It’s no secret that the price of cable over the past few decades has skyrocketed. In fact, when you compare the average cost of a paid TV subscription with the average inflation rate, things are actually a bit silly. Cable companies have been getting away with highway robbery for quite a while, and most consumers are fed up.
However, the catch, at least for a long time, was that there were no alternatives, and since most people consider dropping TV altogether an unnecessary sacrifice, most of us have had no other choice but to deal with the exorbitant cost of cable.
But now there are so many other choices, the most well-known being YouTube TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, and this means you no longer need to attach yourself to predatory cable companies for your entertainment needs.
Yet while cord-cutting can save you some money, and also give you some satisfaction for having told cable companies to go away, when you really breakdown the costs of cable vs. streaming, you may find that it’s easy to end up spending as much if not more cutting the cord than with cable.
This doesn’t mean you need to stay with cable. Instead, it just means you need to get a bit more creative. Here are a few tips to help you cut the cord and actually save money.
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Get the Best Value Internet
Almost all cable alternatives depend on having an internet connection. And this means you not only need to have a connection that can handle your streaming habits but that also doesn’t cost a ton of money.
However, most cable companies have seen the handwriting on the wall and are now focusing more of their business strategy on internet sales. Unfortunately, this means reverting back to some of the same tactics they used for cable, i.e. convincing you to pay for more than you need.
In most cases, cable companies do this by trying to convince you to buy premium internet packages with blazing maximum speeds. They will try to lure you with connection speeds that top 150 or even 250 Mpbs. This is nice, sure, but most people don’t need anywhere close to this much speed.
Typically, to stream on multiple devices, you only really need 30-40 Mbps. Additional speeds are useful if you’re downloading huge files or are doing demanding work on a cloud service. But for average streaming and internet use, 50 Mpbs is going to be fine.
Of course, there will be a big difference between what the cable companies advertise and what you actually get. They may say speeds up to 100 Mbps but the actual speed is closer to 50 Mbps. But this is even more incentive to not pay for these “premium” plans; you will rarely ever experience that type of connection.
Start by doing a Speed Test of your current connection, using one of the many free speed test sites, and comparing that to what your plan is supposed to offer. Then, you could consider shopping around and trying to negotiate with the cable company for a better deal. You may find it more profitable to pay for a connection that has lower maximum speeds (since you'll never get these anyway) but that still delivers enough juice for you to stream as much as you want without interruption.
Go Old School With an Antenna
While it’s unrealistic to think you can survive in today’s day and age without an internet connection, you don’t need to depend on the web to save money on TV and get away from cable companies. Instead, you can go “old school” and get your TV for free over the airwaves.
However, although this feels like a regression in technology, it really isn’t. Signals are much stronger than they used to be, and they also transmit digitally, meaning the quality of the picture you get from antenna signals is significantly better than it used to be. Furthermore, antenna technology has improved considerably, meaning there’s less tinkering and fuzz when you’re trying to watch TV.
This is often a good place to start for cord cutters. Drop cable and try an antenna. If this doesn’t give you all you need, you can start adding streaming services until you feel you have enough to keep you entertained during your down time at the house.
Streaming services are wonderful because they allow you to access content when you want, where you want, and without commercials. However, if you subscribe to several streaming services all at once, you might end up spending $30-$60 a month on them, which, when combined with your internet costs, roughly equals what you used to spend on cable.
For some, the added value that comes from choosing these services over cable is enough, but for those who have savings as their top priority, this situation is not desirable.
A good solution is to work with some of your friends or family members to share accounts. Most services allow you to have as many as five users, and they are pretty liberal about how many devices can stream at once. Letting go of traditional TV is so easy nowadays that there are even step-by-step cord cutting guides for beginners.
This means you can team up with four or five people and have each one purchase a subscription. Then, you can share login information, meaning everyone gets all the services they might want for the price of one.
Even if you just do this for one or two streaming sites, the savings can be significant, helping to boost the impact of your decision to cut the cord.
Consider Free Alternatives
If you really want to save, consider some of the free alternatives that are out there. A good place to start is YouTube. There are tons (literally billions) of videos you can watch on a wide range of topics, and many of them are professional quality. You may need to sit through some ads, but this is a small price to pay for free content.
There are also plenty of other sites out there that let you either download or stream movies and TV for free. Of course, the selection might not be as exciting as with Netflix, HBO Go, or Hulu, and some of these sites operate in a slightly less than legal arena. But hey, if it’s free, it’s free.
Look For Promotions and Trials
Lastly, one other thing you can do is try to game the system and take advantage of deals and promotions being offered by other companies to include a free streaming subscription. For example, many wireless carriers will now throw in a subscription or two if you switch.
Of course, changing phone companies just for Netflix might not make a ton of sense, but it’s worth checking out. Best case scenario is that you’ll save on both streaming and something else, and who could say no to that.
Another thing you can do is take advantage of trials.
For example, YouTube TV usually offers your first month free to encourage you to switch. You could do this several times using different emails from different people, although this admittedly might get a bit cumbersome.
Yet it’s still a way to save and might be a good way for you to explore some of the alternatives out there without having to immediately commit to another monthly bill.
Say Goodbye to Cable Forever
As you can see, there are many alternatives to cable, and if you cut the cord correctly, you can benefit from some pretty significant savings. And all of this comes with the added bonus of being able to call your cable company and tell them that after years of abuse you’re finally done.
They will fight, and they may offer you some enticing alternatives to stay. It’s up to you if you decide to take them up on these, but know that if you don’t, there are plenty of ways for you to entertain yourself while saying goodbye to cable companies forever.