Why You Don’t Need to Pay for Cable

Guest post by Jenae at I Can Teach My Child

How much do you spend on cable each month? Stop reading this post, go get your last bill and say it out loud. Now, multiply that number by 12. Wowza…that’s a lot of money in a year’s time, huh?

Let’s just say that it’s an even $50 each month (which is probably a very conservative number), if so, this means you are spending $600 each year on cable. That’s money you could have saved to pay off your house, to pay for your kid’s college or to spend on a brand-new dining room table!

There are so many alternatives to paying lots of money for cable each month. Here are three we’ve found to be helpful for our family.

High-Definition Antenna

What if I told you that you could still watch most of your favorite shows for free? ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and even a few other random channels can all be received for free in most areas* with a high-definition antenna. After a little upfront cost, you can watch these channels for the rest of your life. All you need is a converter box (if your TV does not already have an HDTV tuner — every new TV has one) and a high-definition antenna (which can go in your attic, wall or outside).

High-definition antennas range from $40-$150. You can purchase them at your local home-improvement store (Lowe’s or Home Depot). You can also go here for more information and to purchase one as well. And if you’re really handy (or you know someone who is), you can supposedly even make your own HDTV antenna for less than $10! It might be worth a shot!

If you own a TV that was manufactured after July 1, 2007, it should already have an HDTV tuner. You only need a converter box if your analog TV is older than that. Converter Boxes start at $40 and go up from there. Go here and here for a few converter box options.

*I realize that good reception depends in large part due to where you live. If this isn’t an option for you, you could still opt for the cheapest plan from your cable or satellite provider and implement the other two suggestions.

Netflix & Redbox

Many of you know that you can receive unlimited DVDs in the mail for about $10 a month from Netflix. But did you also know that they have thousands of movies on instant play as well? We’ve watched entire series of very popular shows instantly. You can stream it to a Blu-Ray player, XBox or Wii, or you can just watch it on your computer. Netflix is also a great resource for children’s television shows. The best part is that there are no commercials.

Redbox (a $1-per-night video rental kiosk that can be found outside many McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Walmarts locations) offers at least one free rental each month (usually the first Monday of every month) when you create an account on their website.

Borrow

Libraries are not only a great resource for books, most libraries also have movies as well! And the best part is that it’s free! You can browse most titles on your library’s website. Another option is to borrow movies from friends.

We’ve gone without cable for our entire married life (almost seven years). At first, we simply couldn’t afford cable and opted for bunny ears. Now that our income has increased and we could afford if we really wanted to, we still choose not to. We enjoy enough television and movie time without spending all that money every month!

Jenae is a wife, mother of two boys’ ages 3 and 15 months, and former first-grade teacher. She loves spending time with her family and sharing fun and educational activities for young children on her website, I Can Teach My Child.

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Comments

  1. says

    …or simply pass on watching television altogether. Works well for me.

    I grew up in a family with no television in the house. We read lots of books And btw, I earned an MBA from the #1 graduate business school in the USA, so it’s not as if I’m lacking anything…or out of the loop. I still do not have a television, but occasionally do catch some shows that I stream from the networks’ websites. I bought a house that had several built-in televisions, but removed them to sell for ca$h, because that’s what a smart “Broke Girl” and avid fan of the Money Saving Mom does!!

  2. says

    If it’s available in your area, I highly recommend Clear Internet. We pay $40/month for high speed internet. We stream movies on Netflix ALL the time, and don’t have problems with speed. Also, with a three year old, she gets to watch the Nickelodeon shows she loves. We also use Hulu for some of our favorite shows.
    We have our TV set up as our computer monitor, and have a wireless keyboard and mouse, so we can watch our shows on the big screen (which we bought with our income tax return). Of course, this only works if both your computer and TV have an HDMI connection.
    So for internet and Netflix together, we only pay $50/month.

    • Andrew W says

      We also have Clear, but I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for an application like streaming movies/ television.

      High volume users sometimes get their bandwidth capped for a short window (google “clear throttling”) . Think of it as the corporation putting you in time out and reducing your download speeds to where you can’t take advantage of things like Netflix or Hulu.

      Of course none of this is advertised by Clear.

      If anyone is going to ditch cable and rely on streaming entertainment, make sure your Internet Service Provider does not cap usage. Streaming HD movies will chew through bandwidth extremely quickly and you might find yourself paying for overage.

      • says

        AT&T is starting to cap usage, there was an article today from the Yahoo home page. My husband and I are starting to wonder if we want to switch our internet from AT&T DSL to something else b/c of this cap usage. They say it would only affect 2% of users but not sure if we were watching High-def Netflix every day if we might go over. Any ideas for cheap internet?

  3. Amanda says

    We gave up cable about 9 months ago and it has been SO freeing! My husband & I spend so much more time talking, reading, playing games together, etc. We use Hulu from time to time and we have a bunch of kid-friendly DVDs for our toddler. The only thing we’ve “missed” is the NFL, but even that is not worth paying for cable again, at least not to us.

  4. says

    There is also a way to make most tvs into computer monitors that way you can play anything off of your computer on your TV

    I bought a wireless adapter system through compusa for less than 100 and I can get all of my shows when they are posted on their network

  5. Angelia says

    We dropped our cable a year ago in June and only have internet and cell phones. we pay 40 dollars a month for internet from Att. We also share a netflix subscription with my brother and never have any problems using his account. He has his set up on ps3 and we have ours set up on wii and our computer. Fancast.com and casttv.com will air shows that are newer a day after the original air date and they are free. We tried nhl.com to watch hockey games but they also will not air in market games. That is the only area we have some trouble watching without cable.

  6. BD says

    Well, we are the opposite. We went almost 7 years without and recently added cable. For us, now that we have the money it is a treat that we truly enjoy. We were only getting a few stations after it switched over to hdtv here in a major city (we actually got more living out in the country). I don’t know that we’ll do it forever but for now it is one of those things worth the extra money to us. If we got new furniture my small children would just ruin it….ha!

    • TatersMama says

      I’ve come to the sad realization that I won’t be getting a new couch until after my childbearing years :)

  7. Chelsea says

    We went the first 6.5 years of marriage with just internet and basic cable . It was $56/mo and we thought we were making the smart, sensible, cheaper choice as newlyweds. Just a few months ago we opted for satellite per DH’s request, which I don’t mind. I rarely watch tv anyway, and he enjoys watching the sports. Here’s the funniest part- would you believe that the internet + satellite package is cheaper?? We went with a different internet company, and we now pay $47/mo. Crazy!! Our internet alone would cost that same amount, but bundling brings down the rate. Also, Blockbuster Express is a good way to rent $1 movies, too.

  8. says

    When I got married (almost a year ago), we decided this was one way we were going to cut down on our combined monthly expenses. Coming from a situation where my roommate and I had been paying for cable and DVR etc., I was a little worried about how I was going to adjust, but after almost a year with no cable, I’ll say it’s probably the easiest way to cut back on expenses. I don’t even miss the channels we don’t get. And for Christmas, my inlaws gave us a new tv that has internet connectivity capabilities so we can watch netfilx view instantly titles without having to sit in front of a laptop or connect it to the tv. You can also connect to hulu plus, pandora, and other great things right from the tv with no expensive cable plan. :)

  9. says

    While I think I could live without cable, I don’t know if I could live without a DVR. I want to watch my shows when I want to watch them…especially when the kids shows are on.

    Any suggestions on what to do about a DVR without having cable service?

    • Rae says

      I thought I would not be able to live without it also but when we got rid of Dish several months ago, the DVR went with it. I watch most of my shows on the tv via the antenna. I used to never watch shows when they aired just because they were dvr’ed (I didn’t even used to know when half of them came on). Now without the dvr, I am more aware. For instance, tonight at 8pm Nikita and Bones will be coming on so I know to get my stuff done earlier so I can watch Nikita. Then for Bones I will watch that via the internet (Fox uploads shows quicker than CW so CW always wins over on the tv).

      More specificly for your question, on the internet you can pull up the shows when you want. Last year I bought my husband a laptop on sale that had a bluray player as well as a built in camera and an hdmi port on it for about $500 including taxes. We love it. So we can hook it up to the tv via the hdmi and watch the tv shows either from the networks website or something like hulu. MANY many shows are available online on cw, cbs, fox, hgtv, lifetime (I still get my Army Wives), etc. That laptop cost less than a years worth of Dish (with the dvr fee, taxes, etc) and he need a new laptop anyway.

    • says

      On Hulu, you can watch a lot of “older” kids tv shows. My kids enjoy He-Man and Inspector Gadget. Today I saw Pink Panther, which is something we’ve checked out from the library and they love. I LOVE it b/c it’s so quiet, just a little music and the occasional noise. Not some long singy annoying song that gets stuck in your head. :)

      Like the previous poster, you can hook up a laptop to your tv or get an internet connected blu-ray player, wii, or ps3, or whatever so you can play things like Netflix. Currently, we have an internet connected blu-ray player but don’t have Netflix but the player does have a link to Crackle so we’ve been watching shows from that.

  10. amanda says

    We just cancelled our cable -Directv – yesterday. We’ve been paying a whopping $82/month for television! That’s crazy. Now that 80 bucks is going towards paying off my car early.

  11. ioana says

    another option is Hulu , you can now get get hulu plus for $7/month and see all the new seasons of your favorite shows the day after they air on tv , they just started streaming to xbox last week , check your xbox and you can try it 4 free for 1 week right now. there are other devices it works with , u can check their website, i don’t know them because i use the xbox. they even air some talk shows i belive

  12. says

    Uugh…I wish we could eliminate ours. However, my hubby is a HUGE sports fan. He is a wise and Godly man. He is very good with money but this is a non negotiable in our house:) We can’t get DSL for internet. Our ONLY option is comcast. Trust me…I’ve searched and searched for alternatives. So, we pay $60/mo just for internet. I am TOTALLY frugal so that stinks!!

    • Wendy says

      I feel your pain. In our rural area, there is only one phone provider & they own their lines so you use them or no one. You have to have a landline to get DSL and our monthly bill is about $80 (including taxes). I checked into satellite internet, but it’s very spotty out here and not significantly less expensive.

      On the plus side, this is a local provider so when I have problems and call in, I talk to someone from my area who actually knows where I am when they look at my address. They are always super helpful & friendly – some of the best customer service I’ve ever had! :)

  13. says

    I would just like to add our story of how we dropped cable. Since this is a Christian blog, I assume most readers are also Christians and wanted to share in hopes someone else might come to the same conclusion as we did.

    My husband and I had always gone out to watch the latest greatest movies and frequently watched all sorts of shows on TV. We didn’t see anything wrong with this since it was ‘entertainment’ and besides, even if the movie or show projected a lifestyle or value we didn’t agree with, we could just brush it off and take the entertainment at face value. Now, these shows and movies were not ‘bad’ per se and many of them had great premises or morals. However, even in the the best of movies today, MOST still contain a fair amount of foul language, violence and sexuality. And with TV, you may watch a ‘clean’ show, but the commercials that pop on may be just what you are trying to avoid!

    In a nutshell, what you watch has an effect on you. The Bible does speak on this- who do you surround yourself with, what type of activities and friends you have makes an impact on you. We realized we didn’t want our daughter growing up with horrible images displaying on commercials or her parents being less of what they could be because they were filling their private lives with movies and shows that they wouldn’t allow their own children to watch. If all you see if violence, you will think violently, if all you see is profanity, you will have a problem with it, if you feast your eyes on sexual images (which so many have become accustomed to and thus claim thats not what it is) then you will think about them.

    We chose to completely eliminate the TV in our household as a matter of urgency and concern for our family. Jesus probably wouldn’t watch most TV shows or movies, so we decided not to either. I have to say it has definitely made a wonderfully positive difference in our lives. I am not saying you have to do this, but I encourage other Christians to think about it and pray about it. Not only will it save you money, but it just may save your family!

  14. Lauren says

    $19.99 for internet, $16 for Netflix, and a lot of free Blockbuster Express movies make me a happy girl :) I let my library card expire, but that is also a fantastic option for DVDs. Great post!

  15. says

    My husband made his own antenna when TV signals switched to HD. It works better than the purchased antennas that we tried and returned! :)

  16. Tedi says

    Don’t forget you CAN stream it through a PS3! We do it! We live in a condo so we had a big antenna installed on the roof, and we get ALMOST all the channels we want to watch. The only one I wish we had was FOX. :( I miss Bones! :)

  17. Amanda says

    Every time I see a post regarding different options for cable, I keep hoping there will be more options for sports fans. We could use the internet/movie services for regular shows, but there’s not usually an alternative for sports. I keep hoping for more options, but until then, not having cable is non-negotiable for my husband.

  18. says

    i wish i could be flexible with cable/internet. but alas, our apartment complex bundles water, cable, and internet for about $100…which is about as much as comcast (the only local cable company) charges for cable/internet. plus whenever i mention ditching cable after we move, my husband flips because of sports. :) so i think unless we are really strapped for cash we’ll always have cable…which i am okay with because of my liking for law & order, tlc, and the food network! not that i have time to watch during the school year but it’s nice occasionally.

  19. Heather C says

    Yeah for this post! My husband and I have never had cable in the 10 years we’ve been together, we’re outdoorsy and just enjoy a few movies a week together. All our friends used to tease us about Netflix and tell us how weird we were since we only got 1 channel (NBC with our antenna). Now that we have kids while it would be nice when I’m having a meltdown to just plop on the TV, I’m really glad we don’t have it. We’re not just saving by not spending on a monthly bill, but we’re skipping all those commercials for all the toys that kids “HAVE TO HAVE”! Plus now Netflix has great educational shows like Sesame Street on instant viewing… Thanks for the post, at least I know we aren’t the only “weird ones” out there… :o)

  20. Diane says

    Ditto on lamenting the need for sports programming! I would love to cancel our cable service, but the hockey and football packages are, apparently, sacrosanct to other members of the household.

  21. says

    My husband and I have been cable free since we got married, but not necessarily as a money saving strategy. We only watch a few shows that we can catch online and we have Netflix. I’ve also found that I get alot more done during the day with no tv running and we do more as a family with no tv in the background. We make movie nights special nights and are much more likely to get out of the house for a walk or trip to the park after dinner instead of watching tv. But I completely understand those who are saying it’s just as cheap to have cable and internet together…I only think we are saving like $15/month by not having cable. There’s only really one decent company around here and they keep the prices pretty unreasonable :(

  22. Koree Fugate says

    I pay 20 bucks a month for internet right now and don’t have cable. However, our apartment complex is forcing us to get internet when we renew our leases, which will add another 40 bucks to my bills. Does anyone know if this is even legal? I am barely making ends meet and the internet is a work expense.

  23. Gretchen Jarrett says

    We did this a few months ago. We switched to Uverse for $29 per month for high speed internet and dropped the $180 month bill from our cable company. We pick up all the locals plus some really cool religious channels that I am just loving. We also picked up Netflix with streaming and 1 video rotation for $10.91 per month. We watch TV shows and movies all the time now on Netflix via the internet or through the Wii. We are never bored flipping through channels trying to find something to watch. This is the way to go for us and I am loving it!!!!!

  24. says

    So glad you posted this! We’ve gone without cable for the eleven years of our married life and haven’t missed it at all! And that was way before Netflix was around. Now with Netflix, I feel like we have cable for just $8 a month!

  25. Ashley says

    My husband works for a cable company (and I’m not mentioning which one because I’m not advertising for it). He installs and I understand the choice for many to go without cable, but it sure hurts us :(. A lot of the reason those cable companies charge you for cable and internet is because the higher bandwidth that internet is on. It’s harder to block out the cable and let the internet go through. Also, if you have multiple computers, DSL may not be the best choice, depending on the speed. For example, in our area, the DSL is only at 1.5 megs at its fastest. We’re not able to get cable where we live, but what we are paying for 1.5 megs (40.00) we can get basic cable and internet speeds of 8 megs. I really feel like the decision on internet, cable, and telephone is really a personal one, and I definitely have seen the benefits of trimming our own budget (we can’t get cable where we live, so we have satellite, internet, and cell phones). We now have a cheaper satellite bill because we went down two steps with only one set of movie channels, and then got Netflix to supplement. We still get all the channels we want.

  26. Katie says

    We cut the dish a few months ago in preperation for hubby’s military retirement (medical). The biggest hold out was our 13 year old b/c she didn’t want to miss her disney shows, but we use our Wii to stream netflix in the living room(and she is happy with the content and the speed of the new arrivals) and for our room we got a Roku box that streams Amazon, hulu plus, netflix, etc. We hooked up an external ant. and we get ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS (requested for the cartoons for the little ones and I was so happy to have it! :) On our Roku, we can rent movies with Amazon credits earned on swagbucks or watch shows on ABC and NBC. It’s not a DVR, and we don’t get CBS, but we can watch any of the shows on the other 2 networks PLUS things from Fox, etc. on our own schedule. WE love it and it costs us $7.99 for netflix and $9 for hulu plus each month vs. the $75 we were paying. The ant. was $80 and the Roku was $69(but was a christmas gift) :)

  27. says

    Sports, SPORTS!

    I think we might be able to manage getting our favorite show (TOP GEAR) off of Itunes and going through Apple TV. But I can’t find a cheaper way to get the English soccer.

    We have Dish and our bill is like $75 bucks right now because we have been with them so long. That being said I do love Dish, they have the nicest customer service in my opinion. WAY BETTER than ATT and better than Comcast.

  28. Kate B says

    We cut down our Charter from phone/internet/cable bundle at $130 per month to fast internet for $55 per month.
    We also switched to prepaid cell phones and signed up with net flix, and hooked up to the attena. We stream it through something called a Boxee Box, so we can download shows to a hard drive, and stream through that way as well. The Boxee was 200 bucks to purchase, but it has more than paid for itself.
    All of these changes has saved me over 100 dollars per month. I don’t miss the overpriced cable, or the unused land line. I had to BLOCK charter’s phone number from my prepaid because they would call everyday trying to get me to bundle up again.

    We watch a lot of older shows, so Net Flix pays for itself.

    I feel we shouldn’t have to pay a small fortune per month to watch decent TV. (Half the time I don’t even turn it on…)

  29. Sandy says

    I got a Free Channel Master High-Definition Antenna from WRAL in 2009 and did the government converter box … Not that much on Cable to watch, unless you pay too much for it.

    Does anyone remember when you could get everything for $45 a month and there were NO Commercials?? Yikes!! We ought to go on strike.

  30. Sandy says

    By the way, DSL does not work very well if you are too far from the Telco Office or too many lines on a hub. You will not get what they say you can or what you are paying for. I ditched AT&T , because DSL was a dog….

  31. Kristin says

    We currently have cable because of a discount that I received through a special at work (we pay about $25 a month for a year-Direct TV). However, up until then we did not have cable. We pay $25 a month for our internet (we live in KY and have AT&T) which is DSL and we use netflix and stream unlimited movies, etc with no issues. We LOVE our netflix :)

  32. says

    Just this past week we downgraded from 250 channels (who needs that many) to 75. Still more than we need, but it’s baby steps for us. The bill is still outrageous (down to $115 for cable and internet), but we’ll downgrade again in a few months. Has anyone used the Amazon TV service? I think I’ve heard about it somewhere, just haven’t done enough research on it.

  33. Rebecca says

    My novel idea for not paying for cable tv is to have a membership to a local gym. I pay $12.95 per month for a membership to my gym and go work out several times each week. I bring along headphones and watch all my favorite cable shows while working out! Many gyms have treadmills and eliptical machines with attached personal tvs. I love going to the gym to watch HGTV and get a work out in at the same time!

  34. Tracy Hensley says

    My husband and I have not had cable since we have been together (this is has been 2 years and going now) and we don’t even miss it. We use bunny ears to get local channels like ABC, FOX, and of course the PBS channels. We also have nextflix and here in the last week they have add hulu to xbox live. With the hulu you get a free month for just making an account on their website. We are a young couple (24 & 25) and this has saved us a great deal of money. I think we are paying like $35 monthly this includes our internet.

  35. Lynda says

    We did this a couple years ago when an ice storm knocked out our dish. They wanted to charge $50 to come out and look at it with no guarantee that that trip would fix the problem. We thought about it for a few days and realized we just didn’t need to spend $600+ per year for t.v.

    We have a digital antenna and get about 15 channels plus watch some episodes on-line.

  36. Jennifer says

    We did away with our “cable”. We were only paying $25 a month to get local channels plus TBS through our cable company but decided to switch over to antenna a few months ago. It was a great decision for our growing family (baby #5 is on the way!). My husband was able to make an antenna for about $6 and it worked better than the $50 antennas he purchased and later returned. We now get everything we were normally watching without the bill each month! Even though we weren’t paying alot to begin with, it is so nice to know we are now paying almost nothing to watch a few shows each week – very freeing!

  37. Angela says

    We just canceled our cable. They were requiring extra equipment for our favorite shows and after looking at our checkbook, we noticed that they raised our bill $25 over 5 years to nearly $70/month for standard service. We hooked up the antenna already on or roof and discovered that we can get 20 channels with that for free (my dad hooked it up)! We miss a few channels but not they are not worth $70. I discovered that PBS has shows of often higher quality than Food Network, HGTV and the History Channel. We get Highspeed internet for only $20/month from Netzero. I don’t think we will ever have cable again :-)

  38. stee says

    I like cable tv. I like TIVO. These are things that we can easily afford in our budget. I scrimp and save in other places but I won’t cut out cable. We don’t have HDTV or big screen tvs. Our tvs are from the 80s and 90s. We’ve saved money that way instead.

  39. Sharon says

    I would rather spend the money on a cheaper satelite plan than I would on cell phone bills. I have seen and heard of people spending way more on their cell phone bills than I have ever spent on my house phone$21.00, pre-paid cell phone$7.00, satelite $54.00, and internet $26.00 combined = $108.00 a month. I realize there are cheaper satelite plans but this is the one that works for us. We have a digital T.V. and an antena that we use in the bedroom, but when we want to watch Fox News we have to watch it on satelite, it is not a local channel and we refuse to watch ABC, NBC, or CBS news. Besides my husband is an Alabama fan and he cann’t get a lot of his games on the local TV channels.

  40. Saver says

    We have DISH and have been mulling over getting rid of it. We live in an area where we can’t really get over the air and DISH was our best option for tv, but the $85/month was just getting to be too much. I contacted them and we’ve switched to a very low cost plan (called the welcome package – if you ask them for it) which includes locals and a few other channels, and then we can still keep our dvr and pay $21 + tax which for us is worth it.

  41. Tracie says

    My husband and I did this last year & we love it. We were paying $840 per year for AT&T u-verse and after setting down and making a list of the shows we watch they were all either on the main networks or could be found on Netflix. Thankfully my husband is a techie & built us a home theater PC so we didn’t even have to give up DVR. It took us about a year to break even on it, but it is so much better than cable.

  42. Amy says

    Somebody please answer me this. What is the quality of the hulu shows once they are on a 40″screen if you use the MAC mini? Are they in HD and look just like they did if they were coming in through cable? Or are they like non-HD broadcast or worse? Also, CBS, TNT, and TBS are not on Hulu so if I want to watch shows on those websites are they going to be good picture quality? What is the point of having a nice TV if the quality is going to be bad? Thanks.

  43. Meg says

    I would do this in a heartbeat but my husband would not be ecstatic about it! We would not only save $$ but TIME! Yes DVR is nice to get through the commercials, but I am convinced it actually makes us watch MORE T.V. because of it. Excellent article.