Cutting the Cord: Cable Alternatives and What Worked For Us.


Last summer Dan and I started brainstorming ways we could save some money and our cable bill was quickly mentioned along with “stop going out to eat as often” and “lose Target’s address“. Since those last two are unlikely to happen anytime soon, we decided to start thinking about whether we could ditch cable without cramping our style too much – and whether we’d actually end up saving money in the end.

It took about six months to figure out the logistics AND commit to actually doing something about it. I thought I’d share with you the switches we made to save you a little leg work.

The first thing I did was figure out what tv shows we watch on the reg and how much we were spending for our TV. We are admittedly hardcore TV watchers.

Here’s what we had to begin with and how much it costs us each month:

  • A second tier cable plan packaged with our Internet: $200ish dollars
  • An HBO subscription (we’re all about that Game of Thrones life): $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime (for more reasons than TV, but still): $8.25

As for the TV shows we watch, I was really surprised to find that about 75% of the TV shows we watch are actually on network television, not Cable networks. And the Cable shows we watch were largely in the “not essential to my life” category.

Exceptions for us included:

  • The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Doctor Who (BBCA)
  • Archer (FX)
  • Dirk Gently (BBCA)
  • Game of Thrones (HBO)
  • Westworld (HBO)
  • Project Runway (LIFE)

Technically my kids also consume a lot of Disney Channel shows but truthfully they are more into watching shows on their Kindles these days and I know there are plenty of other channels in the sea so I decided that Disney Channel wasn’t a priority. Sorry, kids.

Cable Alternatives We Considered

Next I started researching all of the Cable alternatives and what channels / shows they offer. Here are the ones I looked into:

  • Playstation VUE – One of the few cable channel alternatives that offers a cloud based DVR. We were leaning heavily towards VUE but found their navigation confusing. [starts at 29.99 / month]
  • Sling TV: streaming only – Sling has most of the Cable channels we love but no ability to record. We still may give them a try at some point. [starts at $20 / month]
  • HULU: streaming and on demand for a wide assortment of shows – integrates beautifully with a TIVO. Had way more of the shows we love than I originally expected. [starts at $7.99 / month]
  • TIVO: This isn’t a tv service provider so much as a DVR / software to organize your TV life. It integrates with a lot of streaming services so you can have one list to rule them all. You pay for a TIVO box (approx. $200-500). After that you pay $15 / month for service OR you can pay $150 for an annual service plan or $500 for a lifetime plan.

TIVO is the only service in this list than includes any kind of contract because their monthly plan requires a 1 year commitment. However, they have a 30 day money back guarantee. The other services all tend to offer a 1 week trial but have no contract at all.

What We Have Now

We decided on a TIVO box because recording shows was kind of a deal breaker for our TV watching lifestyle. We are kind of madly in love with the TIVO setup and I’m glad we splurged but if watching recorded shows isn’t important to you, you could totally save some dollars here.

We added a HULU subscription to bridge the gap for shows we’d be losing because of cutting our cable plan. We are not doing Sling or VUE as of right now because the handful of shows that aren’t available on HULU are available to watch on the channel’s website or App. This includes Lifetime and AMC for us. This isn’t a one size fits all decision though – the shows we watch might be totally different than you – check the channel line ups and see what service is the best fit for you.

So far the only channel that we haven’t accounted for completely is BBC America, which we could get on Sling or VUE but most of those shows we watch can be found on Amazon Prime and other places. So we’re considering this a future problem for right now.

We’re keeping Amazon Prime, obviously, and also Netflix and HBO which you can buy without a cable plan at all. 

When we cut our cable we also switched internet providers because we found a different provider that was offering faster internet for less money, at least for the first year. Cord cutters – do your homework and make sure that your Internet provider is still a good deal after your package is gone.

Here’s what our rundown looks like now:

  • TIVO Plan: $15 (obviously we also paid a one time price for the DVR box itself, too)
  • Internet: $40
  • Hulu plan with no commercials: $13
  • An HBO subscription: $15
  • Netflix Streaming: $9
  • Amazon Prime: $8.25

So we are saving over $100 per month and giving up almost nothing. Heck, I’m even finding some new shows to love on Hulu that I couldn’t have watched before.

The moral of the story is: Do your homework, decide what is important to your family, make sure you are getting your money’s worth and if you are ready to try something new – take advantage of those free trials and just see which services you like the best. We ended up with totally different services than we originally expected.

Have you cut the cord yet?

What services does your family use?

3 responses to “Cutting the Cord: Cable Alternatives and What Worked For Us.”

  1. John Holton Avatar

    We cut the cord several years ago, and have found that we don’t miss it. Mary did Netflix for a while, and we might look at Hulu at some point, but really, all the TV we want is available over the air. The only regret I have is that we don’t seem to be able to pick up the PBS stations we have here, but they have a streaming service, if there’s anything we really want to watch. I’ve looked at Sling TV, and it seems like it’s the crap I wasn’t watching on cable, anyway.


  2. Kate Unger Avatar
    Kate Unger

    We cut the cord about 8 years ago. We watch Netflix only now. I used to watch Hulu as well, but instead I just ended up giving up most of my TV shows (or they ended). We have an antennae for sporting events, but I mostly just read now in my spare time. Or we watch movies.


  3. Birdie Avatar

    We did it a while back, our cable bill was somewhere around 270-290 a month. We chopped it down to just internet. With three of us streaming we went with a higher internet plan, which with the modem was about 55 a month. The offer 50 basic cable channels (which gave us AMC for Walking Dead) and HBO for $6 extra. So we currently pay about 90 for the modem and box rental, internet and 51 basic channels of cable. Then we pay for Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Totaling somewhere around 120 total.