Ditch your old fashioned cable or satellite TV and join the ranks of the money saving, cord cutting elite.
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By now, you've probably heard the term "cord cutter" as it relates to technology, television watching, and online media streaming. If not, it's the simple idea of ditching cable or satellite TV service in favor of cheaper, sometimes free, streaming options.
With the average cable or satellite bill, depending on who you believe, costing Americans between $100 and $125 per month, it's no wonder that cord cutting has become such a popular move lately. Imagine having an extra $1100 to $1400, maybe even more, in your pocket each year. Maybe you could pay off more bills and be less in debt. Maybe it can go towards your kid's education. Or maybe it's extra cash for an annual vacation. Or maybe it will just help you in Living Below Your Means.
I cut the cord years ago and haven't looked back so let me walk you through the options that are out there should you decide to do it too.
The key to streaming movies and shows is to have the right hardware. What's "streaming" you ask? Just a fancy tech word for watching or listening to video and/or audio via the Internet. To stream TV shows or movies, you need high speed Internet access. That's right, so your cable company is likely still getting some money from you each month.
Next up is something to watch it on. You can stream video onto a laptop / computer, tablet, smartphone, and even your big screen TV. Most newer TVs, called Smart TVs, even have everything you need to stream built into them. If your TV doesn't have a streaming option built in you'll need a "streaming device" that connects the Internet to your TV. There are a zillion streaming devices out there, but Roku devices are still among my favorite. See our Roku 3 Streaming Device Review. Expect to spend $50-$100 depending on the device you choose.
Netflix is the big daddy of online streaming options and they have a massive library of movies and TV shows to watch. That list is constantly changing as they add new content (and remove some) every month. They also have a lot of excellent, exclusive content that you won't find anywhere else.
For around $10 per month, you'll have your pick of well over 5,500 shows and movies. In my opinion, if you're cutting the cord then Netflix is easily the best content subscription you'll make. At $10 per month it's a fraction of your old TV bill and may be all you need. It's pretty much all I've watched for years now. The best part about Netflix? No commercials. Not a single one. And it's all in high resolution HD, and some stuff is even in 4K (see How To Stream Netflix In 4K Resolution).
Netflix is full of older TV series and movies, a plethora of documentaries, and a ton of content you've never heard of. I can't list all of the cool shows I've enjoyed (looking at you Trailer Park Boys and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia) that I otherwise wouldn't have ever watched.
What you won't find are current-season shows from major networks. Sometimes they appear a year later and often they'll just never show up at all. Netflix doesn't have it all but the have tons, see Best Netflix Shows You've Never Seen. More at Netflix.com.
Hulu PlusNext up on the list of great streaming services is Hulu Plus. Hulu starts at $8 per month but at that price you have to watch commercials every now and then during a show. The commercials occur far less often compared to cable or satellite shows but they're there and they're annoying. I canceled Hula because of that. Netflix ruined me for commercial free living.
Now, they have a newer option. For $12 per month you can completely get rid of all commercials which is great and a decent price. What sets Hulu apart from Netflix is that they offer a lot more TV series that are often released at the same time (or shortly after) the cable/satellite airing. They also have a lot of older classics, including the Seinfeld series which is exclusive to Hulu. For those who can't give up certain shows, this might be a good option. Of course, they don't have all shows here either. More at Hulu.com.
Amazon Prime VideoAmazon Prime Video is included for free if you're an Amazon Prime member. Amazon Prime is that $99 per year service that gets you free shipping on many items that Amazon sells. As part of that you get Amazon Prime Video for free. While Amazon does have some good stuff in their lineup, it's nowhere near as good as Netflix or Hulu.
The other issue with Amazon is the interface which makes finding stuff to watch confusing and it mixes in a lot of stuff you have to pay to watch in with the free stuff. But Amazon will continue adding more original content and they did get the guys from Top Gear to make a new car show that will only appear on Amazon Video. And I'm talking about the REAL Top Gear, the UK version!
Amazon is one to watch but I wouldn't join Prime just for the video here. I'd join Prime because free shipping is awesome and getting video is the cherry on top when it's no extra cost. More at Amazon.com.
YouTubeIf you ask me, YouTube is a joke in terms of stuff to actually watch. Yes, I get it, there is tons of awesome content on YouTube but it's often not shows and movies. It's some guy opening a product and screaming about it, another guy yelling obscenities while playing a video game, some annoying kids doing a blind taste test challenge, or cats. Lots of cats.
This isn't prime time entertainment in my book. But, YouTube is one to watch. It's no secret that they're getting more and more into shows and movies so expect some better stuff from their paid subscription service. For now, skip it. More at YouTube.com.
HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, EtcWhat was once only an add-on to your cable or satellite package is now a stand alone option if you're interested. Many of the major studios like HBO and Showtime are now offering standalone streaming options. HBO charges $15 per month while Showtime is likely to be around $11 per month. Other studios and TV channels are offering similar options as well which really makes the water a bit too cloudy.
For me, HBO alone doesn't offer enough to justify $15 per month. Showtime is even worse off. But if one of those absolutely had something you wanted maybe it's worth it to you.
OTA stands for Over The Air. Did you know that you can actually still get all of your local channels with an antenna? Remember antennas on TVs? Those coathanger-looking-wires that somebody would have to hold in a specific position to get the best picture possible.
They actually still exist and they're much better than they used to be and will even give you a Full HD picture, for free! Sounds too good to be true, so what's the catch? Well, you have to buy an OTA HD Antenna (affiliate link), but they're cheap. You'll also only get your basic local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and so on so no Discovery Channel or any "basic cable" channels. You'll also have to watch commercials. But otherwise, it's a great way if you have must-see shows on a major network.
Should You Cut The Cord?
In a word, yes. Yes, you should. Cable and satellite companies charge huge amounts of money all so we can sit in front of the warm glow of our TVs longer each day. We all watch too much TV so you'll likely find that cutting the cord helps you cut down on that habit.
Beyond that, you'll save a ton of money in the process. For $10 a month you can watch oodles of Netflix shows and movies that will likely keep you busy for years to come. If they don't have enough toss on a Hulu Plus subscription for $12 (no commercials) and you have a $22 per month TV bill now. A fraction of what it was and a great way to Practicing Financial Wisdom.
Better yet, because you can pay month to month (no long term contracts here!) try using Netflix for 6 months. Then cancel it and try Hulu Plus for 6 months. Then switch to HBO Go for a few months if you want. No point in paying for multiple subscriptions at the same time. Save money and come and go to each service as you please. What's more American than that!
Because we're so addicted to TV and "have to have our shows" on hand, cutting the cord might be a difficult transition for some. It takes some getting used to the pros outweigh the cons for sure. Being able to "binge watch" an entire season of shows in a week or two rather than months is far better and will change your thoughts on how you consume video content completely because now you can watch things on your schedule.
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