If there is one thing that's certain about cable bills, it's that they always seem to keep going up. Each and every month there seems to be a new fee or price increase, and before you know it, your bill has doubled from the promotional price that originally made you a cable customer. On top of that, even if you call to get your bill lowered, they seem to sneak in new fees to bring the cost right back up. Wow, a free DVR? What they don't mention is they're also adding a monthly DVR fee. Upgrading to an HD cable box? Expect an HD programming fee to accompany it. Want to watch TV in your spare room? Better cough up some more money.
It never ends! And with regional monopolies and alternatives like DirecTV being no better, there used to be no other option but to put up with the necessary evil of the cable TV bill.
We've got good news - those days are long past! The rise of broadband Internet has made it possible to ditch cable TV altogether and never look back, all while not missing an episode of your favorite shows. So where do you begin to cut the cord and pocket the savings that come with being your own cable provider? Follow the simple steps in our Guide to Cutting the Cord, and you'll find yourself never dreading opening another cable bill again.
Check Your Data
First and foremost, you should be aware that cable companies are not giving up their spot in your living room without a fight, even if that means playing dirty.
These companies know that most cord cutters are still using their services to stream the competition, and that means customers need data. That is why many providers have moved customers over to plans that actually have a data cap, not unlike the unpopular data plans on mobile phones that plague many of us on a daily basis.
If you've been a subscriber for years, you may think you're in the clear, since you are probably grandfathered in with an unlimited data plan. However, if you've taken any tempting offers of free premium services for a limited time, you could have been moved to a capped plan without even knowing it.
Major cable providers like AT&T U-Verse and Comcast are both guilty of these arbitrary caps, and if you're not much of a streamer, you've probably never come close to those limits. However, once you sever the ties with your TV subscription and start to stream from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, the HD quality streams can eat through your data in a few short days of binge watching, and even quicker than that if you've got more than one person streaming in your home.
Check your bill, call your cable company, or check your terms of service online and find out whether or not your plan is capped. If you're under a cap, not all is lost. See if your provider offers a higher tier of service for a nominal price increase, or even compare the cost of going over that cap to your monthly cable bill. Even if you're capped, you can still find substantial savings by cutting your cable TV service.
Live TV and Sports
One of the most difficult aspects of cord cutting is dealing with the loss of live TV and sports. Sure, Netflix and Hulu are great, but what about your local newscast, live viewing parties of The Bachelor, and the Super Bowl?
While traditional rabbit ears may be long gone, many people are unaware that free, live, over-the-air television still exists, and it's in glorious high definition! This includes all three major broadcast networks - ABC, NBC, and CBS - as well as PBS and a host of regional networks. Most HDTVs can even take advantage of a free channel guide that is broadcast over the air.
Head over to the FCC's DTV Reception site to see what's available in your area. Click on your favorite stations, and the FCC site will tell you how far the signals are from your home and which direction your antenna should be pointed. If you like what you see, check to make sure your HDTV has a standard coax jack in the rear of the unit, since most HDTV antennas will plug straight into the TV.
Next, head to a reputable retailer with easy returns such as Amazon.com and shop for a new HDTV antenna without worry that you'll be stuck with it if you can't get decent reception. Skip the under $10 offerings because they are not amplified and will only pick up a good signal if you are extremely close to the station. While they aren't the cheapest, for under $50, there are many choices on amplified HDTV antennas that, if mounted properly, should pick up all your local channels in high definition. If you first turn your TV on and find stuttering and poor reception, don't give up, as moving the antenna higher up or on a different wall altogether can make all the difference in the world.
If you want the absolute best OTA reception and to grab the highest amount of free channels, there are even large attic or outdoor HDTV antennas that can be installed in your home. The cost upfront may be higher, but with cable bills typically over $100, the money will be recouped in only a few short months.
Once you've got it all set up, enjoy the free high-definition local content any time you flip your TV on, all without paying a cent to the cable companies.
Movies and TV
Now that your data and live TV are in order, it's time to choose your new content providers, and you have plenty of options.
Three providers stand head and shoulders above the rest, and at least one of them should be a default choice for cable cutters. We're talking about Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.
Netflix has gone from a mail-in DVD rental service to a streaming media powerhouse. While offering a wide variety of movies and entire series of shows are what put them on the map, what has really set Netflix apart from the pack is their critically acclaimed original content that can only be found on Netflix. Shows such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, or Marvel's Daredevil can only be seen on Netflix - and when teamed with fan favorite shows such as Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Friends, Futurama, and more, all for $8.99 per month, there is just no better value in online streaming.
Hulu Plus is also an online streaming giant, but their content model is almost a polar opposite from Netflix. The biggest rub with Netflix is that, aside from their original content, their offerings are often late to the party. This is where Hulu Plus excels, offering many shows the day after they air, and some even the same night. Hulu Plus brings this content from a variety of broadcast networks including NBC, ABC, Fox, USA Network, Syfy, E!, A&E, and Oxygen to name a few. While their full series library isn't as vast as Netflix, Hulu Plus has made some large strides recently, adding full series of shows to their library such as CSI, American Horror Story, South Park, the entire series of Seinfeld - the first streaming service to do so.
Amazon Instant Video is a relative newcomer but is making waves by taking a page out of Netflix's playbook and producing their own original shows like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle. One of the best aspects of Amazon Instant Video is that if you're an Amazon Prime member, Amazon Prime Instant Video is free, giving you instant access to movies and television shows from a variety of studios and television networks. Where Amazon sets itself apart from the others is offering a full blown pay-per-view service, making new release movies available for rent the same week they are available on DVD and Bluray.
Not sure which to choose? Don't worry! Each service offers a free trial period so you can sample the goods and see which services you'd like to accompany you in your new cable-free lifestyle.
What About My Premium Channels?
Until recently, most premium cable programming was available only with a cable subscription. If you wanted access to paid channels or some niche network shows, you had to take an entire cable package and then pay a fee on top of that to get your fix. However, with the surge in viewers wanting to sever their ties with cable, three distinct services have emerged to provide access to that content without paying for 200 other channels you'll never watch.
HBO Now is the true stand out in premium streaming content, offering everything TV fans love about HBO on a host of streaming devices for $14.99 per month. Yes, that means you can safely leave cable without missing a single episode of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, or True Detective. In fact, full episodes and seasons from dozens of HBO series, both past and present, are available on demand with HBO Now. Of course, it wouldn't be HBO without movies, and HBO Now offers instant access to hundreds of movies on an ever-changing rotation of hit titles.
Showtime also offers their premium content without cable for a price of $11 per month. Just as with HBO Now, this gives you access to Showtime's critically acclaimed premium original series such as Ray Donovan, Homeland, Dexter, Weeds, and more, in addition to Showtime movies and sporting events. If you decide to sign up for Hulu Plus, you can get a discounted price on Showtime by adding it onto your Hulu Plus account for only $9 more per month.
Sling TV fills the void left from all the niche programming you might miss when you cancel your cable. For a monthly price of $20 a month, you'll get live access to cable TV staples like ESPN, AMC, A&E, TNT, TBS, CNN, and more. Sling TV even offers specialty add on packages that adds bundles of sports programming, kids channels, or news outlets for a small add-on fee.
Connect to Your HDTV
So you've got your streaming packages all set up and you're ready to go cable-free. There's just one more problem: getting that content away from your computer and into the comfort of your living room.
For that, you'll need a streaming media device. If you're unfamiliar, a streaming media device is a small piece of electronics that connects to your TV and home internet connection and connects you with your favorite streaming services from the comfort of your couch.
The choice isn't simple, as there are a wide variety of media devices that suit a range of viewer demands. For help making that decision, head over to our 2015 Streaming Media Device Guide to see the best of what these devices have to offer.
Whichever you choose, just remember to make sure your new device specifically states that it offers the service you want to stream, as access to different content providers can vary from once device to the next.
Make Your Escape
You've got all your ducks in a row now. You've used our guide to check your data limits on your Internet, you've got your HDTV antenna mounted and ready to go, and you've signed up for some great streaming content. Now comes the fun part: canceling that cable TV package and saving a bundle of money, no strings attached!
If only it were that simple. Cable companies are fighting tooth and nail to keep customers from cutting the cord, so they do not make it easy. First, be prepared to be transferred with the retentions department when you call the cancel. If you've never dealt with one of these agents, their only job is to do everything possible to keep you as a customer. They will offer unbelievable discounts, free movie channels, and maybe even newer and fancier equipment. Don't forget why you started this journey - you want to cut that cable bill and pocket that money, and the discounts they offer are almost always temporary, and your bill will skyrocket once they expire.
If you successfully push past retention and cancel your service, be prepared for cable companies to get nasty. They'll begin to charge you disconnect fees, and even trip charges to come pick up the equipment. You can remedy this as much as possible by gathering up your equipment and taking it down to the local office yourself, just be sure to bring along each and every cable, remote, and accessory they gave you, as they'll be grasping at straws to try and get every last bit of your money before you say goodbye forever.
Now that you're in the business of saving money, you can keep that momentum going by checking back with BFads.net throughout the holiday season. We'll be bringing you the latest in leaked Black Friday ads, price drops, product reviews, buying guides, and more.