Let’s face it, cable is expensive and it is definitely not going to be getting cheaper any time soon. About two years ago, my wife and I finally made the decision that it was time that we “cut the cord” so to speak, and get rid of our cable bill. As I look back on it, it was probably one of the best decisions that we made. I thought I would miss it, and there are times when I do, but for the most part, I have definitely learned to live without it.
I didn’t get rid of watching television all together, and I don’t think I could ever do that. But, what we did do was we took a long look at some web alternatives that would help us get our TV fix. As with any other cost cutting move, it definitely did not come without some sacrifice on our part. But, if you are every interested in making the move, then continue to read on and see if it is the right move for you.
When you are moving away from cable and looking to use the web as your source of television, one of the first things you need to make sure of is that your internet speeds and modem/router are up to the challenge. What I learned early on is that if I didn’t have good quality on both of these things, I would get frustrated very easily with the constant buffering. Most of the web apps out there that you would use to replace your TV are streaming services, which means that you need to have a fast enough internet connection to keep up.
Currently, we have a 12mb download speed through our cable internet provider, which works just fine for us. You can probably go a little lower, but I wouldn’t go any lower than 8 or 9mb. What has also helped us in recent months is finding a good router that is geared toward streaming services. There are two that I recommend at the moment, and one that I actually reviewed previously, called the WD MyNet 750. The other one which I have been also been testing for the past month is called the NetGear N600. What I like about both of these routers is that they are geared toward streaming multimedia so when you are using a service like Netflix, it will recognize this and then automatically put more bandwidth toward that device that you are using.
Speaking of devices, this is another very important area that you need to figure out before you decide to not use cable anymore. There are a variety of ways to do this and it really all depends on what you think will suit you the best. First, you can use your computer as a means to get your TV fix. It’s not the most convenient, but it is still an option. If you want to still utilize the television that you may have, you can connect your computer to your TV, or you can actually look at getting a streaming box. Currently, I have the Roku XD, but there are other options like the Apple TV and the WD TV, which are all good for their own reasons. Since I don’t have an Apple TV, if I want to get a movie or show off of iTunes, I either hook up my computer to my TV or I just watch it on my iPad.
Web Apps To Replace Cable
Now, that you have gotten the setup all squared away, what should you use to replace your TV watching? Well, there are a handful of ways to make this happen all of which I hope to cover equally. First, like I briefly mentioned, you have your streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon. Personally, I use all three as my main way to get the content that I want to watch, when I want to watch it. I mainly use Hulu Plus to get all of the shows that are on the major networks that I want to keep up on each week. Then I use Netflix and Amazon to fill in the gap of other shows that I want to see that may not be on Hulu and I also use the both of them to get my movie fix. Amazon usually has all of the most up to date movies and so if I am in the mood for a new release I go there. If it is something that is a little older, I will check to see if it is on Netflix first, so I can save myself a few dollars.
Another addition that I have started to use as a last resort is the website of the channel of the show that I want to watch. For example, I am a big fan of the show Person of Interest, but I can’t get it on Hulu Plus or Netflix. So instead of paying for it on Amazon or iTunes, I will go to the CBS website and watch it there for free. Most of the major networks are doing this, where you can watch a show on their site after it has aired on TV. Although it is free, you do have to sit through commercials, which is the trade off for not paying for it.
I feel like after doing this for two years, I can easily say that cutting the cord is not for everyone. I know for me and my wife, it has been great and we have been saving a lot of money. We pay about $16 a month for both Netflix and Hulu Plus and we also will get a movie or two to rent on Amazon and so that comes out to about $7, which brings our total to about $23. That is about half of what we spent on cable and we weren’t watching nearly 70% of the channels that were given to us.
Like I have said, even though we save a good amount of money, this experience still hasn’t been without compromise. For example, I love my sports, and that is the one thing that I miss when it comes to not having cable. Gone are the days of being able to just watch college football on Saturdays, or the Super Bowl or any other major sporting event. Although I can look up the scores online and watch recaps, it still isn’t the same, but for me, it is worth saving the money. With cutting the cable, I have learned that I need to be willing to sacrifice a little in order to save some money.
If you really want your sports fix like I do, go and get yourself a decent internal antenna from your local electronic store. This will give you all of the major channels like, NBC, ABC, and CBS, and probably a few more if you are lucky. All you pay for is the antenna and nothing more, and it actually works quite nice.
Getting rid of cable and using these web services is not for everyone and you can rest assure that cable isn’t going anywhere any time in the near future. But, you can be sure there are companies out there that are planning on scheming to take down the cable companies. In fact, Apple is hard at work trying to do this as well as an up and coming company called Aereo.
The goal of this post wasn’t to make the cable companies look like the bad guy, but more so to help you see that there are plenty of options out there for you. If you are looking for a cost cutting move and you are willing to make some compromises, then this may be the way to go. At first, I really thought I was going to miss TV, but the more I got used to it, the more I realized that I didn’t need it. Not only that, but it forced me to focus more on other more important things like my family and my son. That in and of itself was worth every penny of the cost cutting move.
Editor’s tip: If you live outside the US, most steaming options won’t work, as they’re geo-blocked for any IP addresses outside the US. You could try using a proxy, but it’s likely not going to be a fun experience. iTunes is still a great option, especially if you have a US credit card, as you can get anything they offer in the US.