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Cord Cutting 101: How to Cancel Cable and Start Saving Money in 2021

Cutting the cord on cable TV without losing access to your favorite shows is getting easier every day.

But, it can be challenging to navigate the the sheer amount of options available to cord cutters to find the best cable TV alternatives for your needs. 

Don't worry! We're here to help you ditch your expensive pay TV subscription and maximize your savings by switching to a blend of streaming and Over-the-Air TV.

With the four simple how-to steps below, you can cut cable and start enjoying significant savings and a more flexible TV viewing experience in 2021.

tablo cord cutting 101 2021

Cord Cutting Step 1 – Find Your TV Content
Cord Cutting Step 2 – Choose Your Hardware
Cord Cutting Step 3 – Prepare Your WiFi Network
Cord Cutting Step 4 – Save Money!

Cord Cutting Step 1 – Find Your TV Content

maggie loves TV

In the United States, virtually every TV show is available without a cable or satellite subscription – either live, on-demand, or via one-time purchase.

Step 1 in your cord cutting journey is to make a list of your family’s ‘must-watch’ TV programs. Include network TV series like The Masked Singer, live sports, news, and events. 

Using that list, you can identify the best and most cost-effective combination of free Over-the-Air TV, paid video streaming channels, and other free TV streaming sources to meet your family’s entertainment needs.


Free Over-the-Air Antenna TV

TV antenna in window

With 94 of the top 100 most-watched shows available with an Over-the-Air TV antenna, it’s likely you’re paying thousands of dollars in cable subscriptions and associated fees to watch ‘free’ TV. 

Visit our handy channel locator tool to find out what networks you can watch for free in your home, including awesome OTA subchannels that feature retro and specialty content you can’t find anywhere else.

Not sure what antenna to buy? Check out our Buyer’s Guide for TV antennas so you can avoid getting scammed by disreputable antenna manufacturers.

We also have how-to suggestions on positioning and installing your antenna to ensure you get the best Over-the-Air TV signal, or how to find a professional antenna installer if you'd rather go that route.


Paid Live TV Streaming Services 

live streaming tv services 2021

Live internet-based TV streaming services are a good way to supplement free Over-the-Air TV broadcasts with your favorite cable channels like ESPN, HGTV, CNN, Fox News, Hallmark and more.

With no contracts, you can easily rotate through services as sports seasons or your favorite series come and go. 

The best value options are Sling TV and Philo which focus on subsets of popular live cable TV channels. Sports and cable news fans should opt for Sling, whereas those interested in lifestyle or science and nature programming should opt for Philo.

Although they might be a convenient replacement for cable, it's best to avoid larger streaming ‘bundles’ from Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and others. Why? They can cost $20-$45 MORE per month (just for the base packages) simply because they include some local channels you can watch free with an antenna and those costs will only continue to rise.  

Not sure what services carry the network or show you need? Check out the MyBundle.TV recommendation engine to find out which services meet your needs.


Paid On-Demand Streaming Services

on-demand streaming TV services 2021

If you're not a sports fan, and have already found yourself watching Netflix more than live TV, supplementing Over-the-Air antenna TV with a rotation of on-demand streaming services may a better fit.

Along with Netflix, some of the most popular on-demand services with cord cutters are Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Peacock, CBS All Access, HBO Max, Apple TV+, and the brand new Discovery+. There are thousands of other services that cater to more niche content and all of them are available for less than $20/month and many are less than $10/ month.

Costs can add up if you subscribe to all of these services at once though. Smart cord cutters rotate through their favorites to maximize savings. For example, once you're done binging The Mandalorian on Disney+ give Peacock a try so you can re-watch The Office.     

Free & Alternative TV Content Sources

hoopla streaming

If you're trying to keep your TV budget to a bare minimum, there's more than enough free TV content available from online sources like YouTube, the Roku ChannelPluto TVTubiTV, and more.

With a library card, you can watch even more movies and TV shows via Hoopla and Kanopy.

Or you can purchase or rent movies, TV episodes, and even full series from iTunes and Vudu



Cord Cutting Step 2 – Choose Your Hardware

You don’t need to buy a brand-new Smart TV to become a cord cutter. You will however need something to replace the outdated cable box you’ve been spending over $200 a year to rent.

Step 2 is deciding how to make your TVs cord cutting-friendly, based on your budget, streaming needs, and the technology you may already have in place.

Streaming Set-Top-Boxes and Sticks

streaming set top boxes and sticks

Any TV can be made ‘smart’ by connecting a streaming stick or streaming player via the HDMI port (found on the back or side of the television).

Roku and Amazon Fire TV dominate the lower end of the market with options starting at $30 but the new Chromecast with Google TV ($50) is also a great choice. Higher-end models like Apple TV and the Nvidia Shield TV ($200) are faster, and in the case of Nvidia, offer more flexibility and features than their lower-end counterparts.  

We’ve compiled a complete list of considerations and recommendations for streaming set-top-boxes and sticks to help you choose the best device for your needs.

Smart TVs

TCL Smart TV

Got a fancy new Smart TV? If it’s running an operating system built by Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Android TV you shouldn't have problems watching Over-the-Air TV or running the latest TV streaming apps you’ll need to cut the cord on cable.

Smart TVs made by LG and Samsung use their own operating systems, which unfortunately means spottier support for streaming apps

But don’t despair. If your TV’s ‘smarts’ don’t support what you need, or are starting to slow down, there's no need to buy a brand new television. You can always connect a set-top-box or stick to ‘upgrade’ it!

DVRs for Cord Cutters

Tablo OTA DVR types

Just because you’re giving up cable, doesn’t mean you have to give up the convenience of a DVR. The best DVR for most cord cutters looking to record Over-the-Air network TV broadcasts from an antenna is Tablo. (And don’t take our word for it, the folks at TechHive agree.) 

Tablo DVRs come in two types:

Tablo's easy-to-use interface includes traditional Live TV grid guides, intutive DVR controls, and even Automatic Commercial Skip.

Recording content from live streaming services is a bit trickier. The majority offer their own cloud-based DVRs, but the capabilities and playback features vary from service to service and even channel to channel.


Cord Cutting Step 3 – Prepare Your WiFi Network

WiFi router

A solid home WiFi network and access to high-speed internet are a must-have for cord cutters. If your WiFi network is flaky, or your router is more than five years old, you might see a lot of buffering/pausing when you attempt to stream high-quality live video

We’ve made step 3 easy with our top 10 tips to get your WiFi network ready for cord cutting.

Worried about bandwidth data caps? There are bandwidth saving tricks cord cutters can use to avoid going over their data cap, including using an Over-the-Air antenna instead of a streaming service to watch live, local TV.



Cord Cutting Step 4 – Save Money!


If you don’t wind up saving money by cutting the cord on cable or satellite, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Even with price hikes and the ever increasing number of paid streaming options, tips like taking advantage of free content from OTA TV and the internet, as well as free trials from paid services can significantly reduce your entertainment expenses.

No contracts means you can also rotate between several paid streaming services without being penalized.

Consumers who follow cord cutting best practices like these wind up saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year when they cancel cable.

Instead of boosting Comcast’s bottom line, they’re living more comfortably, paying down debt, creating college funds, and doing more exciting things like home renovations.



Fewf! Now you’ve got all of the information you need to cancel cable for good.

So make a simple plan, put it into action, and by this time next year, you could be getting ready to spend the money you saved by canceling cable on a nice post-pandemic beach vacation!

cord cutting vacation

And if you need some additional guidance or have a specific question about how your family can successfully cut the cord on cable, we’re here to help.

Ask us your questions on Twitter or Facebook and/or sign up for our informative newsletter Cord Cutting This Week.  


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