Both cable TV and satellite TV costs have risen drastically over the last several years. This can be a bummer if you’re living on a tight budget and you still want to watch your favorite TV shows.
In fact, if you’re busy and not always able to watch much TV anyway, you may decide that the high price of cable isn’t even worth it! That’s what happened to me a few years ago.
I found other hobbies to occupy my time instead of always turning on the TV. Then, since I wasn’t watching much TV anymore, I couldn’t justify paying such a high price for my cable subscription. So, I canceled it and I’ve never looked back!
- How to Watch TV Without Paying for Cable
- What About the Cost of the Internet?
- Bonus: The No-Internet Needed Alternative to Cable
- Why Is Cable So Expensive?
- Should You Cut the Cord?
- What I Use to Watch TV Without Cable
How to Watch TV Without Paying for Cable
I’ve saved over $4,000 just because I eliminated that one bill from my budget over four years ago.
The best part? I still get to watch all of my favorite TV shows, even though I don’t have a cable subscription. Here are a few ways you can watch TV without cable, too.
Hulu is my personal favorite way to watch TV without cable. The basic plan starts at just $7.99 per month. Selecting this plan gives you unlimited access to stream on your choice of devices, with limited commercials.
You can pay extra to get Hulu without commercials, but I don’t mind the few commercials that come with this basic plan. There are way fewer commercials with Hulu than with cable, and it’s also way cheaper.
You could also choose Hulu with Live TV for $39.99 per month. With this plan, you can stream 50+ live TV channels in addition to what you get with the basic plan.
Even if you sign up for the higher-priced plan you could still save at least $30 per month (on average) over cable. You can also cancel or switch plans at any time without having to pay a disconnect fee.
One of the downsides of Hulu is that you may not be able to watch local sports or news in every city. In addition, if you like to watch movies that aren’t available on the basic plan, you can add HBO, Cinemax or Showtime. But it will cost an additional fee for each.
Tip: You can save even more on Hulu if you use Rakuten!
2. Sling TV
Sling TV promises à la carte TV viewing and starts their Orange plan at $20 per month. This gives you 30 programs to watch, for at least $30 to $40 less than cable.
If your channels aren’t available on the Orange plan, you could choose the Blue plan for $25 per month and get 45 channels. Picking both plans is also an option that gives you a $5 discount.
If you want to add premium packages, such as sports, kids, Hollywood, or any of the other ones available, there is an extra fee that varies depending on the package you choose.
One advantage to Sling TV is that you get several choices. However, you may have to pay for both to get all of the channels you want. If you add extras, the price will quickly become close to what you’ve been paying for cable.
You can watch what you like on any device from anywhere with Sling TV. Plus, you can try it free for 7 days when you use my link.
3. Amazon Prime Video
If you have signed up for an Amazon Prime membership, you already have access to Amazon Prime Video, which includes thousands of videos and TV channels you can choose from without paying any additional fees. Or, if you aren’t already an Amazon Prime member, the monthly charge for Amazon Prime is $12.99.
Paying for an Amazon Prime annual membership is a much better deal. You have to pay $119 up-front, but it saves you about $37. Or, if you don’t want to become a Prime member, you can choose to only subscribe to Amazon Prime Video for $8.99 per month.
Any of these pricing options will save you an average of between $50 and $60 per month over using cable.
A plus of using Amazon Prime Video is that you don’t have to have a streaming device to watch videos or TV. You just need to set up an Amazon account and have a device that is connected to the internet.
When watching on a device that requires streaming, such as an older TV that’s not “smart”, you can choose to use an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, or several other devices. But you can’t use a Google Chromecast. I found that one out the hard way. 🙁
One other drawback to choosing Amazon Prime Video is that your credit card will automatically be charged for the next month if you do not cancel it. However, as long as you did not use the service, they should issue you a refund if you contact them.
Another way to watch TV without cable is to sign up for Netflix. The lowest-priced plan starts at only $7.99 per month. You can watch on just about any device from anywhere, but only on one at a time unless you upgrade to another plan.
The next level of Netflix is only $10.99 per month which is a much lower price jump than with Hulu. It allows you to watch on two devices simultaneously and in high definition.
You can also add additional users so each person has their own queue of shows and watch history. This is helpful if you have a roommate or if other family members watch Netflix and enjoy different shows.
There is also a premium option for $13.99 per month that has ultra high definition available and allows viewing on four devices.
Netflix takes away all of the commercials for you so you get to see what you want to see. You can also add a DVD or Blu-ray plan to your account. There are several levels ranging from $4.99 per month to $14.99 per month.
One of the drawbacks of using Netflix is that you won’t be able to get local news or sports programs. Nevertheless, when you compare the price of Netflix to cable, you come out ahead by around $50 to $60 per month.
Many devices have a connection for Netflix on them, which eliminates the need for a streaming device. If yours doesn’t, however, you can choose from Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, PlayStation 4, and more.
5. CBS All Access
CBS All Access is a streaming service for just $5.99 each month. You can watch your favorite shows with limited commercials. Or, you can get commercial-free streaming for $9.99 per month.
Choosing the higher priced commercial free-streaming will still easily save you $50 to $60 per month, if not more. You can watch over multiple electronic devices, such as your laptop, tablet or phone.
But there are drawbacks. Not all live-access TV is available in every city or town. In addition, some programs are not available for viewing by cell phone.
What About the Cost of the Internet?
Admittedly, the options above do require the use of high-speed internet or mobile data (if you choose to watch on your cell phone). So, the biggest assumption here is that you’ll be saving the most money if you already pay for the internet.
If that’s the case, cutting cable and using the internet you’re already paying for to stream these services will save you money.
However, if you don’t already have internet and you want to cut the cord on cable, make sure you do your math first.
The average internet bill is about $50/month, but can range from $10 to $120 depending on the speed you choose, what company you use, and if you get an introductory offer that lowers the bill temporarily.
With this in mind, make sure you factor in the cost of the internet plus any of the plans above. Depending on what you were paying for cable, it may or may not be worth it to switch.
Bonus: The No-Internet Needed Alternative to Cable
If you don’t already have internet and you’ve crunched the numbers only to find that you can’t save money with these TV streaming options, don’t worry! There’s still an alternative that may work for you: using a TV antenna.
Before you write this off, hear me out. These days antennas are much more powerful and TV signals much stronger than they used to be.
Using the right antenna can help you get as many as 50 channels without paying for a monthly subscription to anything.
The exact number of channels you can get with a TV antenna will depend on what antenna you get and where you live. But, if you don’t watch TV much anyway, this is a great no-internet-needed option.
Here are a couple of the highest rated antennas from Amazon:
Why Is Cable So Expensive?
Bundling is one of the big reasons cable TV prices have become so high in recent years. For instance, the average monthly cable bill for consumers ranges from $70 to $100 per month in most homes. Many people believe the cable providers are to blame for bundling and price hikes.
Sure, they do make some good money from the bundling of channels. However, it is the large networks that are actually behind higher prices. They force cable providers to bundle unwanted channels along with the popular ones.
Those big networks have all the power. If the providers refuse to bundle channels, the networks will respond by simply finding a different provider who will.
Therefore, the providers keep agreeing to the demands of the networks and customers keep paying high bills because many are locked into a long-term contract. Nevertheless, dissatisfied customers are looking for—and finding—alternatives.
Should You Cut the Cord?
Before you decide to cut the cord, make sure you’ve considered these four things.
What TV shows and channels do I like to watch?
Before you up and cut the cord, you might want to make sure those shows you can’t live without are one at least one of the cable alternative options listed above.
Not every show or every channel’s content is on every cable alternative, but I’ve almost always been able to find the shows and movies I want to watch on at least one of these options.
Thinking about what you like to watch will also help you decide which of these alternatives is right for you. For example, if all you want to watch is the news and shows from the major networks, like CBS and NBC, you might be able to get away with only having an antenna. You might not need a streaming service at all!
However, if you prefer to watch other shows and movies, check to see which streaming service offers the best selection for your tastes before you sign up for one.
When do I want to watch TV?
Something to keep in mind is that not all of these alternatives will have the latest and greatest shows. So, if you want to avoid spoilers and keep up with your friends who have still have cable, you’ll want to get something like Hulu that offers new shows right after they air on cable vs Netflix, where you have to wait until the entire season is over and that’s if they acquire the rights to the show.
In my experience, Hulu is better for newer TV shows from cable and Netflix is better for older content, like shows that are no longer airing on cable. Both also have a good variety of original content to choose from too.
How do I want to watch TV?
How and where you want to watch TV may affect your decision to cut the cord too. By switching to streaming services you’ll have to have a strong internet connection and a device to use for streaming.
There are a variety of devices you can use to stream, so this is less of a concern now than it was a few years ago, but you’ll still want to think about it before you cut the cord.
If you don’t have a way to hook up a streaming service to your TV (if you have an older TV instead of a smart TV), you’ll have to get a streaming device, like an Amazon Fire TV Stick or a Roku, if you want to watch it on your actual TV.
Will this actually save me money?
Here’s where you need to do a little math to make sure the service or services you sign up for will actually help you save money.
After you decide which one or ones to use, make sure it’s less than your monthly cable bill. If your cable bill is bundled with your internet service, you’ll need to find out how much the internet will cost you once it’s no longer bundled with your TV package.
If the discount you’re getting for bundling is significant, it may be cheaper to just stick with your bundle at least until it expires.
What I Use to Watch TV Without Cable
I actually use three of the five options in this article. I personally use the $7.99 Hulu plan, the $10.99 Netflix plan, and I have access to Amazon Prime Video because of my annual Prime membership.
Between these options, I can watch nearly any show or movie that I desire. My monthly cost is $18.98 for Netflix and Hulu. I don’t count the Amazon Prime Video cost because I get that as a part of my $119 annual Prime membership fee.
To stream my favorite movies and shows, I use a Roku device.
It is indisputable that cable prices have gotten high over the last several years. But as consumers, we don’t have to pay those prices. We can use other options to watch TV without cable and save money for other things.
How do you watch television? Are you still paying for cable?