Monday’s Money Tip: How to Get Cable TV without the Cost

cable tv 300x267 Mondays Money Tip:  How to Get Cable TV without the CostI personally know three families that couldn’t pay their bills and yet continued to have cable TV.

  • A family across the street from us lost their house because they couldn’t pay their mortgage, but had cable until the day they were evicted.
  • A woman was kicked out of her house and had to move into a one bedroom apartment because she was unable to make her rent payment, but had cable and continues to have cable in her new apartment.
  • One mom racked up $1,000′s on her credit cards, told her kids that she won’t help them with college, and yet has had cable for the past 10 years.

This doesn’t make financial sense or any other kind of sense.  Three people.  Three relatively intelligent people chose to put themselves through the stress of losing their home, the burden of growing credit card debt, the worry that their kids would struggle with student loans or not go to college at all.  All three chose to accept this stress and yet still managed to justify having cable.

I don’t understand those priorities.  Regardless of how much you like football.  Regardless of how much your sanity depends on being able to set your toddler down in front of Dora so you can have 30 minutes to yourself.  You do not need Cable TV.   It is a luxury and an expensive one at that.

Plus, you can get everything you get from Cable TV without the Cable TV price.

Here’s how:

Rabbit Ears

Using an antenna and a digital converter box, you can receive all the “normal” TV channels.  For example, we get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox 31, PBS, and Channel 20 – plus quite a few others.   The antenna costs about $20 from Target or Walmart and a converter box is $40.   You can also watch many of the TV shows free – either directly from your computer – or on your TV (by hooking your computer up to your TV – or if your TV is internet ready.)

Alternatively, basic cable from Comcast is $20 a month.   Although it will cost you $60 in upfront costs – in 3 months your upfront $60 investment pays for itself.  After that, you can apply that unspent $20 to retirement or other investments.  This is a great way to eliminate a monthly payment.

Tivo & DVR

I must admit that being able to record TV shows was such a treat with all of the evening sports activities we have during the week.  Not that we ever skipped practice to watch TV, but prior to having a DVR I definitely regretted missing my favorite shows.  And although I know this is not a need, but a want, I still liked it!  But, this is another area where you can have your cake and eat it too.

Tivo has an upfront cost for the equipment and then charges $20 a month for service.  DirecTV charges $10 per month for every DVD leased – typically at least 2 in a house ($20).

Alternatively, we recently signed up for HuluPlus which costs $7.99 a month.   It has all of the TV episodes you could want, plus some movies and it’s $12 per month cheaper than Tivo or a DVR!  Over a year, that saves you $12/mo x 12mo = $144.

Note:  Netflix is a great alternative to on-demand options and the streaming movies is also only $7.99 per month. 

Cancelling Cable

Many of us are stuck in 2 year contracts with our cable provider.  You may be thinking that the above information is all well and good, but you’re in a contract so can’t do anything about it right now.

Think again.

If you cancel cable before your contract is up, yes, you will have to pay a cancellation fee.  But don’t freak out at those words.  Even paying your cancellation fee, you will still save money by cancelling cable.

The typical cancellation fee is $20 a month for each month you have left in your contract.   Assuming you cancel service when the price changes (month 13), you will have to pay the cancellation fee ($20/mo) for 12 months – $240.   You will also have the $60 upfront cost to get the antenna and digital cable box, so a total of $300.

Assuming your cable is $60 a month (remember this is no longer the bait and switch introductory price), you will be saving $52 a month (after paying the $8 Huluplus cost).  You will therefore pay back the upfront cost of $300 in less than 6 months, after which that extra $52 is now in your pocket.

If your TV does not have the capacity for using Netflix and HuluPlus built into it, you will need another piece of equipment to allow your TV to read the Huluplus and Netflix signals.  Nintendo Wii’s, Xbox 360, and certain Blue Ray players have this ability – or you can buy a Roku unit for $59.  If you need to buy this unit, then it will take 7 months to pay back your initial investment, but after that the $52 savings per month is in your pocket.  This is not insignificant – $52/mo x 12 months = $624 per year!


If all your basic needs are met and if you have an emergency fund and if you have retirement savings building – then go ahead and spoil yourself with cable.  But until then, make sure you don’t fall into the trap those three people I mentioned in the beginning did.  Look at alternatives to Cable and options for getting the same services without the monthly fee.   And even if you do have all those financial cushions in place, why pay extra for something when you can get the same thing for less?

Have you considered cancelling cable? 

14 Responses to Monday’s Money Tip: How to Get Cable TV without the Cost

  1. Great advice! When I was a single mom I didn’t have cable for about 3-4 years. And I got off my butt and did something when there was nothing on TV, or rented or borrowed a movie. You become much more resourceful (and active!) when you don’t have money!

  2. Rajean says:

    Great post with clear examples. Will share. My husband convinced me about 7-8 months agoto give up cable & the premium package we had purchased for our daughter last Christmas. He estimated we’d save about $1,200 per year. While, like you, I’ve missed the ability to TiVo our favorites and watch without commercials when convenient, I’m surprised at how little I actually miss the premium channels. It is doable!
    Rajean recently posted..Happy Birthday Traditions – Wednesday WordsMy Profile

    • Daria says:

      Thanks Rajean! We didn’t have cable until just under 2 years ago when I got cable for the family for Christmas. At the time we had a very low mortgage, two good jobs, and my husband and daughter convinced me we were missing out. But, it really wasn’t all that great and definitely not worth the $70 a month it cost once the introductory price ended. Plus it just rubs me wrong to have one price for one year and a higher price for the 2nd year when you have a 2 year contract.

      I LOVE HuluPlus though and for only $8 a month it is much easier to justify. Gives us ALL those TV episodes and more. Love it.
      Daria recently posted..Monday’s Money Tip: How to Get Cable TV without the CostMy Profile

  3. This is such great advice. I know that many of us, because of the boom times in the 90s, have forgotten that there’s a difference between Wants and Needs.

    We’ve never had cable, but you’ve given some good advice at how we might have the benefits of it without the cost. Great tips!
    Lori Lavender Luz recently posted..My son processes a new layer of his adoptednessMy Profile

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