Now It's Easier than Ever to Cut the Cable

By Carrie Kirby on 24 September 2008 (Updated 6 June 2013) 31 comments
Photo: Eli Hodapp

Think your cable bill isn't that big a deal? Think of it this way: It's "Like buying a new 50" TV each year and tossing it in the dumpster," asserts  the Web site Cancelcable.com.

Fortunately, it's now easier than ever to enjoy a good picture and a wide range of programming without paying the cable company. Here are the changes and services that are allowing more and more people to cut the cable:

 1. The Digital TV Transition: Clearer picture, more programming

As Linsey Knerl reminded us earlier this year, you can send away for coupons to get those digital TV converter boxes for pretty cheap. I've been putting off buying mine (in fact I let the coupons expire, doh!) and grumbling about the inconvenience of it all -- until recently. That's when I heard that once we hooked up this box, we would receive the kind of clear picture that cable subscribers receive -- on many more channels. In fact, when I checked a helpful site called AntennaWeb, I found that my zip code should receive TONS of stations, including five different versions of PBS.

One reason some folks pay for cable is to get quality programming for the kids. With five versions of PBS, I feel pretty confident I could find something they want to watch at about any time of the day.

And although the transition to digital TV doesn't happen until early next year, you can buy the converter box and begin receiving broadcast channels now with better reception than you've been getting with an antenna.

2. Free Programming: Hulu.com and network Web sites (and don't make me remind you about the library, people)

The one thing we miss most by not having cable at our house? "The Daily Show," of course. So lately we've made it a little night-night routine to watch "The Daily Show" on my laptop via Hulu.com in bed. Yeah, it's yesterday's episode, but is getting the same episode 24 hours earlier worth $60 a month? Not to me.

And since I'm busy tomorrow night during the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy," I'll be watching it Friday -- on ABC.com.

3. Low-Cost Programming: ITunes and Netflix

Netflix is the one thing that makes me wonder why ANYONE has cable. Then I remember all those poor football fans being held hostage by the Cable-Atheletical Complex. But back to me: With Netflix, anytime we feel like vegging out in front of the tube, we usually have something we're interested in sitting here to watch. And if we're between movie deliveries, there's also Netflix's streaming service. Or, you know, Blockbuster.com, Redbox, whatever floats your boat. Whichever you choose, you're looking at a monthly cost from $0 (if you use Redbox coupon codes) to $4.99 (Netflix's cheapest tier) to $19.99 for Blockbuster's top plan. Beats the pants off cable.

Need more instant gratification? You can also buy TV episodes one-by-one from iTunes for $1.99-$2.99 a pop.

Now you have the tools you need to figure out if cancelling cable would save you money: Write down what shows you watch. Use the Showfinder gadget on CancelCable.com to figure out where you can get those shows besides on cable TV. Take the cost per episode on Netflix, iTunes or whatnot, and multiply it by the number of episodes you watch per month. Is the product less than the cost of your current cable package?

For example, if you pay for cable in order to get HBO shows, you'd have to download 31 "premium" episodes a month to run up a bill that matches the $93.99 that Comcast charges for a digital package with HBO.

I'm guessing that almost everyone will feel that cutting cable would save them money, even if they watch a lot. Then it's just a matter of the reception quality. If you don't have one of those digital converters, I urge you to stop by the home of a friend who does and take a look at their picture. If you like what you see, there's your answer. I know what MINE is.

1
Average: 1 (1 vote)
Your rating: None
ShareThis

comments

31 discussions

Add New Comment

CAPTCHA
This test helps prevent automated spam submissions.
Guest's picture
Guest

I'd have cut my cable off a few years ago, except that I can't get my local sports teams games live any other way, due to obnoxious "blackout" regulations. It's horrible spending $40/month just to feed that particular addiction.

P.S. The comment posting buttons are blank in my browser (Camino)

Guest's picture

For those that can't live without cable, I highly suggest, nay demand, that you call your company up and haggle your price down, if you haven't already. We went from paying 120 a month to 96 a month for the same service (tv and internet), PLUS a free HD-DVR, along with HBO which we've always had. That deal's set to expire in a month or two (we've had it for almost a year now), but I'll only seriously consider cutting down if they don't cut us another deal this year.

And for those who don't know how to haggle, just tell them you can't afford cable anymore, and to cancel it in two weeks. If they offer you a better deal right there (which they did for us), then take it if you like it. If they don't, tell them to cut you off in two weeks. Then, a few days later, if you still want your cable, call and say you've changed your mind and to keep your connection going. No harm no foul.

Guest's picture
Guest

My husband and I got rid of cable two years ago. We tried Netflix, but it doesn't work for Mac... that's the one downside of it. But we do watch Hulu, Network websites, and sometimes get dvds from the library... We haven't missed it one bit. And of course, we don't watch programs that often anymore, so instead of being bored just clicking away trying to find something, we play cards, board games, take walks... Our main reason to do this was financial, but even if I could pay for cable, I know I wouldn't do it.

Linsey Knerl's picture

You took the words right out of my mouth.  We have watched most of our shows online (including the premier of the new Knight Rider before it was even aired on Amazon.com's unbox -- for FREE!)  The ONLY thing that keeps me going next door to my mom's house for some cable shows is that our high-speed internet options out here in the rurual areas are so slow.  It would take me 5 days to watch one episode of anything on the Sci-fi.com site.

Great article, indeed!

Linsey Knerl

Carrie Kirby's picture

Actually I have never paid for cable in my entire life. Even back when I worked and could probably afford it, I felt that, knowing myself, I would want to GET MY MONEY'S WORTH if I had cable. Which would mean sitting in front of it. And why would I want to encourage myself to watch more tv? 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Carrie Kirby's picture

Actually I have never paid for cable in my entire life. Even back when I worked and could probably afford it, I felt that, knowing myself, I would want to GET MY MONEY'S WORTH if I had cable. Which would mean sitting in front of it. And why would I want to encourage myself to watch more tv? 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture
Jessi

Cable wasn't in my budget when I moved out of my parents house. So after 6 months of no cable I didn't even miss it. I would watch the few shows I missed online if my parents hadn't recorded it on their digital recorder for me to watch when I visited them. Just recently I obtained the a digital converter and an antenna. So for the one time cost of about 20 dollars I have 26 different channels forever no new tv necessary! A friend of mine who works for direct tv tried to talk to me into a 200+ channel digital package with a digital recorder for about 30 dollars a month... I told him why would I want to pay for that just to end up watching the few channels I now get for free?

Guest's picture
Guest

In the US at least, there are several laws that will protect you if you download television shows that at some point were broadcast over the air. That leaves out a ton of TV shows that people download, but just a heads up.

Guest's picture
Todd A.

With the advent of free internet programming/rebroadcast, maybe now I can break my family's cable addiction ...

Guest's picture
Brooke Pulver

we cut off our cable cold turkey last december 26th, best thing we ever did. between the internet and netflix, you really dont need it. and same for me, friday mornings have become my private little screening parties for Greys Anatomy!

Guest's picture
Guest

I would get rid of my cable subscription and DVR, however, to my knowledge, ESPN does not provide full broadcasts of sporting events like horse racing and figure skating online, among other sports and non-regular cable programming specials. Yeah, it's a lot of money a year to be able to watch these sports and to some it might not be worth it... but I honestly can't figure out a way to get it otherwise. So until everything aired on television is offered for sale a la carte, I guess I'm stuck with cable.

Guest's picture
thinks that make you go hmmmm

The only reason I got cable in the first place was so I could watch the network shows without the need for my bunny ear antenna--which wasn't doing such a hot job.... And I only got the $10 cable that provided the networks (which happens to include a home shopping network or two, CSPAN, LMN, Hallmark, Style, & a 24hr news program for our region).
Note: The $10 has increased to $12.50 in the past few years--every penny counts on this blog, right? In addition, in the five years I've had my home, I have not had the internet. I manage pretty well without it, but that leaves out Netflix streaming options, etc.

Now you have me wondering if I need the now $12.50 cable at all..... I'd miss the 24hr regional news station during those bad thunderstorms that wake me up in the middle of the night and worry me--I do love running to the TV and catching the radar so I can fall back asleep peacefully..... But it sounds like I could reevaluate.... hmmmmmmmmmmmm.........

Guest's picture
Guest

If you lived in a different country and your only options were soap operas that make Uggly Betty look like Masterpiece Theatre or variety shows that could send you into a comma you would sing a different song. =) You can read of course, but come on, dont you feel tempted by great shows like House or Prime Suspect or Monthy Python Flying Circus? If you go to our libraries, you´ll find classic music and jazz CDs and that is it.

Guest's picture
eric!

I don't even bother paying for internet: I set up RSS feeds on my work computer to download torrents of my shows each night. Then I just collect the shows the following morning. Ha!

Guest's picture
Donnie

This is what I needed to read right now! My roommates and I have been discussing whether or not we want to get rid of cable. Two of us are all for it, but we think we might have trouble convincing the other guy. But if you can watch just about any show online, that would help a lot. Thanks for the good info.

Guest's picture
Wilson

Don't advertise this! Or soon we'll all be paying ISPs $10/GB downloaded.

Guest's picture
Guest

haha THANK YOU. I'm reading this whole blog and comments searching for someone with a clue.

If enough people cancel cable, the networks won't be able to support the shows (the money to produce the shows comes from consumers) and either there will be no shows, or you'll have to pay for "free" downloads.

This site sort of makes me feel bad for all of you out there to swindle and steal instead of being frugal.

I will keep paying for entertainment so you can get it for free. Sounds like a new welfare program.

Guest's picture
Guest

I can get ESPN 360 on the internet (not all internet providers offer this). That allowed me to see the sports I wanted (ie: college basketball).

Great post!

Guest's picture
IRG

I live in NYC. Believe me, you can't haggle with TimeWarner (only supplier for us city folks. DirectTV requires outside antennae, which is forbidden in our building. And yes, people have been penalized, including being threatened with eviction.)

Verizon TV a poor option and also expensive. Plus service outages are abysmal.

We do use many of the alternatives you mentioned, but we still watch a lot of stuff on TV that we can't get late and/or free, or low fee later on.

now if we could pay ONLY for the channels we want (a la carte), we might be able to save.

To get any channel above 13, you pay extra. (Yea, it's a ripoff.)
The good stuff is all above 13.

We're mad fans of Fine Living, HGTV and some other non-basic channels.

We do get our money's worth, but cable is still overpriced.

Until there are enough cancellations and we subscribers have more leverage it will stay that way.

So, anybody who can cancel their cable, please do so.

Then, when they are forced to bring prices down, you can reconsider.

Also, when comparing costs, remember: This is entertainment. And if you spent $ for gas, food to go out to see a movie, all of this is big savings in time as well as money.

What would be even better? If you had neighbors to share with...split costs for NetFlix, other subs.

Guest's picture
Lucille

Our dilemma has been BBC, Cartoon network, comedy central, G4, news and a few of the other basic cable channels.

We are planning on putting in a small free to air satellite dish next summer and probably a long distance HDTV antenna. Between the two we should be able to get almost everything except the ones I listed.

I wish some of the cable channels would start doing some sort of ala carte online subscription to pull broadcast.

Guest's picture

I have had cable for the first time in my life in the last six months. It came for free with my internet connection for the first year. I'll have it shut off as soon as they start charging me- I never watch television, except for the first three days of squealing about the health channel's parasite shows.

I rent movies, and dvds if there's a show I want to watch. Why would I pay to watch commercials?

Guest's picture
Frank

I enjoyed your post. I recently went to my cable company asking for an analysis of my bill and how I could add HBO without adding cost. The rep told me I could add all of the HBO's and ten other digital channels for $10 a month for six months. No talk about what it would cost on month #7. Probably a balloon payment!
No way, I said, I'll keep Netflix and choose which movies and TV shows I want to watch.

Keep up the good work! I love your blog!

Guest's picture
garryparker

Why not you take a look at easystockalerts.com with lots information and updates? You can get all recent news and information relating to the stock you follow from this site

Guest's picture
garryparker

Why not you take a look at easystockalerts.com with lots information and updates? You can get all recent news and information relating to the stock you follow from this site

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't even own a TV...I watch tv and movies online, and I go out alot

Guest's picture
Guest

Getting ready to move back out on my own (again) and I'd like to know how all of you get such good internet service w/o having cable?

Is DSL as good? Good enough to watch streaming video?

Guest's picture
Nico

I like the idea of cutting cable, but there is no way my wife would sit in front of a laptop with me to watch video streams from the internet. How are you all connecting your computers to your TVs? what kind of cable? what kind of tv? (the sound part is easy, I'm curious about video)

-Nico

Guest's picture

Thats too complicated. There's an easier way to download videos from megavideo ... use vid23.com. It's simple to use. You can download the original quality version of any video from Megavideo.com. vid23.com is the only site that offers this feature.

Guest's picture
Leslie

Cable was the huge question when my new husband and his kids moved in. They had had it - we had not. And we still don't. Instead of "vegging out" in our own separate reality, we did things together. We played games (ever heard of cheapass games? - cheap and fun and funny, too). We got videos (and books on tape) on loan from the library or borrowed them from friends. We left the house! We did stuff together. And we talked.

The most gratifying memory I have of our years with 5 teens was the comment my stepson made one Sunday morning. "We would never do this at my other house," he said. I asked what "this" was? He said: "Talk, we never talk. Everyone goes to his own room and watches TV."

Guest's picture
Guest

We want to cut out cable but we can't find a reliable high speed internet alternative. Dial up with long distance was costing us over $100 a month without the added tv programming, which is why we switched to cable. And with our metal clad house and nearby huge brick churches and Air Force Base, we got 0 channels clearly on our antennae. Any suggestions?

Guest's picture
El Guapo

Pulled the plug on cable tv a month ago and couldn't be happier. Built an antenna from old wire coathangers and it works great. No more 80 bucks a month just to watch TV. Found the instructions in a video on Youtube.