Cut the Cable Cord – and Save Money

Have you seen the ads about ditching your cable and saving money? I’m not talking about ditching your cable and switching to satellite. I’m talking about cutting off cable or satellite for good.

As a bankruptcy lawyer, I spend lots of time looking at budgets to see where clients can cut back on expenses. When I researched cutting the cable cord, I realized many more consumers can do the same.

I’ve been doing lots of research on this lately because my parents moved and they have no access to cable TV. What’s a Fox News junkie like my dad supposed to do, right? So I started researching alternatives to cable. Most alternatives to cable or satellite involve streaming internet content. But my parents don’t have internet in their assisted living community (I hear your gasps).

Still Broadcasting Over the Air TV Signals?

I didn’t give up. I kept searching and discovered that most local television stations broadcast TV signals over the air. Still. Yes, they still do that. If you’re old enough visions of slowly adjusting those rabbit ear antennas until a clear picture came in are flashing through your memory.

Fortunately, times have changed. Although the rabbit ear antennas still exist, the technology they use has changed drastically. What I also discovered is that many TV stations broadcast their signals in high definition! That got my attention. For as low as $13 you can buy a high definition TV antenna and pull in all those high definition broadcasts. The best part is that it’s 100% free! All you need is an HD antenna. Plug in it to your TV, run a channel scan on your TV, and … start watching free high definition TV.

Free HD TV?

What’s even better is that the reception from an HD TV antenna is often better than cable reception. Because a cable TV signal travels through limited bandwidth, the signal is sometimes lower quality. Not that you would notice, though. But, because HD TV signals are transmitted over the air, there is no bandwidth restriction. So the quality of an over the air HD signal is often better than cable.

Instead of rabbit ear antenna, an HD TV antenna is about the size and shape of a piece of paper and can hang on the wall or behind your TV.

What About Free HD TV Channel Selection?

The channel selection isn’t too bad for free TV. In the metro Atlanta area there are over 40 channels available over the air. If you are not a huge TV watcher this might be enough for you.

There are some downsides to an HD TV signal. Channel selection may be limited. Based on proximity to a broadcast antenna, you may not have a big selection of channels. However, my parents live about 40 miles from Atlanta and get over 40 channels, including many in high definition. If you live in or near a metro area, you should have no problem getting a number of HD channels.

But not to worry if you live outside of a metro area. For a few dollars more you can buy a slightly larger HD antenna that can pick up signals from over a hundred miles away!

Another downside is that not all stations broadcast their signal over the air. (But, most local ones do). If ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPN News is an absolute necessity for you, then maybe an HD antenna is not for you.

There’s no doubt that if you can get by with fewer channels, an HD antenna can save you hundreds of dollars a year – because it’s absolutely free. There are websites that can tell you exactly what channels you can receive based on your address. Check here. These websites also tell you the type of signal that is broadcast. For example, in the Atlanta area most channels are sent by UHF signals. But, although NBC is broadcast in high definition, it is sent over a VHF signal. To maximize your channel selection, make sure your HD antenna will receive VHF signals.

Internet Streaming

If you have broadband internet, your viewing choices are even better. With a good internet connection streaming movies and even live TV is easy. Apps such as Hulu (Hulu.com) allow you to view live TV. Hulu is similar to Netflix. For a small monthly subscription, you can access movies, TV shows, and other content. What’s different about Hulu is that for about $40 per month Hulu can stream live TV straight to your HD or 4K TV. Check out Hulu’s live TV content at its website. I don’t watch an enormous amount of TV, but I do like live sports. With Hulu, I get all the local stations, plus ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNUniversity, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, The Golf Channel and many more.

I was paying over $225 per month for cable, cable box rentals, HD access fees, and DVR fees. By the way, included in Hulu’s subscription is a cloud-based DVR so you can record live TV, including sports. All for about $40 per month.

Streaming internet content is available on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone (Hulu.com). You can also download the Hulu app and stream via AppleTV (4th generation), Amazon Fire TV, Roku, or your current TV (if your TV is new enough to download the live TV version of the Hulu app), just to name a few. Most of these devices allow HD and 4K Ultra HD.

I was a little hesitant to cut the cable cord at my house so I had both cable and Hulu live TV for a couple of weeks. Once I was convinced it actually worked, I cut my cable without any regrets! And I’m saving over $200 per month. Give it a try before you cut your cable for good!

Posted in: Consumer