Saturday, December 10, 2011

TV Lovers CAN Live Cable-Free and Save Some Money

I never thought Hubby and I could do without cable.  We were addicted to our DVR, liked our HD channels, and had a steady rotation of shows we would watch throughout the week.  It wasn't like we were spending a fortune on cable...just over $50 is not bad at all, considering some people we knew were spending well over $100/month for similar packages.  I added it up one day and realized that over the course of the year we were spending over $600 for tv.  We weren't even watching half of our channels.  I was interested in looking further into streaming tv through our internet connection and socking that extra cash into our emergency fund.  This is what we found...

Hulu (free) or Hulu Plus ($8/month)--The free version of Hulu only allows you to stream to your computer, while Hulu Plus allows you to utilize a variety of newer, "Hulu Plus-capable" tvs or components to watch tv, such as a Roku box, Playstation 3, Blu Ray player, etc. (specific devices are listed on their website.)  One way to use the free Hulu and still watch through your tv is to use an HDMI cable to connect your computer to your TV.  But we tried this and the picture seemed to be very pixelated.  While it may work for some, for us it just wasn't that convenient.  For one, sometimes I like to be on the computer working while Hubby is watching tv.  Plus, moving the laptop and connecting and disconnecting everything is kind of a pain.  Definitely not as easy as just hitting a few buttons on the remote.

Hulu gives you the 5 most recent episodes of certain shows (see their website for complete list), while Hulu Plus gives you entire seasons of shows, some in HD. Both have limited commercials, usually ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. 

Netflix ($8/month)--This option is commercial free--at least when we were researching it was.  Who knows for how much longer?  It doesn't have any HD options right now and seems to provide a lot more movies than tv shows.  If you're more into movies, this may be the better choice for you.  Just like with Hulu Plus, you will need a "Netflix-capable" tv or component to stream the service, or connect your computer with an HDMI cable.  Contact Netflix for information regarding specific streaming devices.

After researching, we (, actually, I) ultimately decided to go with Hulu Plus because of the HD availability of some shows and the increased selection of tv episodes.  We didn't have any equipment that was capable of streaming the service, so we ordered 2 Roku boxes ($80 a piece) and two HDMI cables (about $6 a piece).  We also bought a mid-range model indoor antenna ($40) to access local network channels for live events and shows (news, sports, talk shows, etc.)

Set up took a little bit of work...the Hulu to Roku player set up was easy, it was finding the best location for the antenna that took the longest.

One downfall of Hulu Plus, as I mentioned above, is that is does not have the rights to stream every channel--CBS, for example, is not currently part of their programming.  They also do not seem to have that much for kids.  There are no Disney shows, no Nickelodeon, fewer kids' cartoons to choose from.  However, we do have kids' movies for our son to watch, and he also has started to play with his toys more since the change. It's okay--I am willing to give up a few channels to save $40 a month.

So, we spent a little over $200 up front, plus $8 a month, to avoid $50/month. That means that after only 5 months we will break even, and every month beyond that is pure savings to put towards our other financial goals.  Pretty sweet if you ask me.

Depending on what you are spending and what your family/life/financial situation is, it may or may not be worth it to you to go through all the work to make this change.  You have to research the options, research/comparison shop/buy the proper components, cancel your cable service, hook up the new components, etc etc.  It was worth it for us and we're pleased with our decision.  I can't promise we'll be cable-free forever, but at least for the foreseeable future the streaming options seems to be working for us. 

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