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The Great TV Conspiracy (or How To Earn $80 A Month Forever By Cord Cutting)

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Navy sailor cutting the cord, but the arresting cable, not the one on his TVYou, like me, love your favorite TV shows – be it Walking Dead, So You Think You Can Dance, or Arrested Development.

But, you probably hate paying that $86 (on average) per month to your cable or satellite television provider.

And have you noticed how your TV bill seems to keep going up month after month?  Ugh.

Don’t you want a $1,000 a year raise?  I’ve saved over $800 so far by cutting the cord, and never looked back.  I wanted to share this with you here at Enwealthen as part of an ongoing series of articles on frugality and savings.

Go Ahead and Cut Me

In a nutshell, cord-cutting is canceling your cable or satellite TV plan and watching all your television via the internet – be it on your computer, on your smartphone, on your TV via Roku, Apple TV, or other streaming video device, or even over the air digital broadcasts via an antenna.

It’s a small movement, but more viewers like you are cutting the cord every day, and the television studios and broadcasters are taking notice.  But I’m more about saving money, than technology, so Cord Cutters or PlayOut has additional information on cord cutting if you’re curious.

Pros of Cord Cutting

  • Dramatically reduce your monthly TV bill
  • Unlimited entertainment, any time you want it, and no monthly DVR “rental” fees
  • Watch all those movies or TV series you missed, especially the ones you loved but never knew if you saw all the episodes or not

Cons of Cutting the Cord

Regaining Control of Your TV

When I was laid off from my high tech job, I had to make every dollar count.  So I canceled my DirecTV plan, bought a Roku 2 XD streaming video player for $70, signed up for Netflix, bought a Mohu Leaf antenna for $40 and never looked back.

My monthly TV bill plummeted from $90 down to $8, saving $82 per month.  Now, $82 a month may not sound like much.  But consider.  I broke even on the new hardware investment in 6 weeks.  In effect, I’ve earned $820 since I made the switch last year, or almost $1,000 a year.  Money in the bank!  Did I mention the Roku 2 XD streams HD content at 1080p, and looks great on my HD TV?

Do I miss it?  Sometimes.  I used to love the Discovery Channel – Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, etc.  These shows are available on Netflix, but typically it’s one or two seasons back.  The current season is available on Amazon Instant, but paying $2 per episode doesn’t make sense when there’s so much else available on Netflix.

What do I watch now?  First month was an epic Lost marathon.  Since then, Miami Vice (oh, those 80s fashions), Magnum P.I., Dirty Jobs, old Shark Weeks, and Antiques Roadshow.  We discovered Ken Burns recently and have been slowly working through his amazing documentaries on Baseball, the U.S. National Parks, the Great Depression, etc. all on Netflix.  All included in the one $8 per month Netflix fee.

What about breaking news, or sports?  We don’t watch much of either.  But when we watch the Superbowl, our OTA antenna picks up the local ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox stations without any trouble. In fact, since cable / satellite companies compress the video they send you, watching over the air is actually noticeably better picture quality – true HD – than what I saw with DirecTV.

For breaking news, our mobile phones alert us to any emergency broadcast alerts.  For nightly news, we can turn on the TV to digitally perfect ABC or CBS news, or watch streaming news via the CNN or BBC Roku channels.  But frankly, Yahoo! News does better for me than TV ever has.

It’s worth mentioning that there are many free channels available on the Roku Channel Store.  Some are ad-supported movie channels such as PopcornFlix and Crackle.  There are also content channels such as Smithsonian and PBS, or online service channels for Flickr, Facebook, and even Reddit.

Marsha!  Marsha!  Marsha!

I can hear you out there, talking to your monitor.  This is all about Netflix.  What about the other options like Hulu, or Amazon Instant?  Are they the middle Brady, doomed to lurk in the shadow of Netflix forever?  In a word, yes.

I enjoy Hulu, don’t get me wrong.  I have been known to hook my laptop up to my HD TV and stream some shows from time to time.  However, Hulu on Roku requires a Hulu+ subscription at $8/month.

No big deal, right?  Well, even after you pay your $8/month, they still show you ads!  I pay my $8 for Netflix, I see no ads.  I used to pay my $10/month for HBO or Showtime, I see no ads.  WTF, Hulu?  What makes you think I’m going to be willing to pay for your service, and be willing to suffer through ads.  I’m not.  So I don’t.  ‘Nuff said.

And Amazon Instant Video?  A benefit of Roku is that it’s one of the few devices to support Amazon Instant Video.  Amazon has a wide catalog of new movies and latest TV shows, but it’s a la carte consumption, similar to iTunes – typically charging $2 per TV episode, and $3 per movie.  That can get expensive very quickly, and why bother if I can get unlimited streaming from Netflix?

Amazon Prime membership does give you free streaming from the Amazon Instant Video catalog.  But it’s a very limited subset, typically very old TV shows and movies.  Not to mention it has no recommendation system and browsing the catalog to find something interesting is time consuming.

We were Prime members last year, and enjoyed the free 2 day shipping (especially being able to add others in our family to receive free 2 day shipping also), but ultimately decided to cancel our membership after the first year.

Winner: Netflix!

OK, So How Do I Save $1,000 a Year?

Well, you’ve read this far, so you’re seriously considering cutting the cord for good.  So why not go for it.  You don’t have to cancel your cable until you’re sure you want to.  Besides, Netflix gives you your first month free.

What’s the fastest, most economical way to get started?

Trust me.  Unless you’re a sports junkie, you’re going to love it.  And if you are a sports junkie, I bet you can find a way to watch the sports you like.

If you liked this, be sure to sign up for the Enwealthen mailing list to receive money saving and wealth building tips directly in your inbox.

Have a question?  Find a great cord-cutting resource?  Leave a comment and let us all know about it.

 

Photo of Navy sailor cutting arresting cable courtesy of Wikimedia.

16 Comments

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  2. I cut the cable and haven’t regretted it for a minute. The free stuff that is available if you have a little indoor antenna is amazing. They are way better than the rabbit ears I barely remember.

    • Right there with you, Michael. Between the major networks, PBS, and all those little local channels, there’s always something on in my neighborhood. I can only imagine how much more I might pull in with a large, roof-mounted antenna.

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  5. We are getting to the point of disgust with the satellite channels so we may be opting for this solution in the near future!

    When most of the channels are sports (we don’t watch) porn (we don’t watch) or shopping (we don’t watch) whats the point?
    Marie at Family Money Values recently posted Speaking of Blog SystemsMy Profile

    • I tell you, I may miss getting my Discovery channel shows immediately, but they do show up on Netflix eventually.

      I certainly miss them less than the $1,000 I would have spent on Directv!

      Come on in. The water’s fine!

  6. Hey, Jack:

    Saw the link for this page in your comment at the Forbes.com cord cutting article from a week or so back (http://onforb.es/19Pycnf). I going to copy and paste my comment from there:

    Good article. I’ve been researching cable cutting myself. However, I’ve run into a brick wall in the form of really expensive internet-only fees.

    I’m in the Philly/South Jersey area, and our only two options are Verizon and Comcast. I’ve been with Verizon for years. Right now, if I re-up for another 2 years, I’ll pay $87 a month for their 2nd level HD package and 15/5 internet, or $1044 a year. The DVR and STB bring that total to $1337 a year.

    If I switch to an internet only account, Verizon wants $70 a month or $840 a year. Comcast is offering $30 a month/$360 a year for two years, but then that goes up to $65 a month.

    Where we’re getting killed is the DVR and extra services, like Tivo, Netfix and Hulu. Once you add that back in, we’re almost back to the new FiOS prices. The DVR is non-negotiable; we can’t do without that.

    Am I missing something? I’ve crunched these numbers five ways to Sunday and keep coming back to the the same answer: it’s really not that much cheaper to cut cable. I’d love to be proved wrong.

    • That is one of the potential roadblocks to cord-cutting – you do still have to have a high speed internet connection to watch streaming video.

      In my area, we have several regional ISPs, so I’m not limited to AT&T or Comcast, and I can get phone + internet for ~$45/month.

      If you’re in an area where big players have locked up the market and can fix the prices so it’s cheaper to bundle than not, you can end up in a situation where the math doesn’t make sense. However, specific to Philadelphia, I know phillynet.net has a $40/month internet-only plan, but there are likely others.

      Do a web search for “{your city} ISP” and see what shows up. You may be surprised.

      • Hey, Jack:

        Thanks for getting back to me. I’m actually in South Jersey, next door to Philly. I Googled as you suggested, but it looks like Verizon and Comcast are in the only players in town.

        I’ve got to make a decision by next week, and at this point, I’m inclined to take the Verizon renewal. Cord cutting does not appear to be saving me the amount of money that other people are claiming, and the effort to get to that point isn’t worth the inconvenience.

    • I have been searching for a better way for the past couple of years. For us, a DVR is a requirement because we like the convenience of time shifting and zipping thru the commercials. Got tired of our cable company (Cox) raising prices on either phone, internet or TV. Switched to the Dish Network but they raised prices 3 months earlier than our agreement said. When I questioned them about it they said to check the fine print. I did not care for that answer and cancelled it. I took all of my business to Centurylink including DirecTV. Six months into my 2-year agreement the called and told me that their Prism TV was available and that I would save $12 per month. When I caneclled DirecTV I paid a rather large cancellation fee that they said would be refundable if I came back. After 4 months of always a screw-up with the billing I finally cancelled all of my services with them. During this period we added a Roku unit and Subscribed to Netflix including discs. Unlike some who hate Apple, I have an iMac, an iPhone 5, my wife’s iPad Mini and both of the girl’s iPod’s (gen. 4) and added an AppleTV (to which I can stream anything that is on the screen of my iMac). I bought a Winegard omni-directional HD TV antenna. Then added a TiVo Roamio. There is a service charge but also you can buy lifetime service, yes it does seem expensive but if you have the unit for 3 years the cost per month will keep dropping. Took my internet back to Cox and now have a price lock with them that did not exist when I left. There are times when I miss the ability to watch some of the channels: Food Network, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and a couple of others but we also took up hiking and now have less time to watch anyway. I forgot to mention that our main TV is a 70″ Vizio which makes everything that we watch better than going out to the movies and we can spill coke on our tile floor if we ever miss the theater experience. I tried to access channels on the internet but for me a TiVo unit that has shows waiting for me when I want to watch is better than spending time logging in to one website or another just to watch a particular show. I did not even own a smart phone until I added the iPhone for which I pay more each month than before (I only paid $54 for the entire year with my old phone). Truth is you get what you pay for.

      A suggestion for saving even more would be to dump your cell phone service and use Magic Jack for your calls. $20 one time fee vs $60 to $80 per month. That would be an additional saving of almost another $1,000 per year. Somehow we all managed before everyone had a phone in his/her pocket. That makes it almost $2,000 in savings which you’ll probably need if next year your employer decides to pay the penalty and send you onto one of the exchanges.

      • Interesting tip on Magic Jack.

        Ironically, I have DSL and have a faster internet connection on my mobile phone than my landline due to my distance from the phone co. I’ve considered just using my phone as a wifi hotspot for my household internet since it has unlimited data, but figure they’d catch on eventually and either cut me off or increase my rates. DSL is plenty day enough for Netflix though, so it’s not a critical issue for us yet…

  7. I also am cutting the cord with Comcast but it seems I have to buy, buy, buy – I already signed up for AmaPrime, Netflix, and HuluPlus – paid for all three for a year at just a little over $200. I just bought a new computer (this one is about to die I think) from Best Buy but I can’t seem to get any wifi so I will have to see where to go for an ISP (tks for the google “mytownisp” but haven’t been able to do it yet.) I don’t know what type of antenna I will need but I will start with rabbit ears cuz we have 2 TV’s – one in each bedroom, and then get a Roku or a Googletv thing. Does that sound like a plan or am I making too much of it? Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  8. Congratulations on taking the plunge, Mary!

    You’ve definitely hit the top 3 streaming services. I think you’ll find over time that you spend most of your time watching one more than the rest and will eventually stop renewing the rest. For some that’s Hulu Plus, for me, Netflix.

    One note on the antenna, I’m not sure if the traditional rabbit ears will work for modern digital broadcasts without one of those digital converter boxes. If you have the antennas, give them a try, but if they don’t work, try one of the new HD antennas like I mentioned above.

    Good luck!

  9. Sorry if this is a dumb question but am I right in assuming you need a separate antenna for each tv?

    • Welcome, J! No dumb questions, it’s the only way to learn…

      Yes, in the suggested configuration here, you’d have a separate antenna for each TV. However, if the closest broadcaster is a fair distance, you could also have a single large antenna, and run cables from that (possibly with an amplifier involved) to all the TVs in your house.

      The “Maximize Your Reception” tool on the home page of AntennaWeb is the best source of antenna information I’ve found. So if you’re seriously considering cord cutting and are worried about broadcast reception, that’s the place to start.

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