My parents always refused to get cable, and it always used to annoy the heck out of me. I’d go to school and all my friends would be discussing the latest MTV shows, but I’d be left out since I only had nine channels. When I begged my parents for cable TV, I always got the same annoyingly sensible response: “We’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by not having cable.” Irritating, but also quite true.
Cable television is one thing that you can live without, believe it or not. Take a page out of my book: I lived without it for 18 years. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I first tasted the awesomeness of having a few hundred channels. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until I had all those extra channels that I started wasting vast amounts of time watching TV.
Cable is not cheap. If you’re looking to save some money, cable is one place you can definitely cut down by more than a few dollars. I’m no cable-plan expert, but just from looking at Xfinity’s offerings, new customers are paying between $30 and $85 each month for a cable-only package. In other words, you could be spending over $1000 a year just for the privilege of sitting on your butt and channel-surfing.
If you’re looking to cut back, consider going cable-free. The Internet makes it unbelievably easy to watch just about any show you’re looking for without ever signing up for cable. That said, here are a few alternative options to paying for cable TV.
Watch online at network websites. Some major networks offer full episodes of popular shows for free, on their websites. On ABC’s website, for example, you can watch full episodes of everything from Bachelor Pad to Rookie Blue. Other networks that offer full episodes for viewing include NBC, CBS, HBO, and MTV. That’s just a tiny assortment of all the networks that offer shows online, so if there’s a particular program you’re looking for, check the network’s website first to see if you can view it for free.
Watch it online with Hulu. Hulu is a great Internet source for free full episodes. The episodes have limited commercial interruption, and are generally available pretty quickly after the show airs on television. Hulu is my go-to source whenever someone else is hogging the TV.
Get a subscription to Hulu Plus or Netflix. In addition to providing free online television episodes, Hulu offers a paid service called Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus is more or less the same thing as Netflix, Hulu’s more well-known competitor.
If you’re unfamiliar with Netflix, I’ll give you a little bit of background. It got its start by replacing brick-and-mortar rental stores with a mail service for movies and other media. With a monthly membership, Netflix will mail you whatever movies you want, and you can keep them as long as you need.
Now, both Netflix and Hulu are offering services for streaming TV episodes and movies via Internet to mobile devices, TVs, smartphones, gaming consoles, and more. Both companies charge $7.99 a month for this service, and they’re pretty comparable in quality and offerings. For that low price, you’ll get many of the same shows you would get on cable for less than half the cost, AND you can watch them on your TV, iPad, mobile phone, or anywhere you’d like.
Get Apple TV or similar hardware. The most annoying part about having to watch stuff on the Internet is that you have to sit at your computer. This makes it super hard for friends and family to join in on the fun.
If you don’t want to pay a monthly service fee for programs like Hulu Plus or Netflix, Apple TV is your answer. It works through a tiny little box that connects to your TV via an HDMI cable. This magical little box allows you to wirelessly send content from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch right to your TV. This works a little differently than services like Hulu or Netflix, since it’s not actually providing you with content to watch, but rather making Internet content more easily accessible. You still have to pay to purchase TV shows or movies from iTunes. But if you don’t plan on buying a lot of shows, and you’re happy with Internet freebies, you can save a lot of money by just paying the one-time fee of $99 to get the Apple TV box.
Don’t want to splurge on the Apple TV hardware? You can also try Roku, a cheaper device that follows the same idea, for just $50. And if you’re a gamer, did you know that your PlayStation 3 can already do it all? It’s one of the most versatile hunks of electronic out there, so if you’ve got one, you might as well make use of it!
Make do with basic channels. Ok so most people would think I’m crazy for suggesting this. Having only nine channels growing up was very frustrating in the morning and early afternoons, for example, when I’d have to resort to watching court shows like Judge Judy. But I’d like to take this opportunity to point out a whole bunch of ways you could use that extra time away from your television set. You can get more exercise, spend more time actively engaged with your family, read a book, get out of the house, or just do more productive things in general.
Whatever option you choose, it’s likely to be a whole lot cheaper than paying for cable. Hopefully these options will either help save you money, or help you get off the couch to lead a more active lifestyle!