This is a short guide to cutting the cord made to help you in your decision to part ways with your cable tv or satellite tv provider.
You may have used cable TV for years and it may be difficult to picture a life without it.
In fact, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms once you do cut the cord. The good news is there now great streaming options to fill the void and save you money.
Reasons for cutting the cord
The main reason is money. The average cable or satellite TV bill is over $100, that is more than $1200 a year spent on channels the majority of which you never even watch. Most people only watch a small fraction of the channels they have available.
Streaming does require a good internet connection but it’s likely something you already have or can upgrade to relatively inexpensively. Local channels, news, and sports are all available over the air.
Not using what you are paying for is only part of the problem. Merely having the options available in front of you can cause you stress. Incessant channel surfing is a symptom of having too many choices. Too many choices mean your time watching TV is filled with short bursts of dubious quality entertainment.
A DVR box might come to the rescue but it will also add an additional cost to your already inflated monthly bill. You’ll get to schedule your recordings but after a few months of use end up with too many choices in your library instead.
Time wasting goes hand in hand with excessive options, feeling pressure to watch what you record as if to validate the reason why you recorded things in the first place. You now also have to pick between what you record and live tv.
Once you cut the cord you will find that you’re not as compelled to spend hours in front of the tv. I found using the antenna strangely liberating, you cannot pause or go back and if you miss something you get to let it go and life goes on.
In case that’s unbearable, you can get an OTA DVR (Over-the-air DVR) that will work with your antenna and an internet connection used for getting the programming guide.
Steps for Cutting the Cord
1. Schedule the Cancelation
Schedule the cancelation of your cable tv or dish. You need to do that first so your payments will not overlap if you choose to get premium online streaming or upgrade your internet speed. Many of the paid services will offer a free trial so check the length of the trial if you do choose to get one.
2. Check your Internet Speed
Online streaming services do require a decent internet connection and you will need to verify that your internet subscription is up to par. Typically 5Mbps should be enough for HD movies and 25Mbps or more for 4K.
Generally, higher is better but it’s usually really easy to upgrade if you experience issue due to speed. You can check your speed with your Internet provider and also using an online speed checker like this one. You should also check your monthly data cap on your internet plan. High-quality streaming will use more data.
Netflix, for example, will use about 3GB per hour per device for 1080p HD content, and 7GB for Ultra HD according to this answer in their help center. So if your data cap is 1TB (1024GB) then you can watch about 341 hours of HD content or 146 hours of Ultra HD not counting your normal browsing and other Internet usages.
To find data cap restrictions for some of the most common providers on this site but also double-check with your provider for your specific plan.
Use our data usage calculator to estimate your data use based on how many hours you watch daily.
3. Buy an Antenna
An amplified HDTV antenna should do the trick for your local tv and news channels and even some sports. You do want the amplified antenna that plugs into the outlet. It will perform much better and get better reception than a regular antenna.
Best Selling Amplified HD Antenna On Amazon
4. Get a Streaming Device
Your tv might already have built-in streaming, most modern tv models do. But if it does not you can get an HDMI stick or box that will do the same. There are some choices here, my personal favorite is the Fire TV stick since I do subscribe to Amazon Prime (more on that later). But there are several other choices you can pick from such as Roku, (more on that later also).
5. Subscribe to a Streaming Service
This part is entirely optional because as you will soon learn there are lots of free choices to pick from. But coming from cable tv or satellite where you might have had some premium channels, and in order to make the transition a bit easier, you can subscribe to one or two services and still save money.
6. Return Old Equipment
Once you cancel your cable tv or satellite tv you will need to return the equipment. Make sure you return all the equipment you are asked to return otherwise you will be charged for what is missing. Most companies these days will provide you with return boxes to simplify the process but either way, make the effort to return everything. Equipment is expensive and it may cost you a few hundred dollars for a lost DVR box.
Best Cable TV Alternatives
Paid Streaming Services
Also an excellent choice with plenty of content. There are movies, TV shows, Netflix originals. A solid option for your streaming needs. Decide if you need the 4K streaming, and if your internet speed and tv can handle it, there is a difference in price between 1080p (HD) and 4K. Their lowest plan starts at $8.99/mo with one screen and 1080p only. Then $12.99/mo for 2 screens. And finally $15.99/mo for 4 screens with 4K where available.
Amazon Prime (Subscription)
It’s a great service with lots of movies and tv show options. There are also high quality exclusive original series and movies. In addition to streaming it also gives you access to amazon prime free shipping if you shop through the Amazon site along with some other perks that come with the membership. The cost of the membership is $119/year so that’s about $10/mo. The price is lower for students $59/year so that’s around $5/mo. (Make sure you pay for the year monthly payments come out to be about $36 and $18 more per year). You can get Amazon Prime here (affiliate link)
Hulu also has a nice selection of movies and tv shows. Their library is currently available for only $5.99/mo if you are willing to deal with commercials. To remove ads you will need to upgrade to $11.99/mo which is more in line with the competition. They frequently offer month-long trials as well, which is plenty of time to figure out if their content is worth the cost for you.
Vudu provides an excellent selection of movies that you can rent individually. So this could be a good choice if you only watch new releases occasionally. You will find rentals anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99 for new releases and older titles for as low as $0.99. Depending on the movie you will have 24 hours or 48 hours to finish watching. It’s also worth mentioning that many older or less popular titles are available for free with ads.
Priced at $14.99/mo HBO Max includes all of the current original HBO subscription along with movies and shows from WarnerMedia’s brands including Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, and TNT among others. It’s a major upgrade to the old HBO lineup that was featured at a similar price. On top of the new content from other networks, HBO Max produces original content and in this new covid world features some movie releases the same day as their theater premieres.
Free Streaming Services
- The Roku Channel
- Hoopla Digital
DVR for the Antenna (OTA DVR)
OTA DVRs give you the option to pause, rewind, and record live tv that will work with your over-the-air antenna. A middle ground that allows you to take advantage of free channels with the option of a programming guide and recording. The devices aren’t cheap so be ready to spend anywhere from $100 to $400 for the DVR.
Some devices require an external hard drive that will cost about $50 for 1TB (1024GB) and then an extra $10 to $20 for each additional TB (terabyte). The number of recordings you can store on a 1TB drive will vary depending on quality and device but should get you over 150 hours of HD recording. That is more than 18 days of content if you watched it for 8 hours a day.
Below are some options to look at:
One of the cheaper devices available requires an external drive for DVR functionality but does come well under $100, not including the cost of the hard drive.
You cannot talk about DVRs without mentioning TiVo a name that is almost synonymous with DVR. TiVo Bolt OTA is an introductory device in their lineup with a 1000GB capacity built-in. TiVo service does, however, require a subscription, which will cost you an additional $6.99/mo (or $6/mo if prepaid for a year).
There are 4 devices to pick from with the main distinction being the number of simultaneous live streams/recordings. You will need an external drive so factor in an additional cost of about $50. The introductory version of the device is currently $139. So you are looking at a total of about $190.
Tablo 2-Tuner DVR
Fire TV Recast
The more expensive option comes with a 500GB drive included. It does require a Fire TV player or another Amazon streaming media player to work and also an Amazon account (free). The benefit of that is that the device itself can be placed away from the TV since it streams to your Fire TV player, which is connected to your TV.
Fire TV Recast
Those are services that will replace your cable tv or satellite dish by providing the same or similar channel lineups online. They are mentioned here for the sake of completeness but beware, it’s easy to fall into the same trap of overpaying for channels you don’t use.
By the time you add some a la carte channels, a couple of premium movie channels, some sports, and a cloud DVR you may end up close to where you started.
- Sling TV (From $15/mo)
- AT&T TV (From $15/mo)
- Philo TV (From $20/mo)
- Hulu Live TV (From $44.99/mo)
- YouTube TV (From $49.99/mo)
- Playstation Vue (From $49.99/mo)
- Fubo TV (From $54.99/mo)