Ditching Cable TV

by Jenny Harrington


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The excuses we have been telling ourselves to justify the expensive cable bill have been slowly crumbling. For many, cable has been the last bastion of our spendthrift ways. Cable television can be relatively cheap entertainment, but there are better ways to enjoy the programs you like without cable. A few months ago, I opened our cable bill to see yet another rate hike. Around this time was also all the hype about the digital changeover. I started wondering if cable was becoming a thing of the past. Turns out it is!

How many channels do you actually need? Pay attention to your viewing habits for a few days. What channels do you watch most often? Do you follow a specific program, or are you a movie or documentary buff? Once you understand your viewing habits, you will know the best way to replace cable.

Your options are at the tips of your fingers. We found we watched a few programs and a lot of the educational channels like Science, Discovery, and History. We also watch the local news every night, but one hardly needs cable to do that. Here are some options for replacing cable and for which viewing habits they work best with.

Replace your cable with Netflix. This is the option we chose. Depending on what equipment you already have, there may be an upfront cost. Netlix now has many shows and movies available as streaming. In other words, you can watch the program immediately via your television or computer. To watch on your television, you do need a Netflix capable device. If you already have an XBox 360 or a TiVo, you are ready to go. If not, you can purchase a Netflix ready device through their site. There are even DVD players available that are Netflix ready. You will also need either ethernet or wifi internet. We already have wifi and an XBox, so for us the only outlay was the Netflix membership, which starts at $8.99 a month. This gives the ability to instantly watch videos and TV episodes on your TV and also allows you to check out one movie at a time, which they mail to you. If you don't have a Netflix device or wifi, you will need to do some math to see if the savings will be worth cutting cable.

This works best for viewers of documentary and educational channels, movie buffs, and those who don't mind being a bit behind on their favorite shows while they wait for them to hit DVD.

Watch TV on your computer. This works wonderfully for current event buffs. CNN has something called the Pipeline. You can watch CNN live online for free. Fox News has all their breaking news videos on their website for free. ABC has many of their most popular programs online for free, as does Fox, NBC, and SciFi. These are just a few channels that post full episodes online for free. Check out the official site for your favorite show or channel to see if they are giving away what you have been paying for! This option works best for news lovers and those who only watch a few programs and don't mind watching on their computer.

Just buy the box set. If you follow just a few shows every week, it may be a lot less expensive to just buy the seasons on DVD when they come out. A years' worth of cable can cost $250 or more for just the most basic package. Add a few channels and you could be paying three times that! A season of a show on DVD can be had for $45 or much less if you purchase it online. Even better, team up with the first idea and get the basic Netflix subscription for $7.99 ($96 a year), and you can really save if you watch several programs! This works best for those who are loyal to just a few programs.

With a little research and creativity, you may be able to cut cable from your life painlessly and still enjoy your favorite programs.

Take the Next Step:

  • Sign up for Netlix. You'll find movies, tv shows, old classics and more by DVD and "Watch It Now".
  • The Netflix-ready device, the Roku, also works with other subscription services. Check it out at Roku.com .
  • If you don't like watching TV on your computer, you may be able to connect it to your TV with the correct cable. Check your television's owner's manual.

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