Cutting the Cord

Cutting the Cord: Roku 3

Cutting the Cord

Hello again! I appreciate you visiting The Green Swan.  This week is all about living frugal.  Earlier in the week I posted my Four Frugal Life Lessons.  And in this post I am giving an easy example of living frugal by cutting the cord.

There are many things in life we spend money on that really aren’t all that valuable.  Whether it is something you have never thought twice about before, a subscription that keeps getting auto-renewed that you don’t use anymore, or other things that are rendered obsolete due to technological evolution.

This happens all the time and countless dollars are wasted before realizing it.  Let’s take a look at your home TV cable subscription.  Talk about an antiquated system, right?  Over the years more and more junk channels get added to the basic subscription that nobody watches.  And how much does it cost you?  $75 / month, $100 / month, or even more?  If only you could go al-a-cart for the whole thing and only pay for what you need!

Let me go on another rant…why do we have to watch our shows on a schedule set by the networks?!  Live events such as sports is one thing, obviously it makes sense for those to played at certain times and the consumers of those live events are more than willing to rearrange their schedule to make sure they can watch.  But what about everything else?  Why do they have to be on a schedule?  Why can’t everything be “on demand”, and we watch the shows we want to watch when it is most convenient for us.

The DVR has helped move in that general direction, but that has developed as a round-about solution to the problem.  What would really be perfect is if everything was available to stream on demand and a DVR wouldn’t be necessary.

That day may be nearing.  More and more options have become available to stream such as NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even HBO was made a streaming channel available for subscription.  Plus, streaming options such as Sling TV offer a more limited menu of channels as an alternative to your standard TV cable subscription.  More competition from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime who are offering more of their own content is also great.  Is it time to rethink your TV cable subscription?  Technological advances are definitely making it easier “cutting the cord”.

Making the Jump

My wife and I finally cut the cord about two years ago.  Our decision was made a bit easier with the birth of our first child.  We knew we would be watching less TV once the little one was around and we didn’t care to have it on with junior around anyway.  We just do not view that as beneficial for infants and toddlers developmentally.

So we figured we would give it a try.  But it is not like we were about to sell our 55 inch flat screen TV!  We still wanted to watch TV occasionally, such as when the little one went to bed, or for certain live sporting events that we would want to watch.  So we figured out a way to get by.

How did we do it?  Simple.  First, cancel or don’t renew your current subscription.  Second, find the desired alternative to watch what you can’t fully depart with.  For us it was a combination of over-the-air and internet streaming options.

Free Network Channels

We bought a TV antenna (35 mile range) off Amazon to capture the free over-the-air stations including CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, PBS, and many others.  Where we live, we can pick up over 20 free channels with our antenna.  Amazing, huh?  Many people forget these popular and great network channels are actually free!  Amazon also offers a 25 mile range antenna and a 50 mile range antenna which may be better for you depending on your proximity to the local networks.

To determine your proximity, check out this station finder link and enter your zip code.  Here is what stations nearby my home in Charlotte, NC look like.  Buying the appropriate tv antenna range for your home will allow you to easily pick up all these free channels.

Cutting the Cord: Station Finder

Streaming Content

Next, we bought a Roku 3 off Amazon to supplement the antenna channels with streaming content.  Through this device we are able to stream via internet many free and subscription based channels.  For instance, we subscribed to Netflix and also stream from Amazon Prime (given we are already a Prime member, this did not represent an incremental cost).  We rarely took advantage of the Amazon Prime video content previously which is truly underrated, they keep adding great content!  This was more than enough free and relatively cheap content to watch including great documentaries, movies and shows.

Live Sports

But what did we do for live sports?  There really wasn’t much left to do really.  We like watching NFL on Sunday which is covered on Fox and CBS (free channels with the antenna).  Many other sporting events are also covered on the primary network channels including some college football, basketball, golf, etc.  We are big college football and basketball fans though so we needed something else in order to follow our teams closely.

What we’ve done is a combination of a temporary subscription to Sling TV (to get ESPN channels as well as TBS, TNT and others in order to watch March Madness, etc) as well as a temporary subscription to the Big Ten Network (yes, we are Big Ten fans).   By temporary I mean we just get the subscription month to month and can cancel at anytime.  And similar to the one-off subscription to BTN, there are similar options available for MLB, NHL, NBA, and the list goes on.

This approach has worked great for us.  Cobbling together TV content in pieces hasn’t been too difficult at all and it has certainly been a lot cheaper than our full-blown TV cable subscription.  This has been another effective strategy for my wife and I to lower our cost of living without sacrificing quality of life.

Estimated Savings

Our cable TV subscription cost almost $100 / month before we ended up getting rid of it.  Simple math says that our subscription was $1,200 / year.  Alternatively, we bought the Roku 3 and TV antenna for less than $150 (no ongoing subscription required for these devices).  We subscribe to Netflix which is about $100 / year, and also temporarily subscribe to services such as BTN which probably total another $50 / year.

So all in all, we probably save about $1,000 or more / year.  And over a ten year period this would amount to over $10,000.  Think what else you could do with that $10,000 you just saved.  Sure, you could just boost your investments each year.  Or how about a fab family vacation!  Well, I guess you’ll have 10 years to figure it out.  In the meantime there is no excuse to not take control of your finances step by step and how better to start than by cutting the cord.

Could a strategy like this work for you?  Are there certain channels that you would lose and have hard time replacing?  Are those channels worth the cost of your TV subscription…?  Let me know what is standing in your way in the comments below.  It is time to challenge the status quo and rethink cable and save some money.

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach

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  1. Great work GS. The pay TV networks have had their day and now there is so much choice out there that is either free or costs very little. Our free-to-air channels tend to be pretty much all crap consisting of 50% ‘reality TV’ and 40% US & Australian TV series which I find fairly insulting to someone with average intelligence. We tried Netflix which had some good stuff but found ourselves watching less and less so dumped that too. Now we hardly watch TV at all choosing to read books or just chat in the evening. But as you say, why spend $1200 or more a year on fairly mindless entertainment? And as your kids get older, imagine how their minds will become influenced by the televisual junk that is being passed off as entertainment these days. Cut the cord for a better life I say. Great article.

    1. Yeah very good points. Hard to overstate the importance and value of just having more conversation too. A little less tv and little more family time and a lot more money in your investment accounts is a win win win.

  2. Thanks for the detailed post. Mr. PIE and I have been ‘meaning’ to get around to cutting the cord. One thing stopping us is the contract get out fee we will have to pay to our cable provider. Dealing with that and setting up a new minimal package with them would be some significant up front cost. But cutting entirely like this?! You’ve given me a ‘light bulb moment’!

    1. Glad I could help!

      How much longer is on your contact? When we finally made the decision to cut the cord we still had two or three months left of our package so instead of incurring the cancellation fee we just waited it out.

  3. The sporting events are the major killer for me, I like to watch Wild games and they are aired on a cable channel. I found myself going to the bar to watch them (especially in the playoffs).

    We will get there one day – just holding on for now

    1. Have you looked into NHL streaming packages? I know there is a channel available on Roku. That could be a solution to allow you to make the leap.

      1. Great point JW. NHL Center Ice is a pretty awesome deal and you can watch most of the games, but it will often black out local which is trouble if you’re a Minnesota native.

        The other solution is “NHL Reddit Streams.” There’s an active community that posts free streams that are HD quality – it’s pretty cool as back-up plan!

        1. Oh that is too bad about Center Ice, but nice to know there are the Reddit Streams as a back-up. I’ll have to look that up, but are there similar options for other sports?

    2. I am right there with you, AE. I’m in the Chicagoland area but am a fan of all the major Michigan sports teams. One solution that works well is a Slingbox (not to be confused with Sling TV). I have it set-up at a relative’s home and can stream my Michigan sports anywhere that I have internet access. The picture quality isn’t exactly 1080p, but it is good. Despite having this in place, I haven’t mustered up the courage to cut the cord yet. I should do a rough calculation, like TGS did above, and see how much money I could be saving each year.

      1. Slingbox is another great alternative. I had that set up for a couple years at a relative’s house who had NFL Sunday Ticket, it was fantastic! Quality was pretty good for me too.

  4. I’ve long been preaching the gospel of cutting the cord. It’s so much cheaper and so much more convenient. Glad to see a detailed post on how to do it – I’m sure many people will benefit. Another good tip is to start using your local library to keep up with any shows you’re missing – they likely have everything on DVD just waiting for you. Total cost: FREE.

  5. Great alternatives! There are so many options available besides cable these days that are significantly cheaper. I do not watch much TV as I am always on my computer or outside but I have actually never heard of using an antenna (I am not American so do not know what channels are free or not :p) The only time I will miss cable is during a summer like the one we are about to have with a ton of sporting events, even though I am sure you can find a website with them.

    1. Well hey, now you know there are such things as antennas!

      Depends what channels those sports are on, but wouldn’t be surprised if basic network channels pick up many of them (free with the antenna).

  6. I rarely watch tv. The only time I get my dose of cable is when I watch tv at my parents’ house. I find that even though, with all the channels that are available, the majority of the stuff is crap. I think Netflix is worth it. You really can’t go wrong with $9.99 a month. I’ve watch quite a few good documentaries on it, on top of some great tv shows.

  7. transforming a want into a need and saving 1K per year is nice… Well done.

    We are not there yet. Our estimated monthly saving would be 30 EUR/month. Still a nice 360/year… I know people that do it… I have no Idea why we do not go that road… In our case, the kids might be the reason. We have some nights that we are to tired to do other things. TV is then the solution. Some of the channels we have are not available on the antenna…

    1. Yeah, still decent savings. Not sure how old your kids are but I have found some good kids shows on Netflix and Amazon. Also, our antenna picks up some channels were cartoons will be on in the mornings. I’m curious how different it is in the EU, whether there are free over-the-air channels or not, etc.

  8. How much do you pay for internet access? I have Comcast (unfortunately) and because of the way they package the deals, we save money by getting cable tv and internet, though we rarely if ever watch the cable tv. We didn’t even have a tv for the first two years; customer service really couldn’t seem to believe it. But it was cheaper and faster to go with two services instead of one. I’d love to just get internet and drop the tv, but where I live, this doesn’t seem possible without sacrificing speed or paying more money. Any suggestions?

    1. Wow that’s crazy. Our internet costs $35 per month through TWC and previously our tv service was through DTV. We have pretty fast speed too, can’t remember exactly but we have no trouble streaming video.

      Is there a competitor you could switch to for internet where you live?

    1. That’s what I like to hear! Once you learn how to get by without cable you quickly realize you weren’t missing much. I remember my uncle never had cable and always thinking he was crazy (and cheap)…now I’m the crazy one :).

  9. At the moment Australia doesn’t have anywhere near as good options as the USA does. We are currently paying $50 a month for our TV (with DVR) for a lot of channels. It is an unfortunate expense, however it helps us not-spend in a lot of other areas – like not going out and spending money on ‘events’. So it works as a necessary evil, almost.

    We have recently cut the channels from $74 to $50 a month, that has helped.


    1. That’s too bad to hear, but I would consider $50 to be on the low end of cable subscriptions here in the US. You’ve done a good job lowering that. And to your point, it probably does save you other places.

  10. Cutting out television is a great way to save money. We simply use the internet, Netflix, and a few other services and have all the TV we need. And, you save a whole lot of time avoiding commercials! It’s definitely a smart move.

  11. I had NO IDEA the B1G TEN network was available as a standalone.
    Our DISH contract expires next month, and I will be dropping that $100 a month expense without hesitation. My biggest concern was what to do a few months later when football season returned. Problem solved.

    Thanks Green Swan!

    1. Definitely, the B1G channel was just added to Roku 3 as well. You can subscribe to the whole league or just your team if you wish, I love it. I’ve gone through two football seasons now with no problem.

      I’m glad to hear you will be making the jump soon! What will you do with those huge savings?

      1. Glad to hear it’s worked out well for you. The savings will more than cover my share of a pair of season tickets. Go team!

  12. The best part in cutting off the cable TV is you can use your time in a better way than watching something that doesn’t bring any value to our life.

    Looking at a movie every day will take 547.6 hours of your life per year.

    Imagine what you can do with all that time!

    – Build a blog
    – Learn how to dance Salsa
    – Write a book
    – Work as Uber driver making US$ 8212 (US$15 per hour)
    – Teach your son to speak Chinese

  13. I think cutting cable is a great idea, gives you back some of your time too. Who provides your high speed internet? Most people overlook the fact that you cable company provides it, so you are not completely cutting the cord.

    1. That’s true, I’m not completely cutting out my cable provider since they do provide my internet. But I don’t see anyway at this point living without internet.

  14. I cut the cable off 6 years ago. It was because I realized that TV has really nothing to offer except potential shows I enjoy and they are constantly being interrupted by ads. So I focused more on watching shows, movies and documentaries on my laptop. Also, I have more time to exercise and even do activities that enjoy instead of being stuck in front of TV. Great post!


  15. The TV antenna was key for me in college. Allowed us to get all the big NFL games during football season without the big ESPN cable bill. Few people seem to know about this option even today

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