At this point in time I think most people are somewhat familiar with cord cutting. If you aren’t well, this might be interesting. To get started it should be said that this is not for everyone and it does take effort. For many these ideas might be a perfect fit and a wonderful way to save money, month after month. Could you cancel your cable television service for good? Lets find out.
Cable television just plain sucks.
This isn’t just a fancy headline trying to suck you in further and keep you reading. This is the cold hard truth. When I started to consider cutting the cord there were a few problems I was interested in finding solutions for. Some of these solutions are simple and effective while others are a balancing act. First lets take a look at the biggest gripes.
1. Cable TV is expensive.
Back when we finally made the switch our television service cost between $60 and $70 every single month. This was just basic service, no premium channels padding our bills, zero frills. The channel lineup was the usual suspects, news, 50 or so terrible music channels and of course the weather. It never seemed to us like we were getting the appropriate value for our money every month.
2. Commercials just suck.
Advertising is everywhere, it’s on your phone, your computer and almost everywhere your eyes gaze. There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the practice of advertising in general. But limiting the disruptions will make your life better, trust me on this one.
3. The major networks aren’t what they used to be.
If we turn back the clock about a decade the entertainment landscape was really different. Most of the popular programming was being provided by the major networks and a few premium providers like HBO and Showtime. Today everything is different. The top streaming providers are all producing top notch original content which is only available on their platforms. In a very short time we’ve evolved to where many are already using these streaming platforms in additional to cable. In short, cable just isn’t enough these days.
So where do I start with cord cutting?
There are really two components you need sorted out if you are serious about cord cutting. The first is to determine which streaming services will provide you with the programs you are most interested in watching. Once that’s out of the way you will need the right equipment for your particular needs. This part really isn’t very hard though.
Picking your streaming services.
To get started take a look at your current cable bill and determine how much you are paying per month. If your goal is to save money every month we need to know what our budget is. Once you know how much you are spending look over the available streaming options to find a good mix of services. The big three I always recommend starting with are Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video. All 3 of these services offer excellent original content as well as previous seasons of popular shows and movies galore. If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber you already have access to the Prime Video service at no additional cost!
Finding the right mix of services can be tough and it takes a little effort but it’s worth it. Here is a brief list of popular streaming services to take a look at.
Popular streaming services:
Our personal choices were very simple and provide us with more entertainment than we can possibly consume. Currently Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video work well for us and meet our personal needs. We enjoy the original content on Netflix like Stranger Things and Ozark, stand up comedy and plenty of movies. Hulu has us covered for most weekly programs we enjoy on the larger networks like Brooklyn 99 and The Conners. Prime Video is really just a bonus for us and one we honestly don’t use too often. We have found that with Netflix and Hulu we typically have our hands full.
While our solution is simple and inexpensive you might have some different needs and desires. Maybe you are a huge sports fan or you want more kid friendly options. This really is the best part of cord cutting, you get to build your own package that fits your life and budget. Currently Hulu has an excellent bundle that provides basic Hulu service, Disney+ and ESPN+ for only $12.99 per month. That’s a tough deal to beat if you want sports & access to the Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars libraries!
Hate commercials as much as I do? Netflix and Prime Video are commercial free and Hulu has an option to remove ads. It’s only an additional $6 per month which is well worth it in my opinion.
What about equipment?
This is confusing to many and there are quite a few options out there now for set-top boxes. You can use a smart TV but I have found that they typically don’t work all that well with the exception of those with Roku built in. We have tried many set-top devices over the years we always come back to Roku, every single time. With support for every major streaming platform and a really simple interface the choice is easy. Pricing is great and we have even had good luck moving our elderly parents to Roku without trouble. There are a few models to pick from with my personal recommendations shown below.
There must be a catch, right?
No, not really. You will find that you are missing things that are easily replaced with some basic changes to your habits. YouTube is a great, free, replacement for live national news and Roku has a great app for it. Your local news station’s website should be able to fill in the rest for you including weather reports. You might find yourself missing a show here and there. You can always rent or buy these seasons as needed using Amazon and still come out ahead.
That’s a lot of work for a little savings!
Not really if you just take the time to think it through. In our specific case the cable TV bill was between $60 and $70 a month. By cutting the cord and ditching cable TV we saw an instant savings of $780 a year. As we were already Amazon Prime subscribers there was no additional cost for Prime Video. Netflix costs us one penny shy of $16 per month with the 4k video upgrade. Hulu runs just under $12 per month with the no-commercial option. This brings our total cost for entertainment to just under $28 per month or $336 annually. That’s a 57% savings from where we were with cable TV service. At this point I couldn’t even imagine switching back over. The experience using these streaming services on Roku combined with the amount of quality content available is truly amazing.
How the little things add up.
To continue this exercise one thing we love to do is look at how these changes will impact our retirement. This is where we draw the motivation to make changes to our habits. There’s just something about being able to measure and see the benefits. Our $37 monthly savings between ages 45 and 65 would yield almost $19,000 in our retirement account. That’s if we maintained just a 7% annual return. That little nest egg earning just 3% in retirement would provide us with over $550 of income every single year. That’s without dipping into the capital at all! Changing our habits now will pay for our entertainment after we retire for the rest of our lives.
That’s what Foolish to Frugal is all about for us.