Getting ahead financially often goes hand in hand with sacrificing something you enjoy. Rare are the situations where you actually gain something while saving money. I argue that “cutting the cord” is actually one of those circumstances. The act of “cutting the cord” represents removing your cable or satellite TV provider to save money. You often hear about monthly bills ranging from 100 to up to 180 dollars a month. So removing these costs can add up to substantial savings.
While we are removing our provider, this does not mean we are going without TV. Many free and paid for services are available that allow you to get exactly what you want but at a much reduced cost. We will cover that now.
Step One – Get an Antenna
If saving money is your goal, then you cannot pass up the free option. Over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts include all major networks. These are in high definition and the quality is amazing. The local networks also often broadcast additional channels for even more content, weather, and more.
Use sites like http://www.antennaweb.org/Address to identify where local stations broadcast from and what type of antenna you should purchase. Install in a high location if possible (on roof of house). I was able to use the mounting hardware leftover when I removed the satellite dish from my roof. Popped it in, pointed correctly, secured it and I was done. Very simple and I now get all locals without any problems.
Step Two – Hook Up to Tuner
If you only need and want to hook up one TV, that is fine. Run the cable from your antenna to the TV and scan for digital channels. Easy peasy.
If you would like something a little cooler, look into the HDHomeRun. I got this bad boy when I bought my Antenna and am extremely happy. Basically, instead of plugging the cable from your antenna into your TV directly, you plug it in to this device. You then also run a network cable from the device to your home router (Verify you have an open port). A little bit of configuration and you can watch live TV on all sorts of devices wirelessly (computer, tablet, phone, Xbox, Playstation, and many other devices). You could split the cable and still run a direct line to your TV as well. I love gadgets and cool tech, so I will try to not go on and on but I really love this little thing.
A quick example! I love my football and watching my Lion’s lose heartbreaking game after heartbreaking game. With small kids, it is usually hard to really watch the game. I get pulled from room to room watching and playing with the kids. With my HDHomeRun, I may be watching the game on the TV, but when I need to move to a new room I pull the broadcast up on my Laptop. I now can move from room to room with my laptop. If my battery dies, I pull it up on my phone, or a tablet, or name your device. I can take my shows with me and not be tied to one TV in one room.
Consider a DVR
One drawback of going away from the convenience of the all in one TV provider solution, is no built in DVR. There are many ways to get around this if you absolutely require DVR capabilities.
I have not used this because I went a geekier route, but this sure sounds like a good product. It would probably replace the need for the HDHomeRun providing like functionality but also allowing you to have the typical DVR experience. Read reviews and let me know what you think if you get it. I am a little interested in the event I don’t feel like maintaining my previously mentioned geeky setup.
You can also build your own DVR if you have spare machines and drive space laying around. If you don’t enjoy being technically challenged, just skip this part. This is the option I went with but required a lot of configuration. This includes setting up servers, adding drive space, installing and configuration TV recorders, video editing, and playback utilities. I basically followed the instructions in the below link, but Argus TV did not work for me. I replaced this with Next PVR and it seems to be working pretty well.
Make Your TV Smart!
Smart TV is pretty common these days. It simple means that you TV has the ability to run applications. This can be weather services, Facebook, streaming services, Pandora. games, and other content of that variety. Many devices have the smart capability build in these days. This can include the TV itself, DVD players, Xbox, PlayStation, and other devices. If you don’t have any of these or don’t like how they work, I highly recommend the Roku. I have been using mine for a couple years now and it gets used all the time. This little device is actually what made of realize we needed to cut the cord. We had a six-month stretch where were paying for DISH Network, but realized we never turned it on. It was just sitting there! We only used our Roku and preferred it. The Roku plugs in like any other device, can connect to your home internet through cable or wireless, and has thousands of apps (Channels) available to keep you busy.
Anyways, if you would like to get a Roku, here is the one I have: Roku 3
They do now have a Roku 4 model out that does 4k if you want to spend a little more: Roku 4
More Content? Stream it!
OTA is great and I really recommend it. If this enough for you and you are satisfied with the programming you are receiving, great! You just saved a lot of money. But what helps give us TV lovers the ability to cut the cord is streaming utilities. You can still reach just about any content but at a fraction of the cost. Since saving money is the goal here, I recommend only having one or two paid for streaming services at a time. Many of these services now have shows they produce that are great watches. I recommend signing up for one, working your way through any content you are interested in, and then cancelling. Move on to the next service and do the same. By the time you rotate through all the providers, the original one will have a lot of new content. With that said, here are the providers I have used.
Hulu: If there was one streaming provider I would consider keeping all of the time, it would be Hulu. They have original content, a good kids’ lineup, and a decent movie lineup. Most importantly though, they have a large percentage of major shows. Want to watch the last three episodes of your favorite show? Log in to Hulu and start watching. If your shows are running on TV, Hulu will have them up shortly after they air. No worrying about if the DVR got it or watching it live. Just turn on Hulu and start watching. New content is always coming up so it is hard to run out of material.
Netflix: Another very popular option. They have excellent original content and a very good movie selection. This is one I would rotate through with other services. Watch everything you would like, then cancel and move to one of the below options.
Amazon: If you are a Prime subscriber (free shipping!) you get many other wonderful bonuses. One of those is their video content. Simple add the app and start looking through their prime selection. Other content is available at a cost as well, but the prime content is actually quite nice.
Amazon Starz: This is a subscription through Amazon that allows you to view Starz content. This allows you to watch a slew of highly rated shows. If I am being honest, my wife has been much more into this one than myself. She has worked through series after series and says the shows are extremely good. I have not kept up so well, but hey, it is football season as I write this!
Sling TV: If you still want to be able to watch live TV (HGTV, ESPN, and many others) Sling has your back. They offer various packages that allow you to stream channels often associated with cable packages. Just be careful, because this in top of other streaming services and can start to add up cost wise. If you absolutely need this, maybe save it for bad weather seasons when you are locked inside anyways.
Plex: Plex is a nice little gem. You take a computer at your house and turn it into a media server. (It still works like a normal computer, just doing something extra for you. From there, any media you tell Plex about is able to be streamed by your smart devices. For me, I have taken what seems like a billion videos and pictures of my kids. They love watching these. All they have to do is go into the Plex app on any of our connected devices and start playing the videos. They also just announced a new DVR functionality for OTA broadcasts. This is exciting because it is another money saving opportunity over spending on a DVR product. I will probably test in the future and write an article.
Cable or Satellite TV is nice, and has a lot of features but is extremely expensive. This is a bill that takes a substantial hunk of money of your pockets every single month. With a few small changes, maybe I should say improvements, you can have pretty much everything you had before but while keeping your hard earned money. Start saving!