Time reports that cable prices have been rising at 4x the speed of inflation. On average, a fairly barebones cable package now costs about $100 a month, which is a price increase of 8% per year since 2010! Of course, the specialty channels you actually care about aren't even included in this price. Add in the irritating commercials padding out 20 minute episodes to 50 minutes, and you're basically wasting your life watching garbage.
Call me crazy, but I believe that a 21-minute episode should take 21 minutes to watch, and I prefer to get my drug recommendations straight from my doctor.
Clearly, I'm not alone in my frustration with cable. Every year, more and more people are dropping their cable subscriptions. At the end of 2016, there were 1.4 million fewer cable subscriptions compared to the year before. This was a record drop in cable users — and there's no stopping the trend.
With the many great, cheap TV options out there, I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to drop $100 monthly on cable. It's like driving a car with square wheels — there's no point. And the Flintstones had better technology in the 60s.
Forget that Stone Age nonsense — here's how you can get great TV at home for a lot less.
Get an Antenna
I'm not talking about your grandma's bunny ears or your dad's massive bird roost on the roof. Modern antennas are sleek and flat for easy wall-mounting. If you like getting the local news, live sports, and classic nightly shows like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, a digital antenna can bring in high quality and HD local signals. Amazon.com sells some very highly rated HDTV antennas for anywhere between $10 and $40.
If you're located in North America, you can check which channels are being broadcast in your area by plugging in your Zip or Postal code here. Please note that scoring highly on this search does not guarantee you'll be able to get every single channel in your town: your physical location in relation to the broadcasting source does matter. Digital antennas work best for urbanites who live within about 20 miles of the broadcasting source. If you live in the suburbs, your home is hemmed in by forests, or you're located in a valley, then you might do better with an amplified antenna, which goes for about $40 and up. That's still a pretty great bargain compared to cable!
Set Up a Streaming Service
There are lots of affordable streaming services to choose from: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are just a few. Netflix goes for about $8 a month for a streaming membership, but you have to pay another $8 per month to access the full digital library and to have DVDs delivered if you want to buy them. Hulu Plus also costs around $8 a month, but there are some commercials. Signing up for a year of Amazon Prime for $99 gets you access to their library of shows and movies, as well as free two-day shipping on Amazon.com.
There's a lot of debate over which of these three streaming services is the best. Some people dislike that Netflix takes a while to add new shows and that when it comes to movies, Netflix might not offer the whole trilogy or series online. And although Hulu adds shows a day or two after they've aired, it still has &^$*%@& commercials! Even with their weaknesses, if you signed up for all of these services, you'd still be saving bucket loads of money compared to cable.
To use these streaming services, you'll need a device that can display the shows. The good news is that most new TVs and Smart TVs already come with the programming built in. Easy peasy.
If your TV isn't set up for streaming…
…then you can choose one of the many smart gadgets that bridge this technology gap. From set-top boxes to streaming sticks and game consoles, you can find a device that will get the job done, without breaking your budget.
Streaming sticks are small USB sticks that you simply plug into your TV. One great example is the cute little Google Chrome Cast Streaming Stick, which costs $35 at Best Buy and brings in 1,000 channels as well as showing anything on your computer screen on the TV. It's super simple to use but it doesn't come with a remote, so you control your TV wirelessly with your computer.
Another good option is the Roku Streaming Stick, which costs $50 and gets you an absurd 3,500 channels and a great little remote. Roku can connect to your existing Netflix (etc.) accounts, and some new TVs already come with it built in. The Amazon Fire TV stick ($40) has also been getting rave reviews thanks to the highly responsive voice search on its remote.
As for boxes, the Apple TV (from $149) has heavy traction with people who already have a lot of Apple devices. This box comes with a remote and is designed to connect your streaming mobile apps (including Netflix, Hulu,HBO NOW, and WatchESPN) to your TV, as well as games and apps from the App Store.
If none of these options appeal, you can always go the old-school route and plug your laptop straight into your TV using an HDMI cable, DisplayPort, or a VGA or DVI cable. Priced at less than $10 to $20, these cheap and cheerful cables allow you to watch literally anything you can stream on your computer on your TV.
Cable Replacement Services
Cable replacement services include many of the channels you're used getting for the ridiculous price of $100 a month or more. These close to cable options do cost more than the other streaming services mentioned above — but you can still save anywhere from $30 to $80 a month, depending on what you watch.
To get your sports fix, Sling TV has multiple ESPN stations, along with the Cartoon Network, Bloomberg, CNN, TBS, and many more channels. Sling TV starts at $20 but you can add a few channels such as HBO, which can take the price up to $40 a month.
If you already have a game console like the Xbox 360, Xbox One, or PlayStation 3 or 4, then you can consider signing up for their streaming services. Starting at $40 per month, PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, USA, VHI, Spike, Fox News, and Nickelodeon, among others. You pay for extra channels and so the pricing can go up to $70. DirecTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV also offer a more traditional cable experience.
Thank the internet for opening up our home entertainment possibilities! No longer will we be slaves to high-priced cable and restrictive packages. With all the choices outlined above, you can find a TV option to fit your budget and preferences at a much lower cost than cable. Stop wasting your money — cut the cord!
More: Do you have a friend who's still paying for cable? Share this article to help them join the brave new world of affordable TV!
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