Near the top of my list of answers for “How do you guys manage?” is this: we make choices.
We’d been flirting with cutting out cable for several years, but after my most recent “your-promotional-price-has-ended-and-your-bill-got-jacked-up-and-we-don’t-even-offer-anything-as-basic-as-what-you-want” charade with Charter, we finally decided it was time.
Here’s our setup and how you, too, can feel most of the entertainment satisfaction you’re used to, for a fraction of the cost and a small adjustment in habits.
1. Buy (or use an old machine) media center PC. We got this one from Dell Inspiron HD a few years ago. They don’t make it anymore, unfortunately, so I think now I’d choose a Mac Mini (no DVD), one of these from Asus, or a Roku player (no DVR, but cheapest of the options). Besides having another Facebook machine in the house, you’ll be able to stream from your favorite services, DVR live TV from an antenna, and play your current library of DVDs.
1a: Invest in a TV tuner if you go the MacMini or Asus route. You could choose to only stream, but for $80 you can get a USB stick that connects to your basic cable or antenna and you’ll still be able to be a cool kid at the ol’ watercooler because you didn’t have to wait for your show to come to Hulu.
Antenna: The one we use for our OTA (over the air) watching is a very cheap model that comes with the Hauppage tuner. If we lived further out in the suburbs, I think we’d have to spend $30-$50 for a better one.
As you can see in the image – for less than $300, we were able to replace the hulking Dish DVR, upgrade our DVD player to BluRay, and stream to our TV.
2. Don’t buy a TV for your bedroom. You really just want to watch your DVR or stream video, so skip the expense and use your laptop, tablet, or iPod.
3. Since you’re no longer paying $50 (or more) for cable, if you don’t already, get subscriptions for Netflix and HuluPlus. You’ll need HuluPlus to stream on your mobile device anyway.
Alternative Alert: Amazon Instant Video may have more in their library that you want than Netflix. Get a free trial of both, check out their libraries, and weigh the options before you put all your entertainment eggs in one basket.
Here are the 9 apps we use or recommend the most:
BENEFITS TO CHUCKING YOUR CABLE/DISH
- You own your hardware, so there are no hassles with leasing fees or returning stuff after you cancel service.
- You’re (mostly) immune to rate hikes and “promotions.” I hate the “What promotions do you have for me now” conversation every 6 to 12 months.
- Controlling your channels controls the narrative in your home
- fewer commercials for the kiddos
- more content you actually want
- more control over what your kids might stumble upon
If you’ve got the money to get the cable/dish package of your dreams every month, more power to you, I guess, but I think even if we could have that back, we legitimately enjoy our current setup and would probably use the extra money to do more things together as a family.
Mama Note: We did invest in a few DVDs of the kids favorite shows that are harder to come by [Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Doc McStuffins] but I can find those on Amazon for $10-15 and they often come with a digital copy we can use for traveling so it works for us. I’m thankful for the tv set-up we have. We pay about $15 a month for subscriptions instead of the $75 we were paying for the premium TV and DVR set up. Thanks to my [semi-] nerdy husband for his media center knowledge.