Life without cable TV

23 December 2011

I’m a huge fan of quality television. I watch a lot of TV and always have. I think it’s one reason I love knitting so much. I can knit while watching TV and feel productive. (And I find the combo really relaxing and fun.)

About two months ago, we canceled our cable TV. I never would have guessed that I would do that. We’ve always subscribed to all the premium channels and it’s hard for me to imagine I’d do without. But here I am, cable-free. Why did my husband and I cut the cord?

  • Charter jacked up our bill (again) and they were going to have us pay $135 a month for television alone (we’re satisfied getting our landlines and DSL through AT&T).
  • It’s no longer necessary to have cable or a satellite dish to have ample access to quality television.

I’m watching as much TV as ever. But now the internet is my TV provider. We replaced the cable box with a little Roku box, which allows us to easily access streaming video from Hulu Plus and Netflix, as well as Amazon Instant Video. We paid $99 for the Roku box and we pay $7.99 a month each for the Hulu Plus and Netflix Watch Instantly (we were already paying $7.99 a month for Netflix before we cut out cable) and we pay $79.00 a year for Amazon Prime, which, among other benefits, allows us to stream certain content free of charge.

We can watch web-only content (like CBS shows) by hooking up a laptop to the TV. We spent $30 on an HDMI adapter to allow us to do that.

We can also watch live programming on the five major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS) over the air, free of charge. (We bought an indoor antenna to make that happen.)

So let’s add it up:

$7.99 a month for Hulu Plus
$7.99 a month for Netflix (which we were paying anyway)
$6.58 a month for Amazon Prime (and we also get free second-day shipping and Kindle book sharing)

That’s a total of $22.56 a month. Plus there were the one-time charges:

$99 for the Roku box
$30 for the laptop adapter
$50 for the indoor antenna

That’s $179 in up-front, one-time costs.

In the first year, counting those one-time expenses, we will have spent just under $450 on television viewing. If we’d stuck with Charter, that same year would have cost us $1,715 (counting the Netflix we were already paying for). A savings of 75 percent! Not counting the one-time charges, the savings is 85 percent.

That’s huge. And I’m never short of things to watch, because I’m the kind of gal who loves to watch multiple episodes of a TV series in a row. So right now I’m alternating between Parenthood and Sports Night. (Love that Peter Krause!)

I’ll occasionally pay for episodes of certain shows, via Amazon or iTunes, I expect. But that’s okay when I compare it with the money we’re saving.

The one thing I miss is a DVR for the live programming. If I had it to do over again, I might consider spending $99 on a Tivo, rather than Roku, which I now know offers the same streaming services, plus it’s a DVR. But I’d have to pay $20 a month for the DVR service. I’m looking into ways to make the laptop we have connected to the TV serve as a DVR.

Going without cable has been surprisingly pain-free. And I know we’re going to enjoy the savings!

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Thanks for spelling out how you went cable-less. What a savings. I have been thinking about doing this also. It’s great to hear from you how easy and inexpensive and you still get the TV you want. With our almost-empty nester life we really don’t need the cable TV or our home phone anymore. I just have to take the leap.

Janet 12/23/2011 12:13 PM

Have you looked into playon at all? I am lookign into it – you can stream computer-only stuff on your tv using it. We just got a googletv, and are moving our Roku upstairs to our other tv and are seriously considering cutting cable as well.

Sarah 12/23/2011 03:37 PM

Go for it, Janet! I haven’t been willing to get rid of my landline phone. I just don’t find the quality of cell phones, at least in our house, good enough. And I’m on the phone a lot. But we might as well use technology to save us money, right?

Janine Adams 12/23/2011 05:23 PM

Sarah, I had not heard of PlayOn. Very interesting. Our set up is working well for us (and the computer we have by our TV isn’t a PC) so I doubt I’ll subscribe. But if I’m reading it right, Playon doesn’t require you to connect your computer to the TV; you use a Wii or other game console. Very cool. Thanks for mentioning it!

Janine Adams 12/23/2011 05:29 PM

What about sports? My husband would probably flip if he couldn’t watch ESPN. Can you get live streaming ESPN through any of these options? Thanks!! This sounds awesome and I would LOVE to cut cable. The price has gotten out of control.

Julie 12/28/2011 10:31 AM

Hi, Julie:

I ignored sports! Sorry! We don’t watch them (except the World Series, which this year we would have watched live over the air on Fox if we didn’t have cable). A cursory web search revealed that you can watch live streaming ESPN and ESPN3 on your computer at You could do what I do and hook up your computer to the TV so that you see what’s on your computer screen on your TV.

If you have a video console, You might also check out (suggested above by Sarah). They appear to stream ESPN and ESPN3 to your TV wirelessly, through your Wii, XBox 360 or PS3.

Janine Adams 12/28/2011 02:59 PM

Wow, that sounds pretty cool. I seriously need to look into this. I hate paying so much for cable. Thanks so much!

Julie 12/28/2011 04:43 PM

Janine, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with cutting out cable. I am a student living on my own now, and I’ve been looking for ways to watch my TV shows without the expense of cable. This article has helped me a lot.

Kailynn 07/15/2012 03:59 PM

Kailynn, you’re welcome! I’m glad it was helpful!!

Janine Adams 07/15/2012 07:28 PM

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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