So let me start by being clear about what you are not going to find here when I say, “Don’t pay for cable.” This post isn’t a click-bait post. This site is about helping people become financial independent with the potential of retiring early. So this article isn’t going to show you how to rip off your cable company, even if you feel entitled because their customer service is non-existent. This post is about cutting the cord and finding alternatives for your TV viewing, saving the thousand or so dollars you’d otherwise spend every year.
Now that I got that out of the way, if you’re still here you are likely interested in options for cutting the cord that tethers your cable company directly to your bank account. I don’t pay for cable. I haven’t paid for cable in almost 10 years, and I propose you don’t pay for cable either.
First of all, the industry needs to be disrupted. I think we are on the precipice looking over into that glorious day. I’ve been waiting for it a while. Unfortunately, the current cable substitutes are actually more expensive than cable is right now when you add in all the factors. I’m not sure how people have bought into that, but marketing is magical. In this case, I think it’s black magic.
Secondly, that much TV really isn’t good for you. I know I sound like your mother. She was right. Get over it. You waste so much time flipping channels and settling for what ever the networks decide to show you. How is your life really better by seeing who got cut from The Voice? I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch TV or that I don’t. I watch it, and I actually really like TV and always have. I was just fortunate enough to grow up in the boon docks where cable didn’t reach. We didn’t opt for satellite TV. So I learned that you could actually watch TV for free!!!
These days, there are way more options for cutting the cable cord. Many of the options require you to have internet. That’s ok, because unlike cable you can leverage your internet connection for lowering your mobile data bill. I’ll write more about that later, and I’ll also give some pointers and do some how-tos on the items I’m about to list. This post is just to get you thinking, and *gasp*, maybe even researching how to do them on your own. Take a chance once in while! Use that beautiful brain you have. Oh right, it’s mush because you watch too much TV…
Don’t Pay for Cable – Alternatives for watching TV:
- Buy an antenna and set it up. According to where you live, this could even be those old rabbit ears or one of those newer plate antennae that are on the market. Believe it or not, OTA (Over The Air) signals are often broadcast in HD up to 1080. It cracks me up when I see it advertised that a particular antenna lets you watch in HD. They all do. Save some money and just find one that works. You’ll typically get most, if not all, of your local channels. I’ll do a how-to article on how to do this for those of you who may not know. It has varying degrees of simplicity based on your location and needs, but in the end you just connect a coaxial cable between your TV and an antenna. In many cases, the coaxial cable comes with the antenna.
- Stream Amazon, Netflix or Hulu. This option does require internet. I don’t suggest doing this over your mobile data due to the crazy bit rate consumption of streaming video. Also, both of these services cost about $100 a year. If you’re paying attention, you’ll realize that is about the price of one month of cable. You just saved a grand! Not really, because you had to pay for internet. But if you were paying for that already, you just saved a grand! Now you won’t get American Idol on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon, but you can watch it for free through your antenna or catch the highlights on YouTube. Also, many sporting events are broadcast over the air on major networks. ESPN.com and the ESPN app also stream much of their content for free. Each of the services I’ve recommended above has its strengths and weaknesses, and the factors are relative to your personal usage. I think that an Amazon Prime membership carries the best value because you get so much more than video with it (like free shipping, free ebooks, etc). You can try Amazon Prime and check out all its benefits including video streaming free by clicking this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.
- Watch it later, like DVR, online. You’d be surprised at how many episodes of your favorite shows are on websites like YouTube. Many of the Networks even post shows you can watch for free on their sites. Again, you will need internet access for this option. Late night TV also posts those clips your co-workers are always talking about at the water cooler. You can join in the banter all the while knowing you’re $1000 wealthier than they are.
- Don’t watch TV. Ride a bike. Have a face-to-face conversation with someone you care about. Play a board game with your family. Visit a friend. Ride a bike. Wrestle with your kids, or better yet have a tickle fight. You might even try that last one with your significant other. Read a book. Brew a pot of great coffee and sit outside while holding hands with your spouse and revel in just how great your life actually is by counting your blessings. You get the point.
The Savings Add Up When You Don’t Pay For Cable
When they cut the cord, most people save at least $50 per month. That’s $600 per year. Over 10 years that’s $6,000. Compounded annually at a conservative, 7%, that’s around a total of $8,600. Over 20 years you get close to $25,000!
One of the biggest benefits you receive when you don’t pay for cable is that you’ve lowered your yearly expenses and increased your savings rate, which makes your magic number for FIRE easier to reach. You likely also find something more rewarding and valuable to do with your time. Bang! Instantly, a better life for less when you don’t pay for cable. Your bill is likely more, so you’ll be saving and investing even more!
If you know of other options, I love to learn. Share them with us all in the comments. Now go hack your FIRE.