How to survive without cable or satellite tv

by @PaulFiarkoski

In 2012 my family of four decided to chase after the notion of financial peace. It was a decision that my wife and I made, but we made sure to include the kiddos in on the plan so as to explain why some things would be changing around the house.

GE indoor outdoor antenna
This medium quality indoor/outdoor HD antenna cost about $40 and delivers all the network and local channels in high definition.

Although I didn’t earn any popularity points for this one, I made the executive decision that we would be cutting DirecTV out of our budget after about fifteen years of loyal subscribership. It wasn’t easy at first but we’ve adjusted, and now we rarely miss the hundreds of channels we had access to but rarely watched.

How we did away with satellite TV
Since we already had a HDTV, I purchased a medium quality digital antenna for about $40 that I mounted on the side of our house nearest the radio and tv antennas perched atop South Mountain in Phoenix. After running the channel scan, we ended up with about 40 channels that are viewable; however, roughly a quarter of them are Spanish only stations and another quarter program content we would consider only on the most sleepless of sleepless nights. We do get all of the majornetwork channels that accounted for about 80% of our viewing when we had satellite. Most of the channels we watch now are in high definition, so we’re actually getting a higher quality picture than satellite at no cost.

Stretching our dollars with technology
So as to make sure we could watch the shows we want when we want (a habit we developed thanks to the DVR satellite receiver), I did spring for a Tivo box at a cost of about $70 and a $20 monthly service fee. I also pay for high speed internet from the local cable company and have the internet connection wired directly to the Tivo box. The internet connection means we can stream videos from Netflix ($8 a month for unlimited movies and programs) as well as free videos and programming available from YouTube and Tivo.

For music channels similar to the satellite radio stations on DirecTV, we now stream our favorite Pandora channels. We can also now surf the web, shop or play games with others around the world on the Wii console that’s also wired to the tv.

There are still moments when we really miss some of the stuff we used to watch on channels we no longer get. For instance, my wife and daughters used to love watching Dance Moms. When Superstorm Sandy battered New Jersey and New York, I really wished I had The Weather Channel.

Update (Jan. 1, 2012): I may be a little slow, but I just discovered that we can watch ESPN and a number of cable networks on the iPad, thanks to the growing number of available apps.

Bottom line
We gave up a monthly satellite bill of about $80 in exchange for our current cost of $28 (Tivo and Netflix) – a savings of $52 a month. That’s over $600 a year we’re saving for giving up very little. It may not be worth it to a lot of people, but we are laser focused on cutting our expenses and paying down debt.If it sounds good to you, I would suggest you try pulling the plug on cable (or satellite) and see how much you can save too.

2 thoughts on “How to survive without cable or satellite tv

  1. Thanks for the info. I plan on canceling this month. I might contact you to get more info on how you connected the HD antenna into your tv’s (i have some Comcast wiring that maybe i can tap in to?)

  2. Good question Marc. That probably depends on whether you’re still using those cable lines for internet service. If not, you could probably use the existing coax cable if you have a connector outside to hook up to your antenna. Luckily, our entertainment center on the inside of the wall near to the place I installed the antenna. I was able to drill one small hole and run the cable straight into the back of the entertainment center.

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