How to cut the cord: Finding the best cable alternatives
For a lot of folks, the idea of cutting the cord on your cable tv can feel a lot like deprivation. Who doesn’t need a little mindless escape at the end of a long and tiring workday?
Unfortunately, as much as we feel like we deserve the break, the cost of cable can be a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Luckily, living below your means also doesn’t mean we don’t have to go without entertainment.
When you learn the basics of how to cut the cord, you’ll find there are a ton of great cable alternatives to watch all of your favorite shows without the hefty bill. No more buying a crazy cable package just to get that one channel you love and 2395 others that you don’t!
How to Cut the Cord and Save Almost $1000 a Year
We cut cable about 3 years ago, much to my husband’s dismay. I thought I’d never get him to go along with it. He was really worried that we’d never have anything to watch in the evenings.
Once we finally got rid of cable, we ended up coming to two rather big realizations:
1. Previously, we’d have the TV on just for background noise and distraction. Needless waste of electricity and mindless watching, really. We’d waste our time watching shows or reruns of things that we didn’t even really like. Which is not only completely crazy, but really unproductive. We didn’t realize just how much TV we watched that we weren’t interested in until it was no longer around!
2. The alternatives to cable have a million things to watch as well, so we weren’t being deprived of entertainment. We just shifted what we watched to what was available and what actually interested us.
While I was all for the savings, it was a bit of a struggle to get my husband on board. He was really worried about missing out on sports. Thankfully, there are several ways to get sports with a tv antenna and streaming services, so we haven’t had to go back!
A Step by Step Cord Cutting Guide
Now that you’re ready to commit to getting rid of cable, here’s step by step instructions on how to cut the cord. Luckily, it’s easy enough that you don’t need to hire a cord cutter tv service or figure out how to get free cable tv illegally.
Decide which local and cable channels are important to you.
Which of the following are channels and shows are important to have? Depending upon what you want to keep, you’ll need to purchase different streaming services:
- Local news and sports
- Specific cable channels
- Specific movie channels
Then, get set up with a tv antenna for local channels.
If you want to cut the cord to get free tv, then you’ll want to grab a tv antenna so that you can can access local channels. While you might still be able to get some local channels, without a tv antenna, they’re going to be fuzzy and not great. An antenna is the best way to local news and local sports broadcasts without cable as well.
If you’re like me, when I hear “tv antenna” I picture the old rabbit ears that sit on top of the tv that you often added tinfoil to to get better reception. And then you had to fiddle with the damned things just to get a channel to come in right. Total pain in the butt. Luckily, that is not the case at all anymore (especially since no one’s even used those kind for like….30+ years? ? )
Thankfully, times have changed and antenna technology has had a serious upgrade. It can be tempting to get the cheapest one possible, but really – even the really good ones are less than $30. This HD antenna from Amazon has tons of great ratings and is considered the best indoor tv antenna. It works really well for new and old TVs alike:
- Free HD channels, including ABC, CBS, NBC, PBC, Fox, and more
- Great quality and sound
- Up to 80 miles range, meaning it can be placed just about anywhere in your home (or hometown, with a range like that, ha!)
- 18 foot long coaxial cable
- USB power adapter
It’s easy to hook up and use, and will get you all of your local channels so that you can watch local content and keep in touch with what’s happening in your area. Check local channels, news, and sports off the list and let’s move on to actual cable content.
Next, choose which cable channels and shows you can’t live without.
It’s also important to note how much you prefer to stream live tv versus prerecorded shows. Do you want to watch shows that aired this week? Or can you wait a couple of months to binging the entire season over a cold winter weekend?
I love that there are so many cord cutting options in 2019. 10 years ago, you didn’t have much of anything to choose from, and now we have lots of great cable alternatives.
Here are some of the best cord cutting options to choose from for cable tv:
Best Live TV Streaming Services
All of the pricing listed is current as of 2019. I will do my best to go back and review and update them periodically!
This is one we looked into whenever we finally switched, and I have to say, I’m still considering getting it. Sling TV offers over 100 live channels to watch instantly, including ESPN, NFL Network, Disney Channel, AMC, Comedy Central, HGTV, TNT, TBS & more.
Sling TV lets you choose from 3 starter packages that have all the cable channels you love with none of the filler. Then, you can add on additional channels either a la carte or small, mini additions like Comedy which adds 8 more channels for an extra $5 a month.
Plus, Sling TV offers a Cloud DVR, which means for an extra $5 a month, you can record what you want when you’re not able to watch it.
The starter packages are currently on sale and run from $15 – $25. When you sign up, there are no contracts and you can cancel online (which I love, because I hate calling to cancel things!). Sling TV offers several deals that allow new users to receive a free or discounted streaming device such as a Roku or Apple TV.
- You can pick your package based on what you want
- Local channels are available
- Huge variety in add-ons including Comedy, Premium, Sports, and more
- They offer a Cloud DVR
- Discounts on streaming devices
- Relatively cheaper than the majority of live streaming services out there
- They have international options
- There’s a chance you still won’t get every single channel you want
- The cost could add up pretty quickly, depending how many add-ons you want
- Number of streams running at the same time is limited, depending upon package
YouTube TV allows you to stream 60+ channels, including local channels and sports. With 6 individual logins per household, it’ll be a quiet night without the kids fighting over what shows to watch. (For once.)
YouTube TV is surprisingly straightforward without a lot of addtional bells and whistles, but at $40 a month, I like that.
- Works with a variety of streaming devices
- Receive notifcations when your show is on
- Personalized DVRs
- Cloud based DVR with unlimited space
- You can’t choose your channels
- Availability of channels can vary based on zip code
CBS Interactive isn’t really well known, but it’s growing in popularity quickly. We signed up for it for Thanksgiving, so my husband could follow his yearly tradition of watching The Lions get creamed during their annual Thanksgiving game. 😉
This live streaming tv service is almost a mix between Netflix and Sling TV. It has a surprising number of channels, including CBS, CBS Sports, C|Net, SportsLine, 24/7 sports, Gamespot, and lots more.
It’s a great alternative to watch sports without purchasing a channel specifically for sports.
- Lots and lots of sports options to watch
- Inexpensive and a great addition to a TV antenna
- Original content available
- Can watch tv live or pre-recorded
- Not as many channel options as other live streaming services
Best Pre-Recorded TV Streaming Services
Hulu’s come a long way since I first heard of them during the SuperBowl with that wacky commercial starring Alec Baldwin and some aliens. I remember thinking – who the heck is going to pay to watch live TV? (Hindsight, my friends, is 20/20…amiright?)
Watch Hulu online (Hulu.com on Mac or PC) and on Apple iOS, Apple TV (4th gen), Android, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire tablets, Fire TV & Fire Stick, Roku, LG TV and Samsung TV (select models), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.
- Original content you can’t find elsewhere
- Watch current seasons without having to wait
- HBO is available on Hulu, along with Cinemax, Showtime and Starz
- 2 packages to choose from, including an ad free option
- Not live TV, all pre-recorded streaming
- No sports or local news options
Amazon Prime Video
Chances are, you already have an Amazon Prime subscription. If not, one of the many perks (besides free shipping) includes Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon Prime Video offers original content, TV shows, and blockbuster movies. Some are covered with your subscription, others are available to rent or buy. Rather than running to RedBox and having to hurry back to avoid any rental fee, you can rent movies through Amazon Prime Video.
You can also add Prime Video Channels to your subscription, like Showtime, Starz and MLB.TV. It’s an easy way to keep everything in one place.
- Ability to add premium movie channels, sports, and more
- Everything in one place, so no switching apps
- Prime members can also enjoy two-day shipping, unlimited photo storage and access to ad-free music and Kindle ebooks.
- Any movies or TV shows you purchase are saved in your video library. They’re accessible forever, unlike with other streaming services that don’t allow you access your purchased content.
- Watch anywhere by streaming on your computer, TV, gaming console, Fire TV, phones or tablets
- Doesn’t provide individual accounts for your family members
- Additional cost to add movie and sports channels; not all inclusive
The original binge-worthy streaming service, Netflix is still my go-to for watching streaming content. This is how we cut the cord, and we still use Netflix as our primary resource for tv shows and movies. The price is cheap, the content is good, and I’m loving the original shows.
- Watch on smart TVs, Playstation, Xbox, Chromecast, Apple TV, Blu-ray players, and more
- Download shows to watch on the go
- Set up individual profiles so that your content doesn’t mix with the kids
- Waiting for the newest season of your favorite shows
- Some premium movie channel content is available, but not all (HBO)
Next, you can stack additional channels if you want more.
While you’re figuring out how to cut the cord, you don’t have to find a package that covers everything. If you like one of the live tv streaming services, but you need to watch Game of Thrones (I feel ya), you can add additional services like HBO Now.
A quick rundown of additional options:
HBO Now: A stand-alone package that offers HBO without a cable subscription. Get your first month free. ($14.99/month)
Starz: If you can’t live without Outlander, you grab a cable-free subscription for $8.99 a month. Get a 7 day free trial here.
ESPN+: Features a selection of live games from MLB, MLS, Series A, FA Cup, EFL NHL, and Live UFC Fight Nights. Plus access to college sports. Only $4.99 a month, get a 7 day free trial here.
Last, purchase a device to stream tv services.
Now that you know which streaming services you want, the next step is to purchase hardware to stream your paid services. You can easily purchase them for relatively cheap to get you set up quickly.
These are the most common streaming devices used to watch streaming tv:
Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick plugs directly into your TV through the HDMI input, and is a powerful 4K streaming media stick with a Wi-Fi antenna. With the Amazon Fire Stick, you can watch favorites from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, STARZ, SHOWTIME, or CBS All Access, plus stream for free with Pluto TV, IMDb Freedive, and others.
The Fire Stick also works with Alexa, so you can use your voice as a remote.
There are several options, including:
A little known fact is that you can
Roku Streaming Stick
Again, this plugs directly into your TV and has a remote. It’s very easy to use, and some models have a voice remote and search. There are tons of streaming services available. From movies and series on Netflix, Prime Video, HBO NOW and SHOWTIME to cable alternatives like Sling TV or YouTube TV to live sports and news on CBS News, ABC News and ESPN.
This is great to take on the go on vacation, business trips, or movie night at a friend’s. One remote works for both Roku and TV, which helps cut the clutter! Learn more about Roku here >
This one’s a little different – you can stream from your phone or table to your TV using Google Chromecast. You use your streaming apps on your phone, and Chromecast broadcasts the stream to your TV.
This works with streaming apps you know and love and is voice activated. Enjoy TV shows, movies, videos, songs, games, sports and more from over 2000 apps like Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV, and HBO NOW. Learn more about Google Chromecast >
The next option up is to purchase a smart TV. The Insignia Smart LED TV is an example of a TV that can stream live shows. TVs like this essentially have the Fire Stick already built in, so you’re not purchasing a separate piece. This works well if you find a great deal or are in need or a new TV anyway.
With the Fire TV experience built-in, enjoy tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills, including Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and more. You can learn more about Smart TVs here >
By installing different apps, we’re able to watch different streaming options like Netflix, Hulu, CBS Interactive, and more.
Getting Free Internet
Along with cutting the cord on cable, we should talk about internet. It’s not cheap, and the average family spends at least $70 a month on it. If you’re looking to save money by cutting cable, it makes sense to look into cutting your internet costs as well.
There are some easy ways to cut the cost of internet – without giving up quality. Learn more about how to get free internet here.
Is there one perfect cord cutting setup?
Keep in mind that there’s no best cord cutting setup out there, mostly because what you want is going to differ from what someone else wants. The channels you want to watch are going to affect which streaming device you go with.
Now you know which options best fit your needs, you can create a great setup that works for your family. Now that you know what’s available, you can now save a ton by cutting the cord and getting rid of cable for good!
A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More