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Are you ready to dump cable TV?

Take these steps to see if you'll be happy living cable-free.

By Karen Datko Nov 16, 2009 8:12PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

Want to find a hundred bucks a month in savings without giving up all that much? Cancel your cable television service. That sounds absolutely crazy, right?

 

When people look to trim the fat from their budgets, they often don’t think to cut their cable TV because it feels almost like a utility. Along with your electricity, your water and your telephone are your television and Internet. Who can live in this day and age without those necessities?

 

But it’s not that crazy, and thousands of people are doing this because of all the free video content on the Internet. Forget the homebrew shows that had their start on the Internet. I mean major broadcasting networks putting the shows on TV for free.

In this post, I’ll describe an approach to finding out if canceling your cable TV service is the right move.

Keep a TV log. For an entire month, record every show that you watch and how you watched it. Did you watch it live or after you recorded it on your DVR? Did you watch it a day after it was broadcast or a week later?

 

The point of the log is to find out how much you are watching TV. Now, figure out how much you’re paying per episode. If you’re paying $100 a month for cable and watch four shows that air weekly, you’re watching 16 shows a month and paying $6.25 apiece. Even if you watch eight shows, that’s 32 shows a month at $3.12 apiece. Do you follow eight shows?

 

Find alternatives online. Most networks put their most popular shows online, either at Web sites like Hulu.com or their own sites. Fox lets you watch 17 of its shows online, including “House,” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.” ABC has 34 shows online. NBC has pretty much every one of its shows online at NBC.com and Hulu (which was created by NBC Universal and News Corp.). USA Network has six shows online (you can see them through Hulu too) and FX Network has five available ("It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia"!).

 

The only downside with watching television shows online is that the networks will often delay when you can watch them. For example, if you’re a fan of “House,” you can’t see the latest episodes until eight days after they are first broadcast on Fox. If you like “Flash Forward,” you will only be able to watch the last five episodes on Hulu.

 

Check your shows to see if they are shown online. Chances are they will be. As for commercials, they are done faster than it takes you to skip through them on your DVR.

 

Use Netflix for the previous season. Want to know why “Lost” is so popular but can’t watch it now because it’s too far in? Watch it streaming to your computer or TV -- you can get the first four seasons instantly. Netflix isn’t free -- the cheapest plan that gives you unlimited online viewing is $8.99 a month -- but it’s far cheaper than cable television.

 

After I wrote my Netflix review, I was amazed at the number of readers who told me they had canceled their cable TV service and subscribed to Netflix. Here are just two of the more recent comments:

 

Lauren:

I’m a Netflix subscriber and proud of it! Four months ago I canceled my $120-a-month cable plan. Now I pay $9 a month on Netflix to watch all my favorite shows and movies. We connect the big-screen TV to our laptop and watch everything on demand right there. Who needs TiVo when you can watch shows instantly for $111 cheaper?

Neil:

I’ve been viewing Netflix and their imitators as an alternative to cable, which makes it a great deal. For a few dollars a month, I’ve replaced a bill that was over $40, and I can’t say I miss it.

Local news and sports. The only things you cannot get online, conveniently and prepackaged, are your local news and sports programs. You can watch snippets of SportsCenter at ESPN.com but you can’t watch last night’s game or see the news. For this, you will want to have an antenna that can capture television signals over the air.

 

Use AntennaWeb to find out what signals are available in your area and what type of antenna you’ll need to capture them. Then you’ll need to buy an antenna and plug it into your TV to get the local stations (make sure to point it in the direction AntennaWeb advises). That’s the last issue solved.

 

Canceling your cable television may seem scary, but think about what you’re giving up: Nothing (as long as you weren’t under contract). If you decide a few months into the experiment that you prefer to spend the money for cable television, you can always sign up and take advantage of new-customer offers.

 

Did you cancel your cable and have some tips to share with other people looking to do the same?

 

Related reading at Bargaineering:

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