How I Ditched Cable And Saved $800 A Year
Lately I've been hell bent on trying to cut our monthly family expenses.
After years of being a slave to the cable companies I finally decided that it was time to cut the cord.
Our contract with FIOS was over and would increase to $130 next month. I knew it was time. Snip Snip Snip.
The purpose of this post is to provide readers with all of the steps necessary to go from cable slave to a successful cord cutter.
While in the meantime helping you save in upwards of $1000 a year. It's a no brainer. Let's dive in!
Cord Cutting 101
Step 1: Negotiate With Your Provider
Cable Companies are suffering. And the cord cutting phenomenon isn't just some blip on the radar. It's a real problem for the Comcast's and Verizon's of the world. And it's all happening for good reason--who needs Cable when there are so many alternatives out there?
And so you would think, that with all this pressure on cable companies that they might just want to cut you a deal. Think again. Based on my experience and in discussions with other cord cutters there is very little wiggle room when it comes to trying to re-negotiate or cut down on your current expenditure.
But it's worth a shot. As a first step in the journey towards freedom from cable, I at least advise readers to try and see if your current provider will bend over backward to keep you on as a customer. Your conversation might go a little something like this:
Odds are they won't bite. In my case they did not. I called up FIOS one day and decided to give the above script a shot. The guy on the other end pleaded that he wished he could help me but he can only work with the prices the system provides. And I've found in 90% of the cases that this is the response that most people get. BUT, see what they say. It doesn't hurt. If you can renegotiate your bill to under say $60 to $70 from over $100+ it might be a good deal for you in the long run.
Step 2: Decide On Wireless Package
IF step one fails (it probably will) then now it is time to officially cut that cable contract in shreds-- once and for good. Woo-hoo! Doesn't that feel good? It felt great for me. We were paying FIOS $110/month for a Triple Play and it was scheduled to go up to $130 in a few months. Given that we watched so much Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, it just didn't make any financial sense.
Yet while the cable bill is gone, you will still have to hand over a reasonable amount of money to the cable operator for a wireless package. Your wireless requirements will depend on your usage (devices) and number of members in your household. For us we upgraded from a 25mb/25mb wireless plan to a 75/75 plan with a new Quantum router and the wireless speeds were ridiculously faster. We only have two tv's but a lot of devices (two phones, two ipads, multiple PC's, notebooks etc).
You might be able to negotiate a special deal on wireless alone with your provider. Check the current deals available for new subscribers and see if they might allow you to hook on to one of those plans. They should also be able to help you in regards to how much wireless speed you actually need, but I will say that 75/75 is plenty enough for a family of four.
The official switch for us decreased our monthly bill by $65 per month or $780 per year. Well worth it thus far in my opinion.
Step 3: Pick A Set-Top Gateway
Odds are that you might already have some sort of box or smart TV capable of providing access to some of the cord cutter necessities such as Netflix and Amazon Video. But if you don't, I highly recommend the Roku Ultra. The Roku box provides all of the typical channels that one might expect with a set top box but a lot of other bells and whistles and channels that make this a necessity for cord cutters. You can pick one up on Amazon for under $100.
There are plenty of other options available. I've tried the Amazon Fire Stick and the Google Chromecast which are both perfectly acceptable options but if you are looking for speed and ease of use, I'd recommend a physical box such as the Roku.
Step 4: Find The Best HD Antenna
The one thing that the set top gateways sch as Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire Stick can't provide is access to your local television channels. This is the part that gets a bit more complicated since the reception of local channels is all based on your proximity to the individual TV stations and their towers.
Lucky for us there are several great options which help cord cutters determine what sort of antenna is needed based on their specific location. The one that I found to be most helpful is TV Fool. At TV Fool you enter your address and it will generate a map which shows the location of the towers and your distance from each one. A lot of green and (some) yellow is good, whereas if you have a lot of red/gray areas on the map, it's likely you're going to need a supercharged rooftop antenna.
Key is the column that says 'Dist Miles' -- this represents this distance of each station from your house. This will be key when deciding upon the antenna to purchase. For example if all of the channels that you really care about have a distance greater than 50 miles, a 35 Mile Range Antenna will be useless for you. Keep this in mind.
For me, we live in a suburban area, yet close enough to the stations that matter most. For our purposes an indoor antenna is good enough. We went with the Winegard Flatwave HD Antenna which can be purchased on Amazon for about $60. We don't get every single channel and a few are choppy (that I don't really care about) but we get all the major networks plus a few added bonuses (PBS Kids is a nice touch).
Step 5: Buy A DVR Box
Once you've officially cut the cord, ordered your wireless package, connected a set top box and installed your antenna, life is actually feeling pretty good until you start to realize that you can't pause live TV or even record your favorite shows. My wife and I do watch a lot of Dateline, 48 Hours and Shark Tank so the disappearance of our DVR capabilities has left a certain void in our life. But don't despair--there are options.
The first and the most expensive is the TIVO Roamio which according to many is the gold standard for DVR boxes. The luxury however comes at a price. The Roamio costs $400 on Amazon, yet unlike many TIVO units of the past requires no monthly subscription fee. Another option is to buy an older refurbished unit of the Roamio which requires the $15 a month TIVO fee. These can be found on Amazon for about $100.
While I've heard nothing but great things about the Roamio, I just don't feel like shelling out $400 for a DVR Box when my whole objective here is to cut back on expenses. Or even with the $100 and $15/month I'd just be tacking on some more expenses to my monthly TV costs which I was trying to reduce in the first place.
The other option that some have recommended to me is the Mediasonic Homeworx which at under $30 is right up my alley as far as costs go. The reviews however are mixed and it requires additional storage in the form of a Flash Drive or External Hard Drive. No big deal really, but less convenient than the Roamio and from what I've heard a lot less user friendly. I may just buy one to give it a shot. At the very least I'll only lose $30.
If you're trying to cut costs and sick of dropping your hard earned paycheck on overpriced cable services then it's time to officially become a cord cutter.
I hope I've provided you with useful information to utilize along the way. If you enjoyed this article on Cord Cutting, please feel free to share this with others. And as always, if you have any comments on anything discussed here, please leave a comment in the form below.
Also, I would love to hear about any experiences you've had in the journey to a cable free life. Any recommended services, hardware or software you would want to share with our readers?