First a little background: My wife and I were paying $180 per month to the cable company, which included phone, internet and a basic television package… yes, one of the infamous ‘bundles’! It all started by signing up for one of the alluring ‘everything for $99′ deals… fast forward a year (when the introductory rate had expired) and bill started slowly creeping up each month, strange fees started appearing and after years of calling them to negotiate better rates, I just couldn’t take it anymore!
I kept reading more and more about so called ‘cord cutters’ so a few months ago I decided to take the plunge. With my new setup (which I’ll outline below), I can watch almost all of the shows I used to watch with cable television and tons of content I never had access to before, at a fraction of the cost.
- For the setup I’m going to describe, you’ll still need high-speed internet and for me the best option was my cable company (one way or another they find a way to take your money). Other options include fiber providers like AT&T Uverse or Verizon Fios, but no matter which one you go, this will run you about $45-65 per month (mine was about $60). If this is already over your monthly budget, see my Cheapo Alternative at the bottom.
- If your high speed internet modem doesn’t include a wi-fi router you’ll need one of those too. Fortunately mine did, but if not you can find these pretty cheap at Best Buy or similar stores.
Replacing Cable TV:
- The most important purchase you’ll make for this setup, the Roku box. I decided to go with the Roku 2 XD model because of its wi-fi support, but it looks like they’ve recently released the Roku 3. Without making any more purchases this will give you a ton of free content in the form of hundreds of ‘Roku Channels’ including popular services like Pandora and Crackle. This is a one time cost of about $70, and zero monthly fees.
- OK, so now you have a bunch of free music/shows/movies but probably not exactly what you had in mind. So the next step for me was to sign up for both Netflix and Hulu Plus. Roku has channels for both. Netflix is amazing for everything that’s more than a season or two old. This is what you’ll use to catch up on shows/seasons you’ve missed (e.g. they have the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, but not the latest). As another example, I’m a big sci-fi fan and Netflix has every episode of every Star-Trek series… I know… awesome. You can also use their mobile app to stream content when you’re out of the house. So Netflix doesn’t have the latest shows/seasons, does this mean you have to wait a year to see the next season of your favorite shows? No, this is where Hulu Plus comes in. Hulu is pretty much the only place to find current shows/seasons that will stream to Roku or other set top boxes. Monthly cost, $16 ($8 each for Netflix/Hulu).
- You’re in pretty good shape now… you’ve got current shows, can catch up on older seasons/shows and have a bunch of other content, but what about live news, weather and sports? Roku has some channels for all of these but the content is either out of date and/or costs additional money. Enter the Mohu Leaf! This indoor antenna is about the size of a piece of paper and almost as thin. The number/quality of channels you get will depend on how close you live to the television stations. I live about 30 miles away from most of them and I was able to pull in 14 channels including most of the major network channels (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc), plus local news and weather, most of which are in 1080p HD! The best part is the one time purchase of about $40 and no monthly cost.
- At this point you’ve got pretty much everything you’ll need, but if you still don’t have everything, read on. DISCLAIMER: I don’t condone torrenting and the following information can be used to stream any media, not just illegally downloaded material. Roku has a channel for Plex media server which allows you to stream any video/audio content from your PC or home media server to your TV. This is a great feature to have if you have a bunch of content sitting on your PC that you’d like to watch without sitting hunched over your computer. Cost $0.
- So now you’ve got everything TV-related covered, but what about phone service? Most people will decide to just use their cell phones, but my wife likes the idea of having a home phone so I signed up for Magic Jack Plus. The ‘plus’ version doesn’t require a computer and you just plug one end into your router and one end into your portable phone and you are good to go, not to mention the call quality is pretty good. The device has a one time cost of about $70 with the first year of service included and every year after running about $30 which comes to less than $3 per month (about $20 less than most VOIP services).
The Cheapo Alternative:
If the setup above sounds too expensive and/or complicated and all you need is basic television (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc) and you live less than 50 miles from these major television stations, see #5 above. You can watch the news, weather, sports and quite a few popular network shows and save a bundle on your monthly costs.
If you take the time to add up everything above, you’ll see that I’m saving almost $100 a month and I’ve recouped all of my initial costs in only a month or two. If you don’t need everything I mentioned above you may be able to save even more money. I hope this post helps you decide to take the plunge like I did. When you see the extra hundo in your pocket each month, you wont regret it.