I’m guilty. I couldn’t live without my television nor my home internet service. From the dramas to the the movies to the reality TV shows (the trashier the better!), I’m completely sucked in. And internet – how could I even work without home wifi service? Or browse Facebook or Twitter or email? It’s as much a necessity as gas or water. My sci-fi and newsflash addicted husband would agree.
But it comes at a cost. Up until we made some changes about a year and a half ago, we were spending $162.87/month on DirecTV and Verizon FiOS service. And this was actually a savings over our former Time Warner cable service. All that entertainment ain’t cheap!
So I began looking into how to lower our costs. But for our services, it appeared that we were at or better than the going rate for other cable/internet provider packages. The only way to save some real cash would be to – don’t gasp – cut cable.
But we weren’t the cutting type. We loved cable! What do cable-cutters DO in their down time?? Stare at a blank TV screen? Play Scrabble? Not horrible pursuits, but an arguably far second to watching dramatic classics such as RHOBH.
But after talking to some friends who had survived the cut (and still seemed happy!) we decided to give it a shot. Heck, the two little ones were keeping us busy anyway. After several nights of anxiety and cold sweats, I made the call to cancel our service with DirecTV. I also called Verizon to increase our FiOS internet speed.
And guess what… We have never looked back! My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner. It has been financially one of the best money-saving moves we have made, with little to no impact on our television viewing habits.
So how can it be done with minimal pain?
- Purchase a streaming media player. I ultimately went with the Roku 3 Streaming Media Player for our primary television, and a Roku 3500R Streaming Stick for the bedroom. There are many media players out there, but the reasons I ultimately selected the Roku were the breadth of both public and secret channels available, along with the very nice feature of being able to filter on Amazon Prime movies and shows (to avoid additional costs). A year and a half in, I would go with the Roku again, but would likely only purchase the Roku streaming stick. I’ve not noticed any tangible difference in performance between the stick and the Roku 3, the stick is more portable, and sells for half the cost.
- Load the Roku with preferred free public and private channels. Once you set up your Roku, you will be prompted to select public channels of interest. There are many for any interests, including entertainment, news, radio, games, hobbies, etc, etc. I like Roku Guide for a listing of currently available public channels. But where the real fun comes in is with the private channels. Don’t worry – there is no exclusive club you have to be a part of to find these – you just need to know where to find them. I use mkvXstream to easily find and add channels of interest.
- Add any paid channels of interest. And there are many options available depending on your budget and interests. Using value as my key criteria for adding a paid channel, I selected and still maintain these three:
Amazon. The great news for Amazon Prime members is that your membership already includes free programming! And Roku, unlike some other streaming media devices, makes it easy to filter by only the included (free) programming. No commercials! Once the show/movie is loaded, you can watch it without interruption. I’m a huge fan of Amazon for many reasons, and this is yet another.
- Netflix. My husband already had a Netflix account, so we simply added it to the Roku. With Netflix, no filtering is required as all streaming shows and movies are included with your membership. An added bonus is that Netflix has a huge section just for kids’ programming that includes many of my childrens’ favorite shows and series. Like Amazon, no commercials here.
- Hulu Plus: This is the paid version, not to be confused with the free online version of Hulu (sans the “Plus”). I hesitated about purchasing this channel as it does include commercials, but am glad I did. Hulu Plus specializes in popular TV shows and series, airing new episodes they day after they air on traditional cable (unlike Netflix or Amazon, which can take months). And while there are indeed commercials to deal with, there are typically only 1-3 per segment, so not as annoying as I had anticipated.
- Upgrade your internet speed if necessary. With all of this streaming, you’re going to need enough bandwidth to handle it all! Fortunately we already had a high-speed package in place through Verizon FiOS, but decided to upgrade for an even better experience. After going to 100/100 Mbps, we have virtually no buffering time no matter how many devices are streaming at the same time.
- Purchase a digital antenna. If you or your family are anything like us, it’s going to be a tough sell giving up your favorite live sports. Fortunately, you don’t have to! We purchased a Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna, and it immediately gave us crystal clear access to an additional 100+ local channels (without rabbit ears!) Instead, the antenna is a thin square that can be hidden behind the TV itself. We haven’t missed a favorite live match yet!
And that’s all there is to it – now you’re ready to start watching! Take control of your viewing habits by watching only the shows and channels you want, when you want to. Is there a favorite series that is missing on one of the free public or paid channels? No problem – simply buy the episode a la carte via Amazon or your favorite provider, or just purchase the entire series!
And how does the cost savings add up for us?
- Former Cable + Internet Bundle Monthly Costs: $162.87 bundling services provided by DirecTV and Verizon FiOS.
- Current Television + Internet + Paid Channel Monthly Costs: $81.97, a savings of 50%! Note that this does not include the annual $99 fee for Amazon Prime, as that is something I already had and used for reasons outside of this. This does include the $8.99 monthly fee for Netflix, although that was also a pre-existing cost we maintained prior to cutting cable.
And what about the detailed upfront and monthly costs?
Ongoing Monthly Costs
I highly recommend making the switch. In addition to the cost savings, we are more purposeful in our television and movie watching (vs. simply staring blankly at whatever happens to be on the screen). The children’s programming alone has been a huge convenience – favorite movies and shows can be started and stopped at any time. Best of all, your programming comes with you! Simply tuck the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick in a pocket or purse to have all your favorites available on any television. For us, it’s been a win all around.