Alternatives to Cable TV: Save Money Pt 3

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Alternatives to Cable TV and Satellite TV

This is Part 3 of the “Digital Landing Save Money Series,” as we look at ways you can save dough on home digital services.

The cost of Cable TV and Satellite TV can be a strain on any budget. You could try negotiating with your provider to lower the monthly costs or you could do what I did and find some alternatives to cable.

I have not had Cable TV or Satellite TV for almost 20 years and our bank accounts are better off for it. We still watch TV. My preschooler is watching the same shows as his friends and we still watch a lot of the hit TV shows and sports programs. We just don’t pay for 200 channels when we only need 10. There are many options out there to cut out the cable and satellite bills.

Alternatives to Cable & Satellite

Antenna

I am talking about a nice simple HD antenna. Local news and broadcast networks are free over the airwaves — you just need an antenna that can grab some of them for you. If you have a modern flat-screen television then even the old rabbit ears will work, but if you have an older tube TV, there will only be a few channels you can receive unless you get a DTV converter box, which will convert HD signals down to a signal that your older television can read.

HD antennas can range from $10 to $1,000, so decide what you need by visiting AntennaWeb.org and looking at the signals available in your area. Once we hooked up an antenna, we were actually surprised by the variety of stations we had. The TV upstairs receives 18 stations, and the downstairs one gets eight channels. A few of those stations are different on both TVs.

Set-top Boxes

A lot of set-top boxes that offer on-demand programming are available. The more popular units are Roku and Apple TV. These devices connect to the Internet, either through a Wi-Fi or ethernet connection, and stream movies and TV shows to your television. Many gaming consoles, such as Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and Blu-Ray players are also streaming capable. There are several free options out there for movies and television however most of them are independents and will not have the mainstream programming you are looking for.

Several sites allow you to pay on a per-show basis, such as Amazon, iTunes, Blockbuster, and Vudu. Many of these also have a small selection of free movies and TV series that you can watch.

For a small monthly fee, you can also subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus and stream unlimited shows. There are also streaming options available for the sports fanatics so they can get their live football, baseball or hockey games.

Internet

You can view all the pay sites on your set-top boxes and gaming consoles, since they are also available online. If you do not have a gaming system or Blu-Ray player and can’t afford to purchase a set-top box, then you can always watch on your computer, or hook your computer to the television and watch from the comfort of your living room.

One advantage the computer has over most set-top boxes is that you can get access to the network websites. Many of the big networks such as ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS will post the full episode of their hit shows about 24-48 hours after they air, so you can easily catch whatever you have missed. The premium stations, such as HBO, also post many of their shows. However, their selection does tend to be a little more limited.

Rental

You may not get to see the programs when they air, but the advantage to renting the season after it hits video is that you can watch it all at once without having to wait for the next episode. Renting also give you the option to watch what you want, when and where you want. Netflix and Blockbuster allow you to rent DVDs by mail at a reasonable cost with no return dates. RedBox is popping up everywhere with cheap one-night movie rentals.

Programming

Perhaps the only downside to not having Cable or Satellite TV is limited access to sports programming and cable news channels. We can pick up hockey, baseball and football that is aired on local channels, but the selection is very limited. The NFL, MLB and NHL all offer premium subscription services on their websites. However, none of the games are live. If you really want to watch the game live, then you are going to have to go to a bar or a friend’s house. The games are usually more enjoyable with company anyhow.

For children’s programming, PBS and Netflix can’t be beat, since you can find a huge selection of child-friendly programming, and navigation is easy. My 4-year-old son can easily find his desired programs on either the computer or the Blu-Ray player with no help from me.

If you go with the online-only subscription to Netflix, then you are limited to about two percent of their catalog, paying extra for both online and mail-order subscription significantly broadens your viewing horizons.

Convenient, Cheap and Portable

Overall, we have been happy without a huge Cable or Satellite TV bill and we haven’t missed anything significant. The true beauty of these set-top boxes and online video subscriptions is that you can take them anywhere. If you go on vacation, then your Cable and Satellite TV sits at home waiting for your return and you pay for a week or two that you couldn’t even use. You can pick up your set-top box and take it to a hotel room or you can log onto Netflix while sitting in the waterpark. You can use your subscription while on vacation. You can even rent a movie from the Redbox by your house and return it to a Redbox two states away. Affordable and portable entertainment as alternatives to cable.

But it’s understandable that many people still want to keep their Cable and Satellite TV, but they just want lower prices. Enter your street address into the form on the top-right section of this page to see what offers are available from providers in your area.

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