Why is the cable/satellite bill so frustrating? Is it because the bill seems to go up every so often for reasons that are baffling? Is it the customer service, which is infuriating? Or is it that feeling you get flipping past unwatched channels that makes you realize you’re paying for something unnecessary? Whatever the reason, getting the TV bill under control is one of the trickiest parts of managing the monthly budget. It can feel like the options are living in the Stone Age or dropping a small fortune on TV. Is cord-cutting the answer?
Unfortunately, cord-cutting has always been better in theory than in practice.
However, the options have never been better. But, they’re still unsatisfactory for those who don’t want to spend a fortune on content, don’t know how to rewire our homes, and aren’t willing to pirate shows. This guide can determine who should cut the cord now and who should wait. It also shows you how to set yourself up to make the switch.
The first thing you need is a reliable Internet connection.
It needs to be high-speed, 30 MBPS at a minimum. If you can’t get 30 MBPS, you can’t cut the cord, period. In addition, be sure your Internet doesn’t have data caps. Check with your provider because streaming HD TV and movies are different than browsing the web or watching YouTube. Finally, make sure you know the price of high-speed Internet outside your bundle. It’s hard to save money by cutting the cord. This is because cable and satellite companies price bundles cheaper than purchasing Internet and cable separately.
Next, you need a box to run some apps.
Roku, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire offer dongles, which are like a thumb drive and plug into your TV’s HDMI cable. All retail for under $40 and offer all the functionality you need. Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV offer boxes with voice-activated search and video gaming for $150. You can also use a smart TV or Blu-Ray player, and many video game systems will work, too. So, if you can find a good deal on a used Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, they might fit the need for now.
Finally, you need content.
Netflix ($11/month) is the standard-bearer for online streaming. It has a massive catalog of content, including “Orange Is the New Black,” and Marvel’s “Defenders” series. Amazon Prime ($119/year) has a smaller catalog of TV and movies, with some originals as well. Hulu (starting at $7.99/month) offers limited-commercial, first-run TV, for those who don’t want to wait for their favorite shows. HBO Now ($15/month), which has the back catalog of all of the network’s famed shows along with “Game of Thrones” every spring.
Getting the whole package is pricey.
In addition, only one of the options offers live sports. Sling TV has two levels and plenty of channels, including a full ESPN package for sports. It’s the priciest of the bunch at $25 per month for the basic package. Still, $25 is less than basic cable in most areas, even with the bundle, making it the most likely solution for people wanting to lower their bills. Combining it with Amazon Prime combines live TV and a back catalog while giving you free prime shipping and the ability to watch all of your programs on any of your devices, which is nice if you travel or have more family members than TVs. If you add in two or three months of HBO in the spring to watch “Game of Thrones” and binge the rest of their programming, your average monthly cost would be about $40.
It’s not the cable bill-killing solution a lot of us want.
Carving even $10 or $20 off of your bill can add up over time. The above plan eliminates Netflix, so that’s roughly another $100 per year you can save. If you’re stuck renting a cable box on top of paying for the service each month, your savings can easily come to a few hundred dollars per year. If you put that into a share certificate or savings account, by the time we’re talking about next year’s cord-cutting outlook, you’ll already have the year’s TV bill saved up ahead of time.
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