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How to Save Money on TV by Cutting Cable How to Save Money on TV by Cutting Cable
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How to Save Money on TV by Cutting Cable

Insights & Ideas Team •  February 20, 2017 | Your Finances, On a Budget, Home and Family

Is cable television taking up a considerable portion of your household budget? With internet streaming, subscription services and many other video entertainment options now available, you may find it easier than ever to cut the cord. Ask yourself the following three questions before you get rid of cable to decide if doing so will actually keep you on a budget or increase your costs.

1. What do you want to be able to watch? Each cable TV alternative offers different shows and different ways to watch. You need to think about what shows (or types of shows) you want access to and which subscriptions give you what you want without costing too much money.

If you don’t watch a lot of TV or don’t need access to the latest shows, you may be happy with free entertainment options. YouTube and other online video services offer a wide range of free videos, and many local libraries have extensive DVD collections available for borrowing.

To extend your viewing options, see if your favorite channel has an app or lets you watch shows online. If you don’t have cable, you may have to pay per show or for a subscription.

If you want access to many shows or networks consider streaming services. Hulu subscribers can watch popular shows from broadcast stations and basic cable the day after they air, but unless you pay for the top tier of service, you’ll be watching commercials as well. Netflix has a wide variety of broadcast, cable and original shows without commercials, but they are usually a season or more behind what’s airing on live TV. Amazon Prime also offers video streaming as well as other services, including free two-day shipping on purchases, music streaming and an e-book lending library. Many subscription services offer a free trial period, so you can check out what they offer and how they work before you commit.

The biggest hurdle many face when cutting the cord is watching live sporting events. You can watch local broadcasts, including major events like the Super Bowl, in real time with an HD antenna, but what if your team isn’t local? Luckily, more and more options are becoming available to stream live sports, including the WatchESPN app and March Madness Live. Avid sports fans may want to check out Sling TV, which streams live TV for less than cable. Before you cancel cable, make sure that you can cheer on your favorite teams.

As you prepare to cut the cord, think about what you want to be able to watch, and research your options for doing so without cable.

2. What equipment will you need? Without question, in order to stream videos, you will need a fast internet connection. Basic internet speeds may leave you waiting for shows to load, making you more frustrated and missing cable. If you currently bundle your cable and internet, you may be surprised that the cost of internet alone may not be as low as you expected. Shop around if you can, and negotiate with your provider to get the best deal.

Next, you’ll need either an HD antenna, a streaming device or both. (If you have a newer TV or DVD player, you may be able to stream shows via apps without any additional equipment.) With an HD antenna, you can access local broadcast networks to watch sports, the news and network programming.

If your current devices don’t have streaming capabilities and you don’t want to watch everything on your smartphone, tablet or computer, you’ll need something to transmit streamed videos to your television via WiFi. Apple TVAmazon Fire TV Stick, Roku and even some video game systems help you do this.

If you love your DVR and are used to recording shows to watch later, you may want a device like Channel Master or Tablo, which record shows but do not stream, or TiVo or Slingbox, which do both.

3. Is the cost difference worth it? After trying out a few services and evaluating your options, add up the costs to see if cutting the cord would really save you money on TV while still letting you watch the shows you like.

First, add up the one-time costs of switching, including equipment purchases and cable cancellation fees, if applicable. Then add up your monthly costs of streaming subscriptions plus your new internet rate. Compare these costs to your current monthly cable bill to find out how much you’ll really be saving.

Cutting the cable cord can save you money, but it can also be a lifestyle adjustment. Before making the leap, consider what you watch and how you like to watch it to make sure getting rid of cable is right for you; and if you can, try before you buy through free trial offers. Cord-cutting may even help you spend less time watching TV and more time doing other things you enjoy. With the right combination of services and equipment, you could save money on TV, stretching your budget further for savings and other expenses.

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