Cost-Effective Alternatives to Cable and Satellite Television

According to this article, the average American cable/satellite bill is $128 per month. Let that sink in for a minute. $128 per month.

Naturally, this average does include bundles of premium channels that many households subscribe to, HD service (which the providers charge more for), DVRs, and other such perks.

Still, $128 a month just to have something to watch on the television? Ouch. There’s got to be a cheaper way.

Here are some of the best alternatives out there to paying a hefty cable bill each month.

Over-the-Air Signals ($0 per month)
This has a small up front cost, of course. You may have to erect a small antenna of some kind to help you pick up the signal, plus you may need a small digital converter box.

Once that’s in place, though, you can obtain a bunch of digital channels over the air for free, particularly if you’re close to the city where the station comes from. I have a friend in Des Moines whose only television service comes via over-the-air signals and he gets about 18 different channels, including an all-weather channel, an all-children channel, and every major broadcast network.

Netflix ($8 per month)
Netflix requires that you already have some form of broadband internet service. If you have that in place, there are a lot of simple ways to have Netflix appear on your television. Many different DVD players, video game consoles, and other set-top boxes work with Netflix.

Netflix provides a ton of full television series, lots of movies, and even some original programming that doesn’t appear elsewhere (House of Cards, for example, and the fourth season of Arrested Development).

The drawback here is that you won’t find the latest cable programs on here. If you don’t mind that, Netflix will provide you more television content than you can probably ever watch.

Amazon Prime ($80 per year)
You can pretty much duplicate everything said about Netflix with Amazon Prime. The primary difference between the two is programming (Netflix has a small edge here with the original shows and a few other things) and the other perks of Amazon Prime (two day shipping on pretty much everything, the Kindle Lending Library).

Hulu Plus ($8 per month)
This is another streaming service that offers the latest episodes of quite a few currently running series, which is something the other streaming services don’t offer. There’s also a free version of Hulu with ads and a much more limited selection of programming.

If you’re really wanting to follow certain shows, Hulu might be an option for you.

Online Streaming from Sports Leagues (varies from league to league)
If you’re a big sports fan, the major sports leagues offer streaming packages that allow you to view their games over the internet (yes, this one also requires broadband). The prices and offerings vary greatly from league to league, but if you’re primarily keeping cable for sports programming, this is almost certainly a way to save some money there.

News Programming (free)
The major cable news networks all offer free video streaming of some form. All of them offer full streaming during major news events, but during downtimes, their service varies and seems to change quite a lot. Still, during periods of breaking news, you can rely on the internet if you prefer to watch your news.

Toss the Television Entirely
Alternately, you could cancel the cable and not replace it with any other service. Those evening hours when you watch television can easily be filled with other activities.

It’s all up to you. With these options, I’d think twice about spending $128 a month on television programming.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Loading Disqus Comments ...