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The Real Cost of Cutting the Cord


Did you know that the average cable bill in this country is over $103 per month, and has risen an average of 8-10% per year over the last 7 years? That is just the average, some people pay a lot more than that. It’s not surprising that consumers are looking at other options when it comes to watching television. There are a lot of ways to cut the cord, but can any of them actually save you money while providing a comparable viewing experience? 

The first and only truly free service is using an over the air antennae. This will provide you with the local channels, broadcast in HD, no matter where you live. However, I have tried this, and there are some tricks to it. There are indoor and outdoor antennas, and depending where you live, the inexpensive indoor antennas may not get reception for you. I was able to get reception by rigging up the antennae on a ladder for the TV on my back patio, but nothing short of that would work. These indoor antennas are very reasonable, starting at about $25 on Amazon, but they may not work in your house.  Test one out before you go this route.

If the indoor antennas won’t cut it in your house, you can look at a more expensive outdoor antenna. These start around $50 on Amazon, but may need to be installed outside of your house, which could involve hiring an electrician. However, once they are installed, these antennas have no ongoing costs. For around $300 you could probably have your house set up to receive signals from this type of setup.

The HD antennas will cover your local channels, but what about cable channels? One option is to subscribe to Sling TV.  This is an internet based subscription service that lets you, to a degree, pick the channels you want to watch. You can get ESPN, CNN, Bloomberg, HGTV, and a whole host of other channels not available over the air. Plans start at $20 per month, and can go as high as $50 per month or more. You can even record certain programming in a cloud-based DVR. In addition to the service, you will need a way to stream the programming to your TV, such as a Smart TV, and Apple TV, a Firestick, or some other device.  For about $50 up front and about $30 per month you could have this set up on one TV, but the cost would be higher with multiple TVs. 

If the lack of a true DVR will drive you crazy, you are going to need a few more streaming services. There are a few options here, including Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. A true cord cutter will need all three, which will run you about $30 per month. However, if you want the movie channels, those generally run about $15 per month each for Showtime or HBO via streaming, so that is another $30 per month. 

At the end of the day, you are looking at $90 per month for an HD antenna, Sling, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, HBO and Showtime, and I have not included taxes. In addition, it will probably cost you about $80 per TV to get everything going, so at the end of the day, you have spent about what you were going to spend on cable, and you no longer have the ability to DVR everything on TV, which I can’t live without. My advice is to wait until the next generation of cable cutting ideas are brought to retail and see if the savings potential is higher.