When I went from living with roommates to paying rent on an apartment of my very own, I had to cut quite a bit of fat from my budget. Cable television was one of the first luxuries to go, and it was surprisingly pain-free. Rather than paying at least $60 monthly for channels I barely watch, for the past couple years I’ve relied on some free and low cost solutions instead. Between Netflix, an HD antenna and the internet, I hardly miss cable at all. In fact, the only thing I really miss is mindlessly flipping channels, and for the money I’m saving that’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.
Netflix is the primary weapon in my arsenal against boredom. I pay for both the DVD and streaming option, for a grand total, including tax, of $16.69. This gets me an unlimited number of DVDs in the mail, though only one at a time, and also unlimited streaming of their online library. If I wanted to cut back even further I could easily forgo the physical DVD, since I personally utilize the streaming option far more often. That would cut my bill in half.
I use my Wii to stream Netflix directly onto my TV and am able to easily watch hours of movies and TV series, albeit not seasons that are currently airing. Netflix can also be streamed from an XBox 360, a PS3, mobile devices and various other sources. Though I wish there were more new releases available to stream on Netflix, the selection they do have is enough to keep me busy for a long time.
I also have an HD antenna, which cost me less than $20 and which I’ve had for two years. Through that I get crystal clear reception of the major networks, including NBC, ABC and Fox. I also get several Spanish language channels, though I don’t watch them. And not only can hi def TVs be hooked up to antennas, but these antennas even pick up program descriptions, making it almost like basic cable.
The internet is the third weapon in my cost saving trifecta. Though it’s not free, this is a cost I’d have to shoulder with or without cable. There are the obvious sites like Hulu, which have hundreds if not thousands of movies and currently airing series. Then there are the network websites, such as ABC.com, where many shows can be found online as soon as a day post airing. It’s so convenient that even if I had cable I would end up watching quite a few of my shows online, since I don’t want to structure my schedule around the time a program airs. The fact that I also save money at the same time is just a bonus. Though I’m generally happy to watch directly on my computer, it’s easy to hook it up to the TV if so desired. I have a Mac so I can use my DVI port and either go directly into the TV or just get an HDMI adapter.
Though it may be hard to believe, I truly don’t miss having scores of channels at my fingertips. I’ve been cable-free for about two years now and aside from a True Blood pang here and there, it’s not a decision I ever even think about. It’s that easy to give up. I can watch almost everything I’m interested in either via antenna, online, or on Netflix. At this point I can’t imagine ever going back to cable, even if the cost dropped and my salary rose. And the money I’ve saved this year alone will help finance a vacation I otherwise couldn’t afford.