google just made it even easier for people to ditch their cable and stream all their favorite stuff (Netflix, YouTube, etc) from their HDTV. Chromecast is a small USB dongle that you plug into the back of your TV and suddenly, it “casts” your Netflix movie, for example, to your TV. Using your iPhone, Android, iPad, whatever electronics, you control the volumn and everything (stop, play, rewind, etc). Meaning NO SEPARATE REMOTE. Man, talk about affordable! What are those cable companies gonna do, huh??
I think this is a great option, but I imagine there are some limitations. For example:
1. Using Chromecast with kids — Since there’s no remote, what would my kids going to use to flip through Netflix to find their favorite movies and shows? At 7 a.m. when I’m still sleeping, I’m not giving my phone to my 7-year old and 3-year old so they can go use it as a remote control. So that could be a problem if you have young kids that know how to use the remote (but don’t own phones or tablets of their own!). Oh, and our electronics have pass codes on them, so it’s not like the kids can just go and grab the iPad to control the Chromecast.
2. No central interface — Google Chromecast doesn’t have a central interface the way the Roku does. Meaning, when you turn it on, you won’t get the pretty purple screen with hundreds of apps. Watch this video and see how it works.
3. Limited apps — Right now, I don’t think HBO or Hulu work on it. Soon, however. They’re working on expanding.
Do your research. This full review from USA Today can help you learn more about Chromecast. Read the Chromecast reviews on Amazon. And hey–for $35, you can’t beat that price. Maybe try it out and see how you like it. For now, I am sticking with Roku. I’m just wondering where hubby is going to shove that little Chromecast.
STEP 6: Subscribe to Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime
Once your Roku 3 and Mohu Leaf Antenna arrive, now’s the time to subscribe to Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, if you haven’t already subscribed to them. Their costs are fairly low, with Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month, Netflix at $7.99, and Amazon Prime at $79 for the year ($6.58 per month). Once you’ve confirmed your subscription to all 3, you’ve now got a wealth of viewing options at your fingertips, in addition to the hundreds of channels that Roku offers.
When you add up the costs of these subscriptions, it’s still unbelievably cheaper than an expensive, limited cable package.
One thing to note, however, is that with Hulu Plus, there are some programs that are NOT accessible via streaming. I think it’s due to licensing of some programs that can only be viewed via Hulu Plus while using your computer. That’s a minor pain. But, no problem. You can just follow these instructions on how to connect your computer to your TV if you want to watch those programs on your big screen TV.
NOTE: It’s not necessary to order all 3 of these services, but I think each of them offer something good, and the monthly subscription fees aren’t too steep. There are TONS of viewing options! I’ve recently started watching Breaking Bad and Lost on Netflix! I agree with all the HYPE about these shows!!
STEP 7: Consider Aereo
It’s about time you can watch live TV on the internet! Well…..soon (unless you live in NYC and I believe Boston, you already can). There’s this company called Aereo that I literally just heard about a couple weeks ago. I won’t get into the explanation of what they do and how they do it, but in a nutshell, you pay about $8.00 a month to rent one of their little antenna which is about the size of your finger, and it’s housed in one of their data centers, and–voila!–on your computer, you now have access to LIVE TV. There are no cords, cables, boxes, anything. Just your computer. And they even have a DVR service that allows you to record your favorite shows. If you connect your computer to your TV, you could watch all the live programming right on your real TV if you want!
I love this idea!
They’re planning to roll out 21 more states in 2013 where these services will be offered. (Here in the Washington DC area it should be rolling out any day now, mid-May 2013). There will be free 1-week or 1-month trial offers, and I will most definitely sign up to test it out! As for whether I will pay $8.00 per month…..? Hm, well, considering I have the Mohu Leaf Antenna, which costs me NOTHING per month, and works very well, I may save my money. The DVR is a nice feature, but with Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, I can catch my recorded shows there instead. Just the fact that there is some COMPETITION to standard cable is amazing!
STEP 8: Switch Cable Companies
After you’ve gotten your Roku and antenna in the mail (or other streaming player and antenna), now you can actually cancel your cable TV and switch to another provider. As I mentioned earlier, when you’re a new customer with another cable company, you can score some sweet deals to make it worth switching. So I switched my internet provider from Comcast to Verizon Fios to save money (see chart above). Again, if your original cable provider isn’t willing to sweeten the pot in order to keep you as an “internet only” customer, definitely consider switching.Get your installation date confirmed.
NOTE: It’s best to schedule your installation date just before your old cable company starts a new billing cycle. For example, if you’re old Comcast cable’s billing cycle ends on June 5, and a new billing cycle starts June 6, make sure that you schedule your installation with Verizon around June 3 or 4. I made the mistake of overlapping my old Comcast service with my new Verizon Fios internet only service and ended up having to pay for TWO cable/internet bills! It’s all because of my own indecisiveness, really. But you won’t make that mistake, will you?
STEP 9: Cancel Your Old Cable Bundle
Now that you’re new “internet only” service is turned on, you can now cancel your old services. Not sure if all companies operate this way, but they bill you a month in advance. So you may end up getting a credit from your old cable services. Score!
Make sure that you turn your old equipment in ASAP. Even if you cancel your services, sometimes they don’t fully “cut you off” until all your boxes are turned in.
And can I just say that when I turned in all my Comcast boxes, I felt so……FREE! And liberated! I actually did it! I broke the “cable trap!”
STEP 10: Deposit Your Savings!
This is the GOOD part……Now’s the time to calculate your savings…..after you’ve switched/lowered your cable/internet costs……you’ve signed up for Netflix, Hulu Plus and everything…..whatever your MONTHLY SAVINGS are per month, I challenge you to actually SAVE that amount.
Yes, people. Automatically withdraw that money every month from your checking account and put it into a savings account. Unless you do that, you’re going to just eat that savings up with some other cost that you’ll never be able to account for. So that’s what I’ll be doing–pretending that I’m still paying $155, and sock the savings into a separate account. Hopefully at the end of the year, I’ll be able to have cold hard cash in my pocket that won’t be in Comcast’s pocket!
My family has found countless things to watch on Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc.,, and I haven’t heard any complaints. Not from my 6- and 3-year old. Well, hubby complained a little bit around Week #2 and #3, telling me he “likes things simple” and why did I have to go and get all these monthly paid things (i.e. Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc), and doesn’t it just end up being more than cable, anyways??!? (I think he even threw in an expletive, too, lol). No, sweet hubby, it doesn’t compare. He doesn’t realize we’re saving money, and hopefully if I am able to shuffle the savings into an account, I’ll have something tangible to show for my results.
The local programming has been sufficient for us, too. I really don’t watch a lot of TV anyhow, but the occasional “live TV” background noise that I like is there for me when I want it I’m addicted to Breaking Bad on Netflix (I know, I’m way late!), and I feel like now when we watch TV, it’s not just mindless flipping through 250 channels of nothingness.
If I had it all to do over again, I would make the same choice: GET RID OF CABLE!
**UPDATE** - It’s now November 2013, and you know what?? I STILL don’t miss cable! I’ve been socking the $80 savings from getting rid of cable, into a savings account, “pretending” I’m still paying the normal $155 for cable, but really, paying myself. Now THAT, you guys, is real savings I wonder what I should do with the money. Hmmm…….
A Few Last Things……
1. You will need fast internet speed. Streaming movies and other programming requires a really good internet speed. Roku recommends a broadband Internet connection with a speed of at least 1.5 Mbps (for example, such as mid-level DSL). You can connect Roku to a wireless network, or use Ethernet. A friend of mine had Comcast internet 20 mpbs and his Roku kept freezing up. He upgraded to Verizon’s 50 mbps and had no problems. I haven’t had any glitches, either, with the 50 mbps.
2. If you need phone service…..you may still end up needing a bundle with internet and phone from a provider. In our case, we had a phone connection in our old bundle, but never bought the phone to actually plug in. Oops :). We now have no phone connection and just use our cell phones. But with small children and a need to have something for emergencies, my next experiment will be to try out the Magic Jack Plus to see if it will be a good option for our family. At only $30 for a year of service, it’s much cheaper than getting phone service with other companies.
3. There are free ways to watch your favorite programs/shows. Most networks have full episodes on their website. Go check out their site. I know that HGTV has full episodes! Hulu also has many free shows. Hulu Plus just allows you to stream via your Roku, iPad, devices, etc., and has more episodes (or full seasons) of many shows, whereas the free Hulu.com may only have the last few episodes. If you love sports, FirstRow lets you stream live sports.
4. If you’re dying without cable TV……….If worse comes to worse, you can always sign back up for cable. You tried it. That’s all that matters! And Amazon has really great Return policies. You’re only loosing shipping costs if you decide to send back the Roku and/or antenna. But honestly, I doubt you’d ever these alternatives to cable!
So are you ready to break the cable trap?
If so, then I’ve put together a step-by-step plan for you over on Lift.do, which is a free app that allows you to set goals and plans for yourself. It’s actually pretty cool. I love using it, that is, when I can remember to “check in” with my goals and plans for they day! Go check it out, and try to “Save Money: Get Rid of Cable” plan. Good luck!!
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