A few years ago, my wife and I started discussing getting rid of our cable television package. We had just purchased our first home and when looking at our budget, the high cost of cable television just didn't seem to fit in anymore. Even though the thought of losing our primary source of entertainment was daunting, we were ready to "cut the cord."
Our cable bill was over $60 a month, leading to a yearly sum of over $720. Even though this was on the low end of the cable bill spectrum (the most expensive package in our area was over $110 a month), it still added up over time. Banking that amount of cash every year was a no-brainer; giving up our main source of entertainment was not. Not willing to simply sit in our living room and stare at each other, we sought out alternate sources of entertainment at little to no cost. Armed with internet access and a little bit of cash, we have successfully cut the cable cord and are watching more TV than we would have ever imagined. What follows is a comprehensive list of everything we have tried and used over the past few years, whether we liked it or not:
The library was our first stop for entertainment purposes. Over the years, the library in our community has slowly but surely beefed up their DVD selection to include many newer releases and box sets of TV shows. While they do not have the sheer volume of movies and TV shows a video store may have, everything is free so long as you have a library card and return things on time.
Over the Air Digital Signals/QAM
One of the great features of newer TVs is the inclusion of a QAM tuner. A QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) tuner allows a TV to pull in over-the-air digital signals that are broadcast from local cable providers and TV stations without the use of a set-top box. More often than not, this will allow you to pull in local channels and public access channels in high definition. Though every cable provider is required to broadcast these signals, some cities scramble the channels, so check and see if this works for you in your town before making the switch to this method.
A tried and true method, Netflix gives us the opportunity to watch exactly what we want when we want it. Though content is sometimes lacking, we have found that Netflix provides enough TV shows to keep us busy for a long time. In fact, Netflix alone has caused us to watch more TV now than we did with a full cable package.
We have a love/hate relationship with Hulu. Though Hulu is a great, free way to catch up on a missed episode of Community or Parks and Rec while watching over a computer, the new Hulu Plus service forces those who want to watch shows and movies any other way to buy a subscription to an otherwise free service. Though we occasionally watch a show on our laptop, Hulu has fallen behind on our list of favorites due to this change.
A relatively new player in alternative entertainment options, Microsoft has sought to turn its gaming platform, the Xbox 360, into multimedia powerhouse. This has caused us to move our Xbox 360 out of the man cave and into the living room. If you own an Xbox 360, you may have noticed an influx of new applications which allows you to view TV shows, movies, sporting events, and much more. Many of these apps are free or require a small subscription. Some of our favorites are:
Vudu is an on-demand video service that allows users to rent movies over the internet for a small fee. They often carry new releases and other selections many major video stores would carry.
A new app, Crackle features free movies and TV shows, buoyed by short advertisements placed sporadically throughout your selection. Though the selection is minimal compared to other paid platforms, Crackle does feature a few Hollywood hits each month and is constantly changing up their offerings.
- ESPN on Xbox Live
Even if you don't own an Xbox 360, many of these apps are available on other platforms.
Amazon Instant Video
Amazon has recently gotten into the video-on-demand service, and has built up their content to a point that allows them to sit right below Netflix. All you need to access Amazon Instant Video is an Amazon Prime account, which costs $79 a year. Amazon offers free one-month trials of their Prime service, so be sure to take advantage of the freebie. We have used Amazon Instant Video sporadically, but would consider using it more if they expanded their service to more platforms.
Getting rid of your cable seems like a daunting task. However, we assure you: you do not miss much. As soon as our cable was gone, our appetite for shows that we could no longer see went away. Shows that we used to carve out time to see in the past are hardly thought of at this point. As time has gone by, we have adjusted what we watch and how we watch based upon what is available to us at any given moment. This has made out of town visits and vacations more fun, because watching cable TV on somebody else's dime is great treat. With all of the new viewing options out there, we have ended up watching more of what we actually want to see than when we had cable TV. Take the leap and go for it: the only thing you will miss is a monthly cable bill.
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