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Love TV but hate your cable bill? We'll show you how to easily cut your cable bill and potentially save a couple thousand dollars a year.
“Cutting the cord” has become all the rage. By that, of course, I mean the cable cord.

Maybe you want to cut your cable bill significantly so you can put more money towards debt. Or maybe you just want to offload the landline you never use. Either way, technology is making it easier to cut the cord, and the savings can be substantial.

I have thought about it for a long time, particularly when I receive my monthly “all-in-one” bill from the cable company. But there didn’t seem to be a viable option that included sports. And I just couldn’t bring myself to give up the live action. Until a couple of months ago, that is, when I talked to a good friend of mine who used to work at ESPN. Having built his career around sports, he is the biggest sports fan I know. He told me that he cut the cord two years ago and wished he had done it even sooner. I was floored!

He’s a Mets fan, and the Mets had just been in the playoffs and World Series! If he could do it, I could do it. So off I went.

Cutting out cable has been quite a journey, by turns fun, frustrating, vindicating, and a great learning experience. I recently made the leap, and when all was said and done, I cut my phone/cable/internet bill by $180 per monthjust in time for the big college basketball tournament.

You know, that one where games air on CBS, TNT, TBS, and Tru TV. What better way to test out life without cable sports than to cut the cord right before March Madness?

But here’s the thing: I didn’t miss a single game!

Here’s how I ended up doing it. It actually took me a while and several false starts. So learn from my mistakes, and follow these simple steps:

Step 1: Determine whether or not to keep a “landline.”

I’ve considered abandoning our landline for years.  We hardly use it, and we know lots of people who have gotten rid of theirs. Clearly, cutting the landline altogether is the right choice for some people.

But with a nine-year old in the house, I preferred to hang onto it for a while longer. Then, one day on the soccer field sideline, one of the other parents told me about the Ooma Telo. Ooma sells a voice-over-IP phone device ($79.99 on Amazon as of this writing). Then they give away local telephone service for free. All you have to do is pay applicable taxes. Inn my case, this amounted to $4.24 per month. This was the perfect solution for our needs.

If you do need to keep a landline for whatever reason, I’d recommend this option. It’s much cheaper than anything you’ll find with a local provider, even as part of a package deal.

Step 2 (if you’re keeping a landline and want to keep your existing phone number): Port your existing number to the new provider.

We could have picked a new phone number when setting up with Ooma, but we preferred to keep our existing number. There is a $39.95 fee for this. It can take a week or two, depending on the degree to which your existing provider is willing to cooperate. Once complete, we had transitioned our landline, and are now paying $4.24 per month for local phone service.

So to recap, we paid $79.95 for the device and $39.95 for the phone number transfer. For a total of just under $120, we got into a $4.24/month landline bill.

Step 3: Investigate and select your new TV landscape.

While I was waiting for my phone number to port over to Ooma, I turned my attention to TV. There are so many different choices out there and with lots of online reviews for each. Whether it is Roku, Apple TV, Netflix, Sling TV, Amazon Instant Video, or others, you may be surprised at the number of offerings at your disposal. In my case, I wanted to:

  • Watch NFL football;
  • See as much live sports as possible;
  • Maintain as much of my family’s favorite content as possible.

We already had a Netflix subscription. And our Amazon Prime subscription included access to Amazon Instant Video. So to round out our service, I did four things:

  1. Bought an antenna and embraced the world of free HD channels: There are lots of different antennas. Indoor vs. outdoor, amplified or not, different geographic capability. In my case, I chose the Mohu Leaf 50. I installed it in my attic, connected it to my existing cable line, and voila! ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and other over-the-air channels were at my disposal in pure, uncompressed HD. For free!
  1. Signed up for Sling TV: Sling TV is a streaming live TV service owned by Dish Network. For me, this was the key piece to the puzzle. Having the network channels was nice. But this didn’t provide enough access to sports. Sling TV fills in that gap to a degree. It provides access to ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and TBS. In addition, its 20-channel “Best of Live TV” package includes HGTV, Food Network, CNN, Disney, and other channels. All for $20 per month, with no long-term commitment. I went ahead and signed up for the “Best of Live TV” package. But there is one catchyou need a device through which to stream the feed.
  1. Purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick for each TV in the house*: This may or may not be necessary for you, depending on your existing setup and whether you want Sling TV. But in my case, I needed a device from which to stream Sling. And the Fire TV Stick worked just fine for me.
  1. Investigated alternative internet providers: This is where things got dicey. I knew that my cable company would not be cooperative when I called to drop cable TV and phone. So I wanted to know what my options were if I needed to switch to a different internet service provider. At first glance, the options weren’t great. There was a satellite internet provider, which I feared wouldn’t provide a strong enough signal to enable streaming. And there were DSL providers. But their user reviews were nearly as bad as my cable company’s. At first, I thought I was stuck with my current provider. But then I discovered that Earthlink provides broadband coverage in my neighborhood. Even better, they provide it using my current cable company’s infrastructure. So I could switch to Earthlink, get a low initial promotional rate, and settle into a more attractive long-term rate at the end of the promotional period. And I could do all of this without anyone coming to my house and without changing equipment. I’m still not sure how or why this was an option. But I pursued it, and it worked!

And with that, I said goodbye to the cable company.

*Note: After this article’s original release date in 2016, Amazon released a new version of its Fire Stick, the Amazon Fire TV. It supports 4K resolution and retails for $69.99. It also offers a bundle with an HD antenna for just $74.99. So if you have or are considering getting a 4K TV, you might just start with this bundle from the get-go.

The March Madness Trial-By-Fire

What better way to test out my new phone/cable/internet infrastructure than through the prism of March Madness? Since the games were on CBS (antenna), TBS (Sling), TNT (Sling) and Tru TV, I would be able to see 75% of the games.

But then imagine my delight when I realized on the first day of the tournament that March was “Tru TV free preview” month on Sling TV! A marketing promotional sure to delight new Sling subscribers who happen to be sports fans like me! As a result, I’ve watched every single game of March Madness that was important to me.

This setup has exceeded my expectations and then some. Honestly, I haven’t missed traditional cable for a single minute since making the switch.

Getting Down to Dollars and Cents

Making this transition involves some startup costs. Here is how my overall situation adds up:

  • One-time startup costs
    • Amazon Fire TV: $39.99 (per TV, unless you take it around the house with you)
    • Ooma Telo: $79.95
    • Mohu Leaf 50 TV Antenna: $69.95
    • Total: $189.89
  • Monthly cost before
    • Cable company all-in-one package: $246.78
    • Netflix: $7.99
    • Total: $254.77
  • Monthly cost after
    • Netflix: $7.99
    • Broadband internet access: $41.95 (after promotional offer expires)
    • Sling TV: $20.00
    • Ooma VOIP phone: $4.24
    • Total: $74.18

Total monthly savings: $180.59

Total annual savings: $2,167.08

Total annual savings invested over 10 years, earning 8%: $33,905

What I’ve Learned

Cutting the cord isn’t perfect, but for me it’s certainly worth it. Sling TV has a good picture, but you can’t change channels as fast as with regular cable. I don’t have a DVR (although there are similar devices available). And I can’t see the main local sports teams (in my case, the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins) unless they’re on a national broadcast. I will be able to see Celtics playoff games (on ABC, ESPN, TBS, and TNT). But I may be spending time at friends’ houses or the local sports bar if the Red Sox or Bruins make a deep playoff run.

But is this a price I am willing to pay to save over $2,000 per year? Absolutely! In the big picture, I’ve retained most of the value I got out of my previous package at a fraction of the cost. And I fully expect choices and service quality to improve over time. Who knows? In a couple of years, perhaps I’ll be able to purchase a Red Sox subscription for five or ten dollars per month!

I would gladly sign up for that, but for me, the days of car-payment-sized cable bills are over. I encourage you to give it a try!

Author Bio

Total Articles: 5
Bill Ryan is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and financial professional in the software industry. He has passed the CFP® exam and writes about personal finance and small business in his spare time. Bill lives on the coast of Maine with his wife and two daughters.

Article comments

12 comments
Eric Bowlin says:

I have one suggestion…Get rid of cable completely. The most successful people watch the least amount of TV.

You can easily pay a few bucks to stream any movie or TV show you may want to watch. Since TV is just a distraction, you should only watch it on very rare occasions anyhow. A few bucks here or there is way cheaper than a monthly cable bill.

A few things to do instead of watching tv:
– Connect with your family
– Go outside
– Learn a new skill
– Pick up a hobby (Gym, yoga, hiking, or something else to improve your health)
– Start earning passive income by learning how to invest
– Sort the sock drawer

Michelle Sweeney says:

Great article! We cut the cord about a year ago, and love it! We did invest in a TIVO OTA (no monthly fee) for A DVR and love that too–especially now that it has the commercial SKIP button. 😃

Bill Ryan says:

Thanks, Michelle. We owned a TIVO several years ago and loved it, will check out the OTA version!

Stan says:

May sound like a stupid question but how do you go about connecting the antenna to the existing cable line. I would love to cut the cable.

Rob Berger says:

Stan, I believe the antenna can connect directly to a coax cable.

Bill Ryan says:

Stan, not a stupid question at all, I am not a mechanically-oriented person and it took me a while to figure it out. As Rob says, you can connect directly to the coax cable, which is what I did. I essentially figured out how to replace the cable company’s incoming cable line with my antenna (which I was able to locate in the attic, your situation may be different). Once I did that, my antenna signal was routed to every coax outlet in the house. So when I connected the coax cable from each wall outlet to each tv, I received those channels. It may require purchasing a couple of splitters (inexpensive) and perhaps drawing yourself a picture of how the cable lines flow into and throughout your house.

One alternative is to connect your antenna right to your television, which may make sense if you only have one TV and don’t mind the visual appearance. Good luck.

SarahH says:

We could not do the antenna option because there’s a mountain in the way of the signal.

So, we dumped Dish and bought a Roku 4. Then, we signed up for Hulu Plus and Netflix — they are channels on our Roku.

Then I contacted Charter/Spectrum and asked for the streaming Spectrum App for Roku — this gives us ALL our local channels on the Roku for about $19 a month (taxes included) with no contract. Charter/Spectrum threw in a free Roku 3 — now we have Roku on 2 TVs.

Total monthly bill (not including Internet service): $48.

Rob Berger says:

Nice! Thanks for sharing.

Annette Fawcett says:

I have six people in the household using wifi, how does this effect their usage with regard to gaming, and internet speed.

jim says:

All depends on the speed of your internet connection. If you downgrade to the very cheapest internet speed service then you might have problems with 6 people sharing and using heavy data. But if you’ve got a fast connection like 100mbps you’ll be fine.

L Sauders says:

fine solution if you have available high speed internet access
also with firestick you must have subscription to a provider ie; dish, directv or other to access most channels.

JoAnn Biesheuvel says:

We want our local channels and do not watch sports at all, we like lifetime and Hallmark but can do without