How to Cut the Cable Cord and Save Money

Erica-Manfred-Senior-PlanetIn her Aging With Geekitude series, self-professed “recovering technophobe” Erica Manfred writes about her adventures with technology and shares what she’s learned as she navigates the not-so-scary waters. 

 

I made two leaps of faith this year. One was to escape the New York cold by renting a condo in Florida for three months. Two was to live without my 200+ channels, along with Showtime, Starz and the DVR that I have at home.

In making this decision, I became part of a hot new TV trend known as cutting the cable cord. In case you have no idea what this means, cord cutting is a way to save on those huge monthly cable bills. You cut your expensive cable service and instead rely on the Internet for your TV content. Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Hulu are some of the popular services that have convinced millions of cable and satellite subscribers to cut their cords and change to video downloads or streaming.

How to Cut the Cable Cord

Smart cord cutters keep Wi-Fi and use it to get Internet TV. With wireless, you basically have the world. You can connect a streaming service like Roku (see below) to get a multitude of channels and pay as you watch, use Netflix to watch past seasons of TV series ($7.99 a month for unlimited streaming), and iTunes or Amazon to buy shows individually for $1.99. If you subscribe to Hulu Plus ($7 a month), you get most of the popular shows, such as Mad Men, one day after they air on TV.

I mentioned streaming services: To cut the cord, you have to own an intermediary hardware device such as Chromecast, an Amazon Fire stick, or a Roku box or stick. I have a Roku box at home and know how it works, so I decided to pay 50 bucks for a Roku stick in Florida; also, the Roku has a separate remote.

Here’s a helpful guide to cutting the cord.

Cord Cutting Pros & Cons

Cord cutting has advantages and disadvantages. It saves you money for sure; you don’t have to subscribe to channels you have no interest in watching, and advertising is minimal. But you do pay a price: no more live TV. Without cable, I’ve had to go cold turkey on my diet of real-time broadcasts on network channels such as ABC, CBS and NBC. No daily news and talk shows, no CNN, sports matches and awards shows. If there’s a hostage crisis, I won’t be able to watch it as it happens.

I happen to be addicted to live TV. I don’t know about you, but at home in upstate New York I wake up with Hoda and Kathy Lee and go to bed with Jimmy Kimmel. But I pay $180 a month for this privilege, along with premium cable channels such as HBO and Showtime – extremely self-indulgent for a senior on a fixed income.

Luckily, there are some solutions in the works.

New Developments for Cord Cutters

New solutions for cord cutters will arrive in 2015. They include:

Sling TV which will stream live TV for $20 a month. Channels streamed by Sling TV will include ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Travel Channel, Food Network, ABC Family, HGTV, Disney Channel and Maker. Read more about it here.

Untethered HBO If you’re a Game of Thrones addict like me, you’ll be able to get your fix without having a cable subscription by buying HBO separately as a streaming channel. Here’s the skinny on that.

My Cord “Trimming” Solution

Neither Sling TV nor HBO Untethered solves the Cathy Lee and Hoda problem, but if I spring for basic cable, I can get the live local channels plus some cable channels. You could do the same if live TV is important to you.

However, in the world of cord cutting it can take some ingenuity and research to get the current season or a new episode of a particular favorite show. Hulu carries most shows but not all. At home I have a DVR (digital video recorder) as part of my cable TV package (costs extra of course) and I record “Downton Abbey” so I never miss an episode. But the only streaming service that carries the current season of Downton is Amazon, and they’re charging $2.99 for it in HD. So I will bite the bullet and pay for it.

The Bottom Line

Even if you opt for all the bells and whistles of the cord-cutting option, including Netflix and Hulu plus, your monthly bill will be under $50. If you add basic cable, you’ll bring it up by $30 or $40, depending on where you live. I suspect that once premium cable channels like HBO and live TV services like Sling are added, the bill may start climbing. But I doubt it will ever reach the heights I’ve been paying.

Think you’re ready to cut the cord?

 

See more Aging With Geekitude articles.

Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.

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27 comments
  • Don
    REPLY

    Just get a leaf antenna which can be placed on the wall, it will tune in all of the local channels so you can watch live TV.

  • jack wilde
    REPLY

    you do not need to pay for tv,movies sports etc. i use.. Crackle putlocker…and others..i watch Nascar live on many live streaming networks like..fox1 fox2…nbc….live streaming just google free live streaming tv…

  • Peter
    REPLY

    For me, cutting the cable was an easy decision. Why? Because I never watched live TV, not even live sports, due to the overwhelming number of commercials.

    If I’m to pay for access to content, I want that content to be of high quality and commercial free. Cable offers none of that, unless you shell out extra dough for premium channels that play the same stuff over and over. Good riddance to that ripoff — streaming is a much better way to go… Unless you’re too set in your ways to change.

  • Jared
    REPLY

    Erica, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, The CW and PBS are all available via a antenna. Thing is you will need to either press the input or buy a dvr (such as the tablo) to play it on a streaming device such as a roku or others.

    Check out cutcordinfo.com and leave a comment or contact the admin if you think something should be added or you disagree with something.

  • carola
    REPLY

    I was delighted to read such a thorough article on “Cutting the Cord.” I have been contemplating the idea for quite sometime just did not know how to, or know of anyone who had been brave enough. I am currently qlso reading Cnet reviews on all devices for this new technology.

    I do want to hang on to my land line. It is surely a really big decision.

  • Anya
    REPLY

    I am on my way to cut the cord. Am currently using my old tube TV to watch my old movies. It’s free, commercials-free, and no annoying cable box to shut off if I chose to watch TV non-stop. Besides there is or actually there WAS a hassle to turn the darn box on. Anyway, said cable box is the history now along with its fee.

    I however have a small HDTV in my bedroom that I’m going to start streaming on, so I’m done with the cable for good.

    Wish I could do something similar to my Internet connection. Am currently looking for the deals for us folks who are on a fixed income.

  • Kate
    REPLY

    You can subscribe to a Roku channel that is PBS; it allows you to watch currently popular shows like Downtown Abbey the day after they air. It’s free once you have the Roku.

  • Emily Scott
    REPLY

    Good tutoring on cutting cable. I think some of it will make sense to me eventually as I want certain things. I wonder if it is good for computer lifespan to use it like a tv. AND, most fun, did you have a car in FL? What city did you visit? Thanks for your excellent articles.

      • Emily Scott
        REPLY

        I am so impressed with your independence and spirit. Wherever you move, will you still be writing for Sr.Planet? You must!! Are you familiar with Pompano Beach? Will you rent? How do you spend a day in that paradise? Do you like to walk on the beach? Will you have a room mate or large dog? Details pls. Right now, I like snow and with a good stock of food and a workout area, I tunnel inside. In Aug., Sept., you will have to visit up north. ha ha have a good life, Thanks for all your help. ES

        • Erica Manfred
          REPLY

          Thanks soooo much Emily. I’m staying in Pompano this winter as a matter of fact. Great beach here,. No to roommate, yes to small dog, yes to renting, I spend my days swimming at the local public pool (pool at condo sucks) and then hanging out at the beach. Don’t know where I’ll wind up in FL but am open to suggestions.

  • sandy
    REPLY

    I read your post on Senior Planet about cutting the cord, which I happily have done. and you do not have to buy a Roku or a Chromecast or any of those items. All you need to do to see the streaming show on your tv is to buy a cord, plug it into your PC and your tv go to HDMI and Voila! anything showing on your pc is now viewed on your tv.

    Also you do not have to pay Hulu anything. They have two options, Hulu which is free or Hulu plus which costs $7.

    • Erica Manfred
      REPLY

      Sandy, technically you are right, but it’s hard enough to cut the cord in the first place so why not spend $50 or $100 and make life a whole lot easier with a Roku. Yes, you can hook your computer up to the TV but you have to schlepp the computer, find a place to put it, and you won’t have a remote. Plus there’s much more content on the Roku than online and it’s way easier to access. You CAN stream content wirelessly from your TV but so far there’s no easy, cheap way to do this. As for Hulu, technically you’re right again, but for $7 you get more shows more quickly. I’m talking cutting the cord not going cold turkey.

  • Erica Manfred
    REPLY

    Glad I was helpful to y’all. Or some of you anyway. This technology is changing so fast that I’m sure I’ve missed developments in the past two weeks. For instance, I didn’t know the Amazon Fire box may be the best option–I took a look at it on Amazon and the “best” reviewer goes into great detail comparing the different options and says the Amazon streaming box performs better than the Roku. Check out his review.

    Sorry I left out antennas, I live in an area with mountains where they are pretty worthless. However in flat Florida, where I am for the winter, they’re pretty effective.

    I suspect that all this cord cutting fervor plus standalone services like HBO and Sling will eventually bring down cable and satellite bills to be competitive.

    Look out for my telephone cord cutting article in the future.

  • Lizz
    REPLY

    Help me! My name is Lizz and I’m a TV addict. I need to cut my bill – 2 months ago, but the thought of losing any channel for ANY length of time scares me! I’m in NY/NJ area and I will testing/changing my cable/internet/phone services soon. Thanks for this information!

  • Bette
    REPLY

    By cutting the cord & cable, how does one without a “home” phone connect to the Internet
    to use a Roku?

    BTW: We made an inexpensive antenna using a piece of lumber, coat hangers and hardware – if interested check Instructables for directions.

    • Carolanne
      REPLY

      Bette,

      Look for DSL providers who offer “naked dsl.” With naked DSL, you do not need a landline. Some companies call it something other than “naked,” but it’s all the same. Tell the rep that you don’t have a landline or are getting rid of yours. That way, they’ll know what you need even if they don’t use the term “naked.” We use AT&T and pay about $42 a month including tax.

  • Carolanne
    REPLY

    We haven’t had cable or a dish for years. In addition to Hulu Plus ($7) and Netflix streaming ($9 for new members; $8 for those who’ve been with them since before May 2014), we bought an Amazon Prime box ($99 one-time fee). Altogether, then, we pay $15 a month for television. In order for the Prime Box to work, you have to be an Amazon Prime member, which is $99 a year, significantly less than our Tier One cable package cost for one month ($156) Plus, with Amazon Prime, we often get free delivery from Amazon. Once in a while we splurge and buy a series that otherwise won’t be available for a while. Downton Abbey is free, because with Amazon Prime (and Roku), you can get PBS. We also
    got rid of our land line. Plus free deliveries from Amazon.

    We have online service for $42 a month (yes–it’s true–you do not need a land line to have online service). We use Ting for cellphone service. Never more than $40 a month. Usually about $35, including text, minutes and data for two lines combined.So, altogether, we pay $102 a month for telephone, online and all the television we want.

  • Carolanne
    REPLY

    We haven’t had cable or a dish for years. In addition to Hulu Plus ($7) and Netflix streaming ($9 for new members; $8 for those who’ve been with them since before May 2014), we bought an Amazon Prime box ($99 one-time fee). Altogether, then, we pay $15 a month for television. In order for the Prime Box to work, you have to be an Amazon Prime member, which is $99 a year, significantly less than our Tier One cable package cost for one month ($156) Plus, with Amazon Prime, we often get free delivery from Amazon. Once in a while we splurge and buy a series that otherwise won’t be available for a while. Downton Abbey is free, because with Amazon Prime (and Roku), you can get PBS. We also
    got rid of our land line.

    We have online service for $42 a month (yes–it,s true–you do not need a land line to have online service). We use Ting for cellphone service. Never more than $40 a month. Usually about $35, including text, minutes and data.

  • Teresa
    REPLY

    Thanks for this article. My first day on Senior Planet and you’ve told me how to get out from under a $160+ cable bill. Win-win.

  • Leacey
    REPLY

    I was going to say get an antenna as well. Although it isn’t an option in some areas. When I was in my apartment, the antenna wouldn’t work very well. In my house, it works like a charm. I emailed this story to a colleague because we were just talking about this. You taught me about a few options I didn’t know. Thanks!

  • Smoochy18
    REPLY

    The solution for Kathy Lee and Hoda is a television antenna! They are absolutely great. We were able to cut the cord and still get all of our network shows, live TV, local news, and NFL games. In addition to the antenna we have a DVR+ from Channel Master. This is a subscription-free DVR that is very similar to using your cable or satellite DVR. So we can still pause live TV and set timers for all of our favorite network shows. We’ve also got a Roku. It’s absolute heaven and it was bye-bye to the ridiculous monthly TV bill! We also cut our land-line telephone service and just use our cell phones. Lots of money saved!

    • Anya
      REPLY

      @Smoochy,

      I tried antenna on my TV and it didn’t work. Nothing fancy just good old rabbit ears.

      I also used to have Roku but it died :-( because I didn’t plug it into a surge protector. So now I will give it a better chance by plugging into one. You live & learn.

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