If you’re a person, I’m sure you love saving money.
The joy of seeing a paycheck appear in your bank account is usually followed too quickly by the pain of watching it diminish, going toward bills, loans, insurance and whatever other fun expenses you may be dealing with. Every article or blog post you read regarding finances will tell you to evaluate your bills and cut the unnecessary expenses. Stop going out to eat so often, skip the morning coffee, ride your bicycle every now and then–you know the drill.
In my opinion, the biggest money-waster out there is cable. It seems like a lot of people have figured this out, as most people I know are living life cable-free. If you have a decent Internet connection, you shouldn’t have to pay for satellite, cable, or anything that will cost you more than $8 a month.
Despite our complete lack of money, my boyfriend and I had cable when we first moved to Colorado. And the biggest reason for getting it was to watch sports. Cable was one of the only bills I took on, and it didn’t take long for me to realize I couldn’t continue dishing out $50 a month for the starter package without an income. So we cancelled it.
Aside from being a waste of money, having cable was also a waste of time. Would I go on Hulu and watch The Real Housewives of New York? No. But if I’m flipping through stations and it happens to be on TV… well that’s a different story. And with reality shows like that, there’s never just one episode on. If I happen to turn the TV on in the morning, a marathon of Real Housewives, Project Runway or America’s Top Model is bound to be on. And then 2 p.m. comes out of nowhere and I realize half of my day has been wasted.
That’s why I prefer the cable alternative. What does the cable alternative consist of? Similar to cable, you can choose your own package depending on how much you’re willing to pay for television. Here are some options you can choose from to build your own entertainment bundle:
This option isn’t really free–no matter what you choose to do you’ll need to pay an Internet bill. While it might be tempting to take advantage of the one neighbor whose internet doesn’t require a password or to go with the cheapest Internet option, it will be better for your stress levels if you have an Internet speed of 20 Mbps or higher. Would you rather watch Modern Family or a spinning wheel?
Obviously, you can watch certain shows on Hulu and network websites for free. Nearly every episode of South Park is at your fingertips, no additional payment required. Really into sports? ESPN allows you to stream content for free as long as you’re buying Internet services from a company on their list of providers. Don’t forget about the websites that give you access to nearly every show imaginable–free of charge–along with a potential virus if you’re not careful. I can think of three sites, one for sports and two for television shows, all of which I’m hesitant to include in this post.
For just $8 a month, Netflix gives you the ability to stream thousands of movies and television series. If you’re watching an older series like The X-Files, you can go through every season (yes, all nine for X Files) in one sitting. But if you’re watching a series that is still on the air, like How I Met Your Mother, you’ll have to look to other viewing options once you’re caught up.
You can enjoy shows on Hulu for free, but more and more of those annoying green plus signs are popping up on episodes, preventing non-plus users from watching them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hulu Plus is also a very affordable $8 per month, and it allows you to watch the latest episodes of thousands of shows. But to keep costs down for users, Hulu Plus does have commercial breaks… buzz kill. Hulu also has a library of movies available for streaming, with some of the better titles requiring Hulu Plus.
Kindle users and avid Amazon shoppers, this may be the best option for you. For $79 a year (about $6.60/month), Amazon Prime allows you to stream television shows and movies, gives you access to thousands of books available for rent from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and allows you to have items shipped for free. TV shows available seem to be similar to Netflix, in that new episodes aren’t available directly after airing. Amazon also recently began allowing users to pay $8 monthly rather than $79 yearly, which would save you some cash up front but leave a bigger financial dent in the long run.
Just because all of your television-viewing pleasures are now coming from the Internet doesn’t mean your laptop needs to become your new TV. It can, if you’re OK with that. But I’ll throw a few other options out there:
This is the cheapest way to watch shows from the Internet on your TV. Simply plug one end of the cable into your laptop and the other end into your television. You are now successfully watching Downton Abbey on your TV. You can buy an HDMI cable for less than $20; just make sure your laptop and television each have an HDMI output/input.
If you have one of the latest gaming systems, you’ll be able stream shows from Netflix, Hulu Plus and more to your system and play them on your television. Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U you are all systems that allow you to do this and cost around $300. Nintendo Wii allows you to stream Netflix and Hulu Plus, but that’s about it.
You can buy a new blu-ray player with Wi-Fi capabilities for between $100 and $200. The latest devices allow you to access websites through the player and view them on your television, similar to gaming systems.
Wireless HDMI transmitter
The only job this device has is wirelessly connecting your television to the Internet. Unlike most gaming systems and blu-ray players, wireless HDMI transmitters actually let you surf the web via a portable device (such as a laptop) rather than limit you to Hulu and Pandora apps. These devices look similar to Internet routers and can cost anywhere from $50 to over $200.
Hopefully this was a good start to your quest for living cable-free. Good luck with the alternative! And if you have more detailed advice for any of these options or know of other online media/devices, please don’t hesitate to share.