5 Strategies To Stay Entertained and Still Save Money By Cutting Cable


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Our oldest daughter is turning 5 soon, and along with her birthday comes the anniversary of the last time we had cable in this house.

We were expecting to pay for two kids worth of day care back then, and were cutting every expense we could. Along with the cable, we got rid of the landline. I can say after five years that we have not missed either of those. We had been paying nearly $160/month for cable, internet, and phone. We dropped to internet only for $40/month and used our cell phones for calls. That $40/month lasted until just last month, when my work required us to pay for our own business internet. I now pay $100/month for that business line.

I estimate that over 5 years we saved $7200 by cutting the cable cord. That’s $7200 that could go into retirement accounts, buy a used car with cash, or be a nice nest egg for an emergency.

In that time, we never had cause to complain that we had nothing to watch. We were still able to watch some of our favorite shows that appear on cable only.

How can you do the same? As long as you have an internet connection, your entertainment opportunities are endless.

  1. Try a streaming device like a Roku, Amazon Fire TV,  or Apple TV.  These devices connect your TV to the internet, and you  watch shows, movies, and videos or listen to music through one of their many channels. Some channels, like Netflix and Hulu,  require a subscription to their service to use, and some, like YouTube, are free or play with ads. Think of it as paying for channels and services you know you would use, instead of paying a larger price for everything on cable, including the things you would never watch. We opted for a Roku five years ago since Amazon Fire TV was not available then.
  2. Subscribe to services you would use a lot, and try to use gift cards to pay for them.  There are channels for everything now: sports, wrestling, HBO, network TV, movies, fitness, kids; you name it, it’s there. What do we choose? We have a  Netflix basic streaming subscription for $8/month and we have an Amazon Prime membership for $99/year that gives us access to Prime videos and music. We have Kindle Fire tablets and subscribe to Kindle Free Time for our kids for $8/month. It allows them a locked profile that gives access to age appropriate content only, and keeps them from surfing the web without a parental password. It also allows us to set time limits, and the tablets automatically shut off when that time is expired.  We got a gift card for Hulu this year, plus I have been able to extend our Hulu subscription through Swagbucks and a gift card earned at work. I’m not sure we would pay out of pocket for Hulu, but I am easily able to extend it for a month at a time by earning 800 Swagbucks, and earning $5 Amazon gift cards by accruing 500 Swagbucks. I typically can get one Hulu gift card ($8 value) and 2-3 Amazon gift cards ($10-15) each month. I am liking Hulu because I can watch a TV show without seeing it as it airs (usually at the kids’ bedtime) or recording a show. I watch Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Modern Family, The Middle, and Spongebob this way. They also have a huge selection of classic TV shows.

3. Use free channels as much as you can. I’m a big fan of the PBS shows Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Call The Midwife, Vicious, and Last Tango In Halifax. I have watched them all for free via the PBS Roku app. You have to be careful, though, because they are generally available for only the first few weeks after air date. We watch YouTube via the Roku app as well, and my most frequent use of it is to do exercise videos or try cake decorating videos.

4. Don’t forget other free resources. Our local libraries often have new release movies available on DVD. They are also linked to a free digital streaming service called Hoopla. It’s worth checking to see whether your local or state library offers such services.

5. Make selective purchases of special shows. I loved the TV show Mad Men and I admit I was hesitant to cut cable because I didn’t want to miss watching it. One thing I did as we contemplated cutting cable was to list the shows on cable that we actually watched regularly and that tempted us the most not to cut the cable cord. For us it was Dr Who, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. As it turns out, I could purchase a season of each on Amazon Video, and with the exception of Game of Thrones, each episode would be available to me the morning after the episode aired on TV*.  I could buy a season pass with a small discount for between $20 and $30 per season. Buying a season of each of these would be cheaper than even paying for one month of cable. I could use gift cards to help pay for them as well. Doing this helped make cutting the cord a viable choice.

What about you- do you have cable? What keeps you from cutting the cord?*

*Sorry HBO lovers, you’ll have to pay for HBO-NOW, the HBO streaming service, if you want to watch HBO shows as they air. It’s $14.99/month. No thanks! I have opted to read recaps online as they air, and wait a year to buy the season on Amazon.

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