Tips for Cutting the Cord: Celebrating 2 Years Without Cable TV

We replaced the oudated model of cable tv with a digital OTA antenna, TiVO Roamio, and a Roku Express.

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Next week marks a different kind of anniversary for us: it’ll be two years since we “cut the cord” and cancelled our cable television service. And we haven’t missed it since!

We decided to cancel our cable for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, we often found ourselves just watching crap, staring at the box like zombies instead of taking on creative pursuits like…well…this blog. (My blogging has increased a TON since we cancelled, haha.)

Secondly, we got really tired of having to call and fight with AT&T over the ever-growing cost of our monthly cable bill. At a cost of about $50 per month, we knew we could save a good chunk of money by utilizing subscriptions streaming services instead of continuing to pay the cable company for tons of channels we had little to no interest in.

So, we cut the cord, and in the months that followed created a setup that completely replaces our need to EVER have to pay a cable bill again, all without having to give up our favorite shows. Here’s how we made it work:

  1. We bought an over-the-air digital antenna

A lot of people may not realize that access to many mainstream digital tv channels is actually FREE. Public broadcasting was created for the benefit of the public, and so most of your favorite channels are available over the air, for free, to anyone who wants to access them. All you need is an antenna.

This includes full access to ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS to start. We actually receive around 25 channels total over our digital OTA antenna, and have discovered several interesting channels we didn’t even know existed when we had cable like Create, a PBS affiliate channel dedicated to cooking, gardening, and home improvement shows.

Having access to all the “mainstream” channels means we get most of the popular sitcoms, news, and events like the NFL and the Grammys. And the quality (as long as you get a good antenna) is the same as what you’d get through a digital cable box.

A TiVo Roamio DVR is designed to be used with an OTA digital antenna, giving you the features of cable without the costs. It makes cancelling cable easy.

One of my favorite TiVo features is the “Suggestions” area where I can find already-recorded shows that I’m algorithmically likely to enjoy, based on my existing viewing.

2. We bought a TiVo Roamio with Lifetime Service Included

Once you have your digital antenna, you’ve replaced a good chunk of your access to tv, but the other big “perk” of cable service is usually the features of the cable box itself.

The box, of course, acts as both a channel guide so that you can see what’s on and a hard drive/DVR where you can record shows and watch them later. And with the box is the all-important remote control that allows you to pause or rewind live tv, or fast forward through commercials on recorded tv. We found, in the first month or so without cable service, it was actually these features more than any content that we missed the most…I mean…who wants to watch commercials?

Luckily, you don’t need cable service to replace those features. The TiVo Roamio OTA 1 TB DVR allows us to schedule and record our favorite shows, view a handy channel guide to see what was going to be on, and utilize a remote with all the features of the fanciest cable box. And it’s all made to work specifically with your OTA digital antenna.

Beyond all of that, though, one of my favorite things about TiVo service is its “suggested shows” feature. Based on what you record, watch, and like, TiVo learns your preferences over time, and will eventually start to use up some of that 1 TB of space by recording shows you’re algorithmically likely to enjoy. That means that, even if you haven’t actively set something to record or if you’re between seasons, there’s still likely something fun to watch (and without commercials, since you can fast-forward through them) on your TiVo.

But wait, you say! Doesn’t TiVo come with a monthly access fee? Isn’t that the same as paying for cable?!

Fortunately, the answer is no. While TiVo does offer subscription-based service as well, I’d HIGHLY recommend getting a TiVo that comes with lifetime service included, like the ones on Amazon for $349. It will pay for itself within just a couple months of not having cable service, and then you never have to worry about it again!

Using my Roku, I can quickly see which of my streaming services offer the movie or tv show I want to watch.

Using my Roku, I can quickly see which of my streaming services offer the movie or tv show

3. Lastly, we bought a Roku to organize our streaming services

Between the OTA digital antenna and the TiVo Roamio, you have everything you need to have a cable-like experience for all the channels that come in via your antenna, but you still need to rely on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for other content like movies, cable-based television shows, and original programming from those services themselves.

For us, the Roku makes that really simple. We just add the streaming channels we like from their long list to our Roku box, and then use the all-channel search for whenever we want to find something. Instead of saying, “hmm, I really want to watch The Wizard of Oz” and then having to go search for it one by one across all my services, I just type the title into the Roku search and it spits out all my options across my various services, including info on whether it’s free or at an additional cost and if it’s in HD or not. Similarly, I can “subscribe” to certain shows via the Roku, and Roku will notify me when new episodes have been posted via any of my streaming services.

Beyond all that, the best part about Roku is that the cost has really come down in recent years. You can now get a Roku Express for under $30.

So there you have it. We love our new setup, and don’t miss our monthly fights with the cable company one bit. And even though we did invest a bit to get it up and running, considering that we save $50 a month by not paying for cable, our equipment has more than paid for itself at this point!

Share in the comments: Have you cut the cord? What was your experience? Header image by Flickr user Gustavo Devito, reshared under a Creative Commons license

Whitney

  • Victoria Henderson

    This is great info that I plan to share with my husband (who is our resident tech guru). We have been wanting to cut the cable cord for a while, but wasn’t sure how to replace our favorite features. Thanks, again.

  • Herman222

    Great setup Whitney. I chose the Tablo instead of the Roamio so I could more easily get my OTA channels and DVR to all the TVs in the house. That plus I could locate the Tablo closer to the antenna in the attic. We also use Roku and find that very flexible and priced right. Keep spreading the cord-cutting word. In the end everyone should benefit as Pay TV companies will be forced to compete.

    • Good tip on Tablo! We only have the one tv, so that wasn’t an issue for us, but if I get any questions on that I’ll be sure to spread the word 🙂

  • Catherine Ballard

    We’ve never had a cable bill, which I’m thankful for! I miss binging HGTV, but other than that, I don’t really need TV! Youtube and Netflix take care of everything else.

  • Stefanie Stiller

    I totally agree with you. I´m ot having cable TV since 7 years and I don´t miss it at all. I just use Netlix if I want to watch a movie or TV show

  • This is very interesting. I’ve thought about this a lot as my cable/satellite bill is way more than $50 per month. But it all seemed so complicated. Thanks to one of the comments, I think I have my answer to the multiple televisions question.

    My satellite utilizes the wifi, uh internet thingy, also. Does all of this replace that need? And what about the HBO, MAX channels? I mostly watch movies on the premium channels as opposed to regular stations.

    This is a great post. Thanks for all of this information.

    • You do still need internet service, yes. We pay about $25 a month for ours, and the quality is enough to be streaming two shows at once without disruption. And then, depending on what kind of modem your internet company gives you, possibly a wireless router (which turns the internet into wifi).

      In terms of the premium channels, you can purchase access to them through the Roku – so for example for HBO, you add the HBO Now app via Roku, and then subscribe only during the months you want the service (which for me is just when Game of Thrones is in season, hahaha). Essentially, you’re just cutting out the middle man of your cable provider!

      • Ahhh! Okay, thank you so much. This has been very enlightening and something I’m going to do in the near future.

  • T-Nicole Johnson

    Great tips! Cutting the cord was very hard for my family, not me. I was super tired of seeing the bill that just kept on going up for the same services.

  • I am tempted to do this when our contract is up. I’m tired of paying so much!

    • Absoutely, Amber. It really does add up…if you’re paying $50 a month, that’s $600 a year…I can take a nice weekend vacation for that amount!

  • Marianne Turkson

    I’m pretty sure if I do,my daughter will be crossed since all her vest programmes are on there.We will gradu ally ease into it I think. Wish me luck

    • That’s the point though – if you get the right set up in place of cable, then you won’t miss any shows at all! 🙂

  • Jhilmil Mommyinme

    Wow, you did such a great thing of cutting the cord! Actually the bill has shooted its all time high & your post is inspiring me to replicate at my place very soon;)

    • Right? Our bill was creeping up every month it felt like. So nice not to have to worry about that anymore!

  • Ania Ewelina

    Congrats! Ive never actually had cable tv but with technoloy these days it’s so easy to watch anything. Even when you’re travling and on the go.

  • Chloe

    Well done to saying goodbye to cable my OH would not do this. I would just to save money.

  • Chelf Chelfdom

    It’s great for saving money indeed! We use streaming services so much no need for cable tv anymore

  • Mary La Fornara

    I want to cut the cord, but I just need to talk my other half into it. I am definitely going to have him read your post. Thanks for the great info (and for helping me change his mind).

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I think for the fellas, one of the most common concerns I hear is whether they’ll be able to keep watching sports — and with this set up you absolutely can.

  • J Shan Trice

    Is the internet required for you to be able to run all of the services? if so, is the amount that you pay for internet (if you are paying) computed in your cost when tabulating your savings? I am curious to know.

  • CourtneyLynne Storms

    We cut the cord a few years back too!!! Best decision ever. Cable is such a waste of money

  • I think with all the options out there available where you can watch different things online you do not really need cable anymore.

  • Anosa Malanga VA

    I guess I need to shut off my cable too! I might be more productive just like you! I confess about the same thing, staying late in front of the TV and not finishing any things to do.

    • Yes, exactly. I’ve really enjoyed the productivity boost! And because we have the TiVO, when we do have something we want to watch, we can do it on our time 🙂

  • Kenyatta Harris

    We haven’t had cable in 15 years. We’ve missed soo much pop culture and I’m glad about it. We’ve survived on DVD rentals, boxed sets of shows and Netflix IF we want to watch something. But boy have we saved soo much money (and probably brain space.)