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Jul 072013
 July 7, 2013  Posted by  At Home, Hot Deals, Media, Movies, Tech Talk
TV Remote Control

Here’s the grim reality behind your favorite reality TV show: it’s costing you more than ever and it’s going to get worse. Cable costs are rising and they’re rising fast. According to an April 2012 survey from the NPD Group, cable costs are rising 6% a year, while household income remains flat. At that rate, the average monthly pay-TV bill will be $123 in 2015 and $200 in 2020. Ouch.

But you can save some money if you think outside the cable box. Read on and see if one of these cable-free alternatives is for you.


If you have a digital-ready TV set you can use an indoor antenna to pick up your local UHF and VHF channels. It can be tricky, however, to know in advance what channels you will receive and what kind of antenna you need. AntennaWeb has a tool that allows you to enter your address and learn what stations you’ll receive and what kind of antenna you’ll need. Depending on the type and features, most indoor antennae range in price from $8 to $70.

Streaming video services

If you want to get anything beyond your local channels, you’ll need to use a streaming video service, like Netflix, which costs about $9 a month for streaming service. Netflix doesn’t have the most recent movies or episodes of TV shows, but it’s great if you want to catch up on the all the old seasons of shows that you missed first time around.

Hulu, another streaming video service on the internet, is free, but doesn’t have the most recent selections either, and does have commercials. Hulu Plus offers the entire current seasons of hit shows for about $8 a month; however, it still has commercials.

Streaming video player

You can easily watch the streamed video on your computer, but if you want to watch it on that big flat-streen TV you’ll need to connect your computer to your TV, which requires a little bit of technical skill. Plus, it’s just not as convenient as using a remote control from the couch.

To avoid that complication, use a atreaming video player. These are highly specialized devices that take your computer out of the system.

The simplest to use is Roku. It’s a device that connects to your computer and to your Internet service. Roku has many streaming channels. Depending on the features it costs between $48 and $85. This is a one-time cost, not a subscription. Its remote is simple and intuitive to use. There’s even an app so you can use your iPhone as a remote. Roku can also stream music from sources like Pandora or Spotify.

If you have a teenager in the house you might already have a gaming system. Most of them (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii) also support streaming video.


If the shows available on Roku aren’t enough for you, consider PlayOn. It’s another streaming video service with more than 60 channels, including Disney, ESPN, Comedy Central, HGTV and many other popular channels. It works with Roku and most of the other streaming video players. PlayOn has frequent “lifetime license” sales where you can get a lifetime license for $39.99 or a lifetime license with a Roku for $69.99.

Add it up

For a complete solution, you do have to cobble together a few different products. Is it worth it? Let’s add up some estimated prices.

One time costs:

  • Indoor antenna for local stations: $40
  • Lifetime license for PlayOn, including Roku: $69.99

Monthly subscriptions:

Even if you budget an additional$15 a month for DVDs from Redbox, you will save substantial money over cable TV. And don’t forget about free DVDs from your local library. Whether it’s worth it depends on how simple you want your solution to be and if these streaming video sources include the shows you want to watch – when you want to watch them. What’s certain, however, is that the Internet-only TV solutions will continue to expand and cable costs will continue to rise.

Jody Mace

Jody Mace is a freelance writer who has written for publications like O Magazine, Washington Post, and Parents. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two teenaged kids. Her colleagues are dogs named Harlow and Shaggy. She publishes Charlotte on the Cheap and takes the “cheap” seriously. For fun she plays mandolin and browses at her local Goodwill Store, where she is “Foursquare Mayor,” as long as that Russell G. doesn’t steal it from her again. You can see her celebration of thrift store finds at Thrift Wrecks.

9 comments on “How to get rid of cable TV and save money

  1. I need clarification. I thought Playon just took content that was already on the internet for free and just put it in one spot verses having to go to each site and if you want Netflix or Hulu, you still have to pay for that. Plus you must leave your computer on when using Playon

    Is this correct?

    If that is correct, wouldn’t it be about as easy and cheaper to use the HDMI port on your computer and hook it to your TV to watch programming. Hulu Free, Vicki, Drama Fever, Startrek and others all work this way.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m being smart. I’m just trying to clarify and correct my thinking if so.

  2. Carolyn from Wichita on the Cheap on said:

    Kenny, what you’ve described is exactly what we’ve done with our desktop computer and TV. We purchased a $40 indoor antenna for local stations and hooked our HD-enabled computer to the HDMI port on our TV.

    We have an older box TV without an HDMI port; our (inexpensive) Blu-Ray player streams some services – Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, etc. and it connects through the older ports. (Sorry I can’t think of what they’re called!)

    I haven’t used PlayOn, so I’m not sure exactly how it works. But I did see that PlayOn can connect through any of the three major video game consoles, so if you already have that, no need for the Roku.

    I think the idea behind the Roku + PlayOn is compatibility with more TVs and wireless connectivity. Again – I don’t have either one, but I’ve been reading up on them. My conclusion is that I probably don’t need them since we’ve hooked our computer directly to our TV.

  3. Christopher Blackmon on said:

    Some internet providers charge based on data usage, so heavy watchers could easily find themselves going over their caps and racking up some nifty charges… so do your research before making the switch.

    Also, make sure your internet connection can handle the extra bandwidth necessary for streaming services, especially if you or someone else may be using the internet at the same time.

  4. JulieCC on said:

    If you have someone in your home eligible for Amazon Student, you can get Amazon Prime for $39 after being in the program for six months. This will get you access to the cost-free streaming.

    We only have antenna TV with a 6-foot antenna in our attic and get about 40 channels in our area. What we don’t watch there, which really isn’t much as most TV drives us nuts, we get at the library on DVD. Our library will purchase things I request about 99% of the time. They’ve purchased about $350 worth of DVDs I’ve requested in the past year (not to mention all the books and CDs I’ve also requested). Not a bad ROI for my $85 in taxes I’m already paying! Getting shows on library DVDs means no commercials or other annoying ads, too!

  5. Earl on said:

    You do need your computer with the playon server running to be on but the program runs in the background not like using the hdmi cord ,which, would require to go to the computer each time you want to go to a different site. In other words, you don’t have to open your browser. Roku or your gaming console will find the server and allow you to connect to the sites. Hope this answered your question.

  6. Patti on said:

    How would apple TV fit into this plan?

  7. Diana Barry on said:

    How do watch NFL games and college sports using one of these choices?



  8. Jeff Mac on said:

    @Diana- sports would be limited to what would be shown on one of the major networks (CBS and FOX have NFL) and you could see what was shown on local channels with a local HD antenna…if you are a Redskins fan in California you would be challenged. NFL can also be challenging because they will black out local broadcasts if a game is not sold out. You will typically get 4 games a weekend on the local broad cast channels.

    College sports are usually broadcast over the internet,so an HDMI cable from your computer is a great option.

    @Patti- Apple TV would slot in where Jody mentions the Roku and there are pluses and minuses between the two. Apple TV will let you stream anything on an Apple computer to your TV wirelessly. Those college games or anything in iTunes could be played this way. Hulu’s free options work great over this which gives you lots of current TV choices.

    Roku supports Amazon prime (Amazon and Apple don’t like each other!) so you can stream LOTS of free TV if you are already a Prime member. I usually break down and pay the Amazon Prime tax right before Christmas because you get two day shipping free and I ALWAYS forget a Christmas present or two that I need to rush ship….

  9. Teresa Mears on said:

    Our friends at Wisebread and MSN’s Smart Spending have a new post about how to watch sports without cable: