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Cutting cable seems like the new “in” thing to do lately. It’s really no wonder: cable companies keep raising their prices and third party streaming services keep offering more for less.
Our basic cable bundle (tv, internet, phone) was running us just under $200 month. That’s insane. It made us feel ill to pay that type of bill each month, especially when we don’t use the tv all that much and had never even connected a phone for the landline.
We started doing research and crunching numbers and discovered we could save over $100/month by getting rid of cable (even when including streaming services.) That’s not a small savings. It’s huge. And right now, cutting costs is a huge priority for us. It’s been a few weeks since we cut the cord, and I couldn’t be happier. Seeing our cable/Internet bill go down to $70/mo from almost $200/mo is the best feeling in the world and we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything. Even the kids are happy. Wins all around.
We’ve had quite a few questions about how we cut the cord and I put together a little FAQ on our strategy. This is what has worked best for our family, and your experience may differ. If I didn’t cover something below, please leave me a comment and I’ll answer the best I can. This is going to be a long post, so go use the restroom first. It’s ok, I’ll wait.
Ok, ready now? Here we go!
How do you even go about starting the whole process?
The first thing we did was plug raw numbers into this handy calculator at Slate. It gave us a rough estimate of our savings and then I did a side-by-side comparison of what we were using/paying for now vs what we’d have sans cable using exact numbers to calculate actual costs. I called Verizon to price out an Internet-only plan and found out it was actually cheaper (by $15/mo) to keep local channels and Internet vs Internet-only*. So I guess we’re not totally “cable-free” or true cord cutters, but we no longer have cable boxes or anything more than an antenna could get us, so I consider that to be close enough.
What type of setup did you have prior to cutting cable?
We had a Fios Triple-Play bundle with a basic HD package, two set-top boxes (one was a DVR), home phone and 50/50 Internet. We were paying for Netflix (streaming-only) and Amazon Prime. We were using our XBox360 to access the streaming components. We did not have Premium channels like HBO or Showtime or any sports packages and our bill neared $200/month. Ouch.
What type of setup do you have now?
Now, we have:
Fios local-only channels (NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, PBS, The Weather Channel, and some cool random channels like Zuus Country Music, Antenna TV, and MeTV [hello classic Batman episodes!]) We kept our same Fios Internet speed.
Sling TV: (not to be confused with Slingbox) ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, HGTV, Disney Channel, CNN, Cartoon Network, IFC, AMC, ABC Family, TNT, TBS, and more for $20/mo. It’s live TV through our Kindle Fire TV (which we got for 50% off when we signed up for 3 months of Sling. You can also get the Fire Stick for free through the same promotion.) There are optional packages for more sports, children’s programming, and movies available for $5/mo. We have not added any additional packages at this time and haven’t felt the need for it yet.
We also kept Amazon Prime and Netflix, so there are no additional costs incurred there.
We switched from using our XBox360 to the Kindle Fire TV for all of our streaming. Sling is not supported on XboxOne or 360 (they claim the XboxOne app is “coming soon”), but it is supported on Kindle Fire TV and Stick as well as Roku.
*If it does price out cheaper for you to go to Internet-only (and not the locals + Internet bundle we received), get yourself an indoor HD antenna. We bought one to try it out and got over 40 channels, including all of our locals. I moved the antenna up to my office once we settled on the Internet + locals bundle and I am loving it. Check out sites like TV Fool to see which channels you’re most likely to pick up with an antenna. And be sure to re-scan for new channels if you move the antenna! We actually got more channels with the antenna than local cable, but it was just easier to use cable in the living room, based on where our tv is located.
But what about sports?!
This has to be the number one question people ask about cutting cable. You can still watch sports, I promise. We get all locally and nationally televised games on ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX as well as any games shown on ESPN/ESPN2. We do not live in any of the markets for our local teams, so we do not get to see every home game as if we lived in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, but it’s ok. There are streaming alternatives available for sports for extra costs. We are considering purchasing MLB.TV for $100/year so we can watch Phillies games. For football, all we’re missing is Thursday night game coverage and we didn’t have the NFL Network before, so no loss there. We aren’t big NBA fans, but we’re covered between TBS/TNT/ESPN/ESPN2 and network coverage.
The sport that we will miss the most is NHL. Thanks to the lame deal with NBC Sports, we miss out on hockey games with our setup as-is. We get the occasional Hockey Night In America game on NBC, but we all know those aren’t aired enough. NHL Gamecenter Live is available for around $50/season. This is another add-on we’re seriously considering, but we want to make sure these add-ons don’t ruin our savings. Broken out over 12 months, adding both NHL Gamecenter and MLB.TV works out to about an additional $13/month.
And the kids?
They’re doing just fine. Sling TV gives them live Disney Channel and they have more than enough to choose from between Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming. I’ve started purchasing their movies via Amazon so they can watch them on their Kindles on road trips. The Kindle Fire TV has a PBS Kids app that’s free and doesn’t require a cable provider login like Watch Disney Junior or Watch DisneyXD. They’re actually watching less TV now because they can’t just throw on Disney Junior and let it play forever. And once we’re actually able to go outside and play again, their TV time is cut even more so they’ll miss even less.
How is Sling TV working for you?
It’s fantastic. Sure, we get a pixilated picture every now and then and buffering, but it’s a streaming service; things like that happen and they don’t happen every time. Now that they’ve added AMC to the lineup, Sling is completely worth $20/month because WALKING DEAD AND MAD MEN. The user interface via Kindle could use a little work and it would be nice to be able to flip to the previous channel without having to scroll back through the entire lineup, but that can always be added in software updates. I don’t see us upgrading to any of the additional packages as they stand today, but if you have younger kids in the house, the Kids Package upgrade may be worth it (I’d love to see PBS Kids or NickJr added to the lineup, too.) The channels offered by Sling were the ones we watched most often, especially ESPN, Disney Channel, HGTV, and AMC.
Do you miss the DVR?
Yes, I can admit we have missed the DVR a little, but not enough to make it worth signing up for everything again. We’ve managed just fine without it. If we miss an episode of a current show and don’t know when it will air again, we can most likely purchase an episode or two via Amazon, as we did with The Walking Dead while we waited for Sling to add AMC. Many shows are also available online via the channel’s website the next day for free. There are plenty of pirated sites like CouchTuner available as well, but we don’t use those in our home. We’ve also found we’re watching a lot more “new to us” content without the DVR filling up with the same stuff every night. The kids, especially, are exploring new shows and not watching the same stuff they recorded over and over again. And you know what I don’t miss? A huge cable box sitting on my shelf. The Kindle Fire TV is small and it makes me want to get rid of our Blu-ray player and Xbox360 because I’m loving the way things look without bulky equipment everywhere.
What are your biggest tips for cutting cable?
Try it for a week before you make any changes. Remove your cable boxes, don’t just turn them off (you’ll be tempted to turn them back on if they’re still connected) for an entire week and see what it’s really like to go without your current cable setup. You can try Sling TV free for two weeks, so there’s no obligation to stick with it if you find that cutting the cord isn’t for you. Write down the channels you and your family watch the most and see if options like Sling TV or Hulu will fill in the gaps. And don’t be afraid to call the cable company and see what they will offer you. I would have never gotten the locals + Internet deal if I did the change through our online account.
So there you have it! If you have a question I didn’t address in my novel above, please leave me a comment and ask away! If you’ve cut cable, I’d love to hear what your favorite streaming services are.