Staying current on all your favorite TV shows can be pretty expensive. But what if it didn’t have to be? What if you could watch all of your favorite shows for free? Those questions are what led me down the path of cord cutting. The answer to those questions are what saved me and my wife over $700 a year.
Cord Cutting Options
By dropping cable, our bill dropped to $60/month , saving us about $780/year.
Since we already had an Apple TV for streaming, the first step for us was to review what we watched. Most of the shows were on Netflix, HBO or the major network channels (NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, etc). We already had a subscription to Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime Video so it wouldn’t be an issue to keep those. So I just needed to find a way to watch all of the network channels without cable, plus to be able to record them since we rarely watch live TV (except for the news or sports).
While these were all viable options and even offer live TV, I wanted to save as much as possible and I didn’t like the idea of simply moving my monthly cable bill from Verizon to a streaming service. Cord cutting was supposed to save me money after all! Keeping our Netflix and HBO subscription made sense because of all the original content, but I was determined to find another way to get the network channels for free.
How About a Free Option?
Luckily, all of the network channels broadcast free over the air (OTA) and all you need is an antenna and a tuner to receive them. If you’re curious how many channels you could get via an antenna, just plug your address into this website and you’ll see what channels are in range. Turns out we were within 30-40 miles of about 30 channels, so I found a 50 mile range antenna from Amazon for about $30. While I could use the antenna to watch live TV without cable, I still wanted a way to record it.
Through various Google searches, I stumbled upon Tablo. Tablo is a tuner for OTA channels. It only works with streaming devices (Apple TV, Roku, etc), so if you want something to connect directly to your TV, Tablo is not for you. I was fine with streaming since we had an Apple TV, plus I would be able to stream to my iPad at home and on the go. What sealed the deal for me was the added benefit of being able to attach a hard drive to Tablo to turn it into a DVR.
So I purchased a Tablo and a hard drive, along with the antenna. The whole thing set me back $300, a small price to pay to watch TV without a monthly cable bill.
Since Tablo is solely a streaming device, having a good internet connection is key. I learned this the hard way. At first I had my Apple TV and Tablo connected via a wireless connection. The results were awful! Live TV would constantly freeze and the picture quality was subpar. I did a little research and found that it’s best to directly connect everything via an Ethernet cable. Once I did that, all the issues stoped. So learn from my mistake and just start with the Ethernet connection.
Tablo also has a great Apple TV app which acts like a traditional TV guide, allowing you to see what is on every channel and set recordings. The guide (which is necessary for the DVR feature, unless you want to manually program all of your recordings) is free for a month and then costs either $5 a month or $149 for lifetime access.
Welcome to a Life Without Cable
With the Tablo set up, we were able to watch and record 30 different channels. Since it was through the Apple TV, we could seamlessly switch between those channels and Netflix or HBO. We essentially were able to replace our cable box with our Apple TV. After a month or so of using the Apple TV as our main source, we knew we would be fine without cable. Since we no longer had hundreds of channels, we actually found that we spent less time mindlessly watching TV. Another added bonus? We didn’t need to purchase an additional streaming service.
When our contract was up, my wife and I decided to cut the cord and say goodbye to cable. We also were paying for a landline we never used, so we got rid of that as well. In total we were paying around $125/month (not including Netflix and HBO) for cable, phone and internet. By dropping the phone and cable, our bill dropped to $60/month for only internet, saving us about $65/month or $780/year.
Now, I had to buy the Tablo and related equipment and lifetime guide. All in, it totaled $450. However, by saving $65 month, it will pay for itself in seven months! If you factor in the cost of the Apple TV, it only adds another three months for everything to be paid off. So in under a year, everything will have paid for itself and the savings will start adding up.
What if You Need More Channels?
Now if you are thinking you would like to get rid of cable, but you watch more channels than just the main network stations, there are a lot of streaming options out there. Sling TV offers 30+ channels (including ESPN and HGTV) and live TV for plans starting at $20 a month. You can use this link to get a free 7 day trial. Even if you pay for additional streaming services, chances are they will be cheaper than what you are paying each month for cable. And if you don’t want to pay for them, most channels have their own apps that offer the ability to watch some shows for free (typically a few days after they air). Or if you are a big sports fan, you could always go over a buddy’s house or watch the game at a local bar/restaurant.
Now it’s Your Turn!
Cord cutting isn’t for everyone and it took some trial and error, but once I got used to it, making the switch from cable made sense. Why pay for tons of channels you never watch? When it comes to your finances, every little bit helps and getting rid of cable is a great way to help boost your savings each month. If you’re hesitate to just cancel your cable, start small. Try to only watch shows that are free OTA or on your favorite streaming service for a week or month. You may be surprised to find out you really don’t need cable after all.
Decided to make the jump yourself? Let me know in the comments below how much you were able to save by eliminating cable.