For many people, saving money is the primary reason for cutting the cord on cable or satellite. This isn’t surprising given that the costs of cable are actually rising four times faster than inflation. That’s simply not sustainable for the average family.
Despite the best efforts of the cable industry, you can still save a significant amount of money (often $100/month or more) by becoming a cord cutter and still enjoy all of your favorite shows.
Here are five tricks from your fellow cord-cutters that’ll help you maximize your cord cutting savings:
1. Rethink How You Access Television
If you have a cable subscription, it’s likely a significant portion of your overall entertainment budget even though you may not think of it that way. What value are you getting for that money? If you’re spending most of your time channel surfing or getting sucked into reruns of Storage Wars, probably not a lot.
Take some time to examine which shows you consider to be ‘can’t miss’ and evaluate how you spend most of your time in front of the TV. The majority of the content you really want to watch is likely available from other sources at a significant discount if you’re willing to change the way you access it.
And don’t be concerned about grandma or the toddler not being able to adjust to new technology to access TV. If you've compared a cable box remote to Roku’s lately, you’ll understand why that change won’t be hard at all.
2. Find and Negotiate an Internet-Only Subscription Package
Many people start their cord-cutting journey by calling their cable provider to find out how much savings they could achieve by simply taking cable off of their existing bundle. Unfortunately, many cable companies have structured their offerings specifically to dissuade people from doing this and sometimes offer a ‘basic cable’ pack (which mostly includes local stations available for free with an antenna) for a slightly reduced cost.
In order to secure a good quality internet-only subscription, you’ll either need to play hardball when negotiating with your existing provider (some tips here) or switch to another provider to take advantage of discounts only available to new customers.
And speaking of making a switch, often the best choice for cord cutters is to find an independent local ISP. Since these companies don’t offer cable TV, their rates and policies for internet-only packages are often more compelling.
You can also manage your internet costs by keeping tabs on and taking steps to stay within data caps (if you have them). If you want some tips on cord cutting with a data cap click here.
3. Get a TV Antenna
If you live in or near a metropolitan area, by simply connecting an antenna to your TV you can watch 47 of the top 50 shows absolutely free in high definition. Over-the-Air (OTA) HDTV antennas can cost anywhere from $10-$200 dollars. The size and quality of antenna you’ll need will depend on how far away from the broadcast towers you live. Lucky for you, we’ve got some tools to help you find those towers, see what shows are airing, and how to choose and position your antenna for best results.
If you’re not home or too busy to watch your favorite shows live, you can pick up a DVR designed for OTA antennas like Tablo. Unlike cable DVRs which cost $231 per year on average in rental fees, many of these devices can be used with no or very low recurring costs.
4. Be Choosy with Streaming Subscriptions
Of course if you swap cable for subscriptions to every streaming service under the sun, you’ll be spending just as much, if not more. With all of their great content (and a growing stable of exclusive content) a Netflix subscription is usually a no-brainer. Meanwhile, if you’re already signed up for Amazon Prime for the shipping benefits, or became a member during a sale, accessing Amazon’s burgeoning streaming video service can be a great deal.
If you’ve got someone in the household with a death grip on their cable box remote, you may be able to appease them by spending $20+ a month on Sling TV which provides access to cable-only content like ESPN, HGTV, AMC (calling all Walking Dead fans) and Disney channels. There are even more channels available as ‘add-ons’ for between $5-15/month but this can add up quickly, so beware.
Hulu has its fans because they’re the only streaming service with recent broadcast content. This is a cost-effective alternative for those who can’t receive Over-the-Air TV signals, but if you have access to OTA TV why would you pay $100-150 dollars/year for something that’s free? (If the answer to that question is “…To watch TV on mobile devices or on-demand,” an OTA DVR with streaming capabilities like Tablo will achieve the same result without ongoing charges.) Plus, Hulu doesn’t have CBS content because that network has its own streaming service, nor does it offer live football.
5. Purchase Specific Content via Season Passes
If you’re hanging on to cable because you can’t miss the Real Housewives of *Insert City Here* or you’re considering picking up an HBO streaming subscription just for Game of Thrones, it may be more cost-effective to simply purchase individual episodes or season passes via iTunes.
The math here is simple: HBO Now is $14.99/month or $179.88/year while a season pass for Game of Thrones is only $38.99 by comparison. Again, why pay for more than you need?
It is possible for the average family to save a lot of money by ditching cable. Over the past year, more technology and services have become available making it easier than ever to cut the cord. Some research is required to be able to optimize your savings, but in the end that extra money will be in your kid’s college fund, your savings account or your pocket when you go on vacation which makes it all worthwhile.
If you’d like to get a start on your cord cutting research today, check out our calculator tool to find out how much you could save!