Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Are you sick of mounting bills and steady, cable rate increases?
Are you looking for a way to cut your cable, but unsure what to do or how to do it?
Has a family member or friend cut their cable and found a better, cheaper way to get along without it?
If this sounds like something you are interested in, here are 4 things to consider before calling your current cable provider and telling them to stuff it.
But first, you need to decide if you are leaving your couch potato ways behind forever, or are replacing your current viewing habits with something more budget friendly.
If you’re chopping the bill with hopes of getting off the couch, then let me be the first to say, “Congratulations!” Although vegging out in front of the TV is a hard habit to break, it's not impossible... so do it to it!
On the other hand, if you are trying to find a more wallet friendly alternative to your current plan, you will first need to determine if you have the right equipment for the move.
1. Do you have a television with HDMI, USB, or Composite Component ports?
To receive streaming services, you will either need a smart tv, or a television that offers one or more ports for audio/video connectivity. An HDMI port looks similar to an USB port but it has chamfered corners, the USB port is a rectangle shape, and composite component ports are colored red, white & yellow.
Most newer, smart tv’s offer a streaming device built right in, but in my opinion, they are a bit clunky when it comes to navigating to favorite streaming apps. Personally, I like the Roku stick that plugs right into my smarty-pants tv because it comes with its own remote - having very few buttons to figure out. Just stick it and click it! Voila!
Of course, Google offers their own streaming stick called Chromecast, which is just like the Roku, but offers a little different programming. If you’re shopping for a streaming device, just look at all the viewing choices each offers so you can get the right tool for the task.
Most streaming devices will need to plug into an HDMI port, so if your television does not have one, you will probably need to buy a composite port converter to HDMI.
2. Do you have reliable Internet service?
Make sure your Internet speed has enough oomph to stream HD video --- and more if there are two or more viewing devices being used at one time --- before you cut the cable.
A 4K Internet service, or higher, is best for streaming abilities. Consumer reports also offers some tips and solutions to help get your Internet service where you need it to be in the article, Is Your Internet Fast Enough For Streaming.
Also make sure there isn’t a ‘cap’ on your monthly data allotment through your Internet provider. Otherwise, you will be out of viewing juice after a week or two of movie watching. It’s not impossible to use a capped Internet service if you sacrifice picture quality to use less data. Just don’t choose the HD version to view your favorite movies.
Netflix recommends a 5 Mbps downstream connection for HD video and a 25 Mbps connection for Ultra HD. If you want to run multiple streams at the same time, or otherwise use your home internet while you’re streaming, you’ll need an even faster connection.
Keep in mind that the cost of Internet service will increase if it had a bundle package rate. Ask your service provider for exact costs for Internet service after cutting the cable if the two came bundled.
3. What do you like to watch?
Whether you are a news fanatic, a soap opera junkie, a sports fan, or love recording programs on your DVR, you will want to make certain you can live without them, OR adjust your viewing habits to other solutions.
If you received a free DVR from the cable company, they’re going to want it back after getting the cable-snippers out of your wallet. The good news is you may not need the DVR after all. Switching to streaming apps means most everything you watch is considered ‘on demand’. Therefore, finding programming solutions before cutting the cable will need to be your main focus.
Finding a NEWS source alternative was one of the biggest issues I had after cutting the cable. Being used to flipping on a favored local station, I found myself struggling for a way to get the news I wanted, and finding alternatives that worked just as well.
All of the latest news is available directly from your favorite station’s website. You can use your smartphone, computer, or tablet to get the local headlines, national, and world news. Also, most networks will send video updates to YouTube.com where you can view the day’s clips at your leisure.
If you like your local news programs, you may be able to receive your favorite news channel via an antenna system for free. The only problem is finding an antenna that suits your needs.
Don’t buy one claiming you will receive 50 channels or more, guaranteed! Chances are you won’t get that many stations, so do a little research to find an antenna that works for your area.
One of the quickest ways to find out what works in your area is to go for a drive and look at what other people are using. If you’re not too shy, stop and ask how their system works, how easy it is to setup, and what channels they get.
If you’re a little too shy, no problem!
In Alan Henry article, How to Choose the Best Over-the-Air Antenna for the Free HDTV, Henry offers great tips on how to choose a system. It even includes a video on how to make your own antenna.
Our own, homemade antenna works pretty good at receiving local channels… some better than others, so the answer is YES, you can make your own antenna.
You can also try plugging the antenna cable directly into the cable wall outlet as this sometimes acts as an antenna and will help you to receive some local channels.
A streaming device such as Roku or Chromecast also offers many free news programs through its programming. It’s just a matter of browsing their offerings and adding them to the viewing cache. The only downside is these are usually pre-recorded videos, so it’s a little tough to find breaking state and local news on these apps.
Besides browsing your favorite news networks on the Internet and using news apps through streaming devices, you can download your favorite news app right onto your mobile phone, computer, or even your tablet. Twitter, CNN, and Flipboard (just to name a few) are all examples of great applications that can help keep you up to date on the news you love most. Sign up for notifications to receive automatic alerts whenever something newsworthy is happening.
Are the sports channels keeping you clinging to your cable? Check out Sling, Hulu & other sports streaming apps to get your fix. The best part of using sports apps is you just pay for the months you want to use them, so if NFL Football is your thing, sign up for football season and save your excess monthly subscription fees for the following year’s viewing pleasure.
If watching MOVIES is your go-to, and you can’t find your favorite flicks on free apps or other streaming services, know there are other places to find your favorite movies in a pay-per-view format. Look for pay-per-view movies through Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, and MORE!
4. Will you need to enroll in a monthly streaming service?
As mentioned throughout this post, there are all kinds of streaming services. Many of these services offer FREE movies and television programs, but know that the free ones usually contain commercials that you can’t fast forward through.
You will need to set up an account for each app, which is kind of a pain, but once you do that you’re off to the races.
Beyond FREE, you may find a few subscription services that offer exactly what you want in viewing preferences. Netflix is one of my favorites, along with the new Disney+, and HBO Now. Sign up for free trial services and keep them if you like. Each subscription varies in cost, but still may add up to a goodly savings compared to your current cable subscription.
Apple TV is a newer service quickly impressing its viewers, so it will be worth a peek. And many of today’s streamers can’t live without their Hulu or Sling subscription, so check those out too. Again, you will have to create accounts for any of these subscription services, but it’s all part of the deal.
The Take Away
All in all, deciding to cut the cable is a huge step for many. If you do your research and prepare yourself ahead of time, the transition into a cable-free life will be easy. But even if you got your cart before the horse, it's just a matter of plowing your way through all of the newfangled gadgets and terminology to figure it out.
And remember, if worse comes to worse you can always hook your cable back up. Just make sure you give Streaming a good month or more of getting used it.
A new and exciting lifestyle in entertainment awaits.
Are You Ready?
To help you make an informed decision on cutting the cable, considered checking your internet speed at:
All Connect: https://www.allconnect.com/internet/speedtest
They also offer an article on what internet speeds mean, and what you can and cannot do with what you have. Check out David Anders article here.
Other helpful links:
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Henry, Alan, December 4, 2019, How to Choose the Best Over-the-Air Antenna for Free HDTV, https://lifehacker.com/how-to-choose-the-best-over-the-air-antenna-for-free-hd-1569752514
Levy, Adam, September 19, 2019, 15 Things to Consider Before Cutting the Cord, https://www.fool.com/slideshow/15-things-consider-cutting-cord/?slide=6