In early 2015, I decided to cancel my cable tv subscription. I felt like I was spending way too much on cable tv and it just wasn’t worth it. Three years later, I have no regrets about my decision. And, as this article about the history of cable TV suggests, I’m not the only one that has cut the cord, putting the future of cable in perhaps a slightly more precarious place than it ever has been. I did, however, end up replacing the cable tv subscription with a few other items and services, so let’s do a comparison of the costs.
Cable TV Costs
When I had cable tv, I was paying about $180 a month for a tv/phone/internet bundle such as the windstream internet plans. I didn’t use the phone line all that much, so that loss wasn’t a huge deal (I had it mainly because the bundle cost was cheaper). That also included DVR service. I watched very little live tv – most of what I watched was recorded on the DVR and watched later.
For an internet only service, I’m currently paying about $85. Given the three year time gap, let’s estimate that taxes and fees would have gone up enough so that the difference in the two costs is an even $100.
Sweet! I’m saving $100 a month! That’s a great deal!
Well, not so fast…
You didn’t think I gave up television all together, did you? But what did I replace it with?
Let’s start with hardware. I bought a $20 indoor antenna so that I can get live local channels. I’m lucky enough to live in a pretty heavily populated area, so the over the air signals are pretty strong. If you need something that will pick up signals from farther away, you may need something a bit more pricey.
For reference, I bought the Amazon Basics 35 mile range indoor antenna and have had no issues. (No sponsorship here, it’s just what I purchased.)
I also bought an Amazon Fire TV. At the time, it cost $100, now the price is down to $70. This is what I use to connect my tv to the internet for using various streaming services. Some televisions have this built in. My television is over ten years old, so that certainly was not an option.
All told, I spent $120 on hardware. A little over a month’s worth of savings from canceling cable.
But wait, there’s more.
Clearly, if I bought a Fire TV, I was streaming something on my tv. And while there are some things you can access for free, you do have to pay for a lot of the streaming services.
I do have Amazon Prime, but I’m not sure that price factors in here. I did not get an account for streaming purposes, and with the exception of a few Prime-only shows, I don’t use it all that much. While a lot of people love the streaming offerings from Amazon Prime, it’s just not something I would have splurged on, so I’m not going to calculate that cost here.
I have a Hulu account. I have the base plan, for $7.99 a month. They also offer an $11.99 account with no commercials, but the extra money wasn’t worth it to me. Yes, it’s only $4 a month, but am I really that bothered by commercials? That $4 adds up.
CBS shows are not available on Hulu, and I have quite a few that I enjoy, so I also have a CBS.com streaming account. This costs $5.99. They also have a no commercial option, but again, not worth the added costs. CBS also offers a number of its older shows for streaming, so there is a lot of content here. CBS has also started to get into the “streaming only” game along with Hulu and Netflix and has started offering certain shows on their streaming services only.
Finally, I have a Netflix account. I had this before I cancelled my cable tv, but I’ll still include it in my replacement. My plan recently increased from $9.99 to $10.99 a month.
That all adds up to $24.97 a month. I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve added it all up, and I really feared it was going to be more than it was.
Now, not every show that you want to watch will be available on these streaming services. There are some shows on basic cable networks that you can’t stream. However, for many of those shows, you can purchase episodes or the full season through Amazon or Apple. It looks like I’ve done that 7 times since canceling cable. The prices vary, but for this estimate, let’s say I’ve spent $20 per season for a total of $140.
I will admit, I’ve also done temporary subscriptions to Starz and HBOGo to catch up on some shows, but since I didn’t have either of those channels prior to canceling cable, I’m also not counting that in the estimate.
So after three years, how much money have I saved?
A reminder of the numbers:
Internet Service – $85
Streaming Services – $24.97
Hardware – $120
TV Seasons – $140
Old Cable/Internet Cost – $185
So over the past three years, I’ve spent a whopping $4218.92 on television related costs (though $3060 of that is the internet service itself, which is clearly much more than just television).
However, if I had kept cable tv, I would have spent $6660. That’s a savings of $2441.08. (This number doesn’t even take into account that I likely would have kept a Netflix account even with a cable subscription.) Over $800 a year and I barely notice the difference.
I can’t say that I’ve missed having cable tv at all. I know that I definitely splurge by purchasing some of my favorite shows rather than waiting for them to be available on streaming services. But I have made a full replacement of what I used to watch and still manage to save a decent amount of money.
So if you still have cable tv, take a second look at what you watch and if you could replace it in some way. You might be able to save money and not even notice the difference.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.