I have no idea what comes on television anymore. Well, I do, kind of, but more in a general sense than in regards of the actual time it comes on. See, my family ditched cable a couple of years ago, and we haven’t looked back.
My husband and I decided to cut out cable for one major reason: we had small children. As such, we were using our DVR pretty much exclusively to watch our favorite shows. And, even though I do miss the Food Network (just a little) and House Hunters on HGTV, I don’t really miss cable. Through streaming video services, we pretty much have access to everything we had pre-kids. Below are ways to cut-the-cord on high cable bills without sacrificing your favorite shows.
We are able to get local channels via our digital antenna, which allows you to receive free over-the-air reception. Most days if I’m watching TV with my boys, we are watching PBS Kids (which is channel 35). I suffer through Caillou on occasion, but my boys enjoy most of the programming. Digital antennas range in price. I’ve seen them at Best Buy for as low as $15.99 and go up to $150 or so. Ours works just fine and was in the $20 range.
Note to Sports Fans: One downside of eliminating cable is you may not have the best access to live sporting events. Yes, it’s possible to watch them via a digital antenna, but the picture quality and signal may not be as good as someone with cable. In these cases, my suggestion would be to friend folks who still have cable (they provide the cable, you bring the beer!) or arrange for a sitter and have a night out at a sports bar to catch your favorite team.
Computer or Tablet
You can watch several of your favorite shows (and your kids favorite shows) on your computer or tablet. Many broadcast networks offer apps so that you can view your favorite programming via streaming video or you can watch episodes of a program directly on the station network’s website (I have a friend who caught up on missed episodes of the Bachelor this way). Everything’s not available 100 percent of the time, but chances are, if you missed a show when it aired, you’ll be able to catch it via streaming video.
Digital Media Player
Digital media players are devices that connect to your internet to stream digital media files to your television. Our family has tried numerous streaming options since ditching cable, including using our PlayStation3, our Wii and our WiiU, but the Amazon Fire TV is by far my favorite. It’s well worth the $99 price tag, and all sorts of streaming options are available as apps on the device (see section people for options.) My five year old can zip around the menus as easily as I can, and enjoys playing some of the game apps that are available on the platform. There are other streaming boxes available, including the Roku and Apple TV.
Streaming Video Services and Apps
Subscribe to Netflix. The menu is divided into two sections: Netflix and Netflix Kids. There is no shortage of kids programming. (If you have Netflix and haven’t seen Oscar the Lizard, I highly recommend it. My boys belly laugh every time we watch it.) The availability of programming is constantly updated, so there’s always something to watch, including Netflix exclusive series such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Of note: if you are strictly a Netflix subscriber, they do not carry the latest episodes of current television shows. But if you are behind on favorites like The Walking Dead, you can see previous season’s episodes via their streaming service. Monthly plans start at $7.99.
If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can view a good bit of programming. Many Nickelodeon shows are available exclusively through Amazon, as well as one of my recent favorite discoveries, Orphan Black. In addition to the availability of shows via Amazon Prime, you can pay individually for shows and movies and they will forever be attached to your account. (Meaning they’re always available to you.) You can try Amazon Prime free for 30 days. After the trial is over, you can cancel or continue the service for $99 year.
Bonus: You also have access to free music and custom playlists, and you recieve free 2-day shipping on items you buy off Amazon (perfect for those last minute gifts you need to buy but don’t have time to make it to the store).
Hulu Plus offers many options for current television shows, and are generally available the day after they broadcast. Hulu Plus starts at $7.99 per month and has most broadcast television available (with the exception of CBS shows for some reason.)
Our family has spent rainy afternoons viewing old and new music videos, and there are some great clips out there for kids on YouTube. Our favorite channel is LittleStoryBug. It’s maintained by Miss Tracey, who is a children’s librarian. My boys love singing along with her! However, it’s worth noting that kids should probably not surf YouTube unattended.
What money saving opportunities do you use in place of cable? Please share your savings strategies for home entertainment in the comments!