Whenever I talk to people who are trying to pay off debt, save for retirement, or fund any other big financial goal, I always bring up cutting the cord and getting rid of cable TV. And there are a few reasons why: it’s expensive, it is by no means a necessity, and there are plenty of budget-friendly cable alternatives out there.
Those reasons are also why I’m usually pretty shocked when someone tells me that they are still paying for cable. When you have credit card debt or student loans, you can find around $100 or more in your monthly budget to put towards debt if you just get rid of cable.
You should find a cable alternative because…
… Cable TV is EXPENSIVE
If you’re paying for cable, it’s probably eating up around $100-$200 of your budget each month. In my M$M Facebook group, I have one reader who said he was paying $250 a month for cable! Why!!??
If that wasn’t bad enough, add the fact that the cost of cable TV continues to increase year after year.
… Cable isn’t a necessity
We all know the wants vs. needs debate, and cable clearly falls in the “wants” category. We all have shows that we feel like we need to watch, but the harsh reality is that you don’t. The real necessity is making a sacrifice for a better financial future.
… There are tons of alternatives to cable TV
Okay, while watching TV is one of the least productive things we can do, it does feed that entertainment and relaxation need we have to fill in order to be happy and chill people. Fortunately, you can do that without dropping a ton on cable.
Seriously, there is a giant list of alternatives to cable TV… I’m about to give you a buuunnnch of them.
Even Disney announced that they’ll be releasing their own streaming service called Disney+, which will basically be where you can watch all of your childhood favorites (Toy Story…. yaasssss) plus anything in the Disney family. Disney owns both Marvel and the Star Wars franchise, so this service is probably going to be a millennial favorite once it’s released later in 2019.
There are also a ton of ways to access the cable alternatives I’m going to tell you about. Some of them are available as apps on your TV, which you access through a streaming device like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, etc. Most of them can stream through smart TVs or newer game consoles, and if you don’t want to pay extra for a streaming device, you can watch them through your laptop and even hook that up to your TV with an HDMI cord.
M$M tip: Despite the official policies of the streaming services I’m going to list below, many of them have unofficial policies that actually do allow for sharing. This article has a ton of info about the sharing policies of some of the most popular cable alternatives.
Here are 12 budget-friendly cable alternatives
1. Digital antenna
Short history lesson for those who don’t remember… back in 2009, the U.S. made the switch from analog to full-on digital television, and that meant that if you didn’t have cable, you would need a digital antenna to watch local network television. When the transition went into effect, the government actually gave out coupons for digital converter boxes.
Flash forward to 2019, digital antennas are the way to go if you want to completely get rid of cable and still access your favorite local stations and shows. You can find some of the best selling digital antennas for as little as $10.99.
For anyone living in a large city, you can get up to 100 channels with your digital antenna, but wherever you are you should be able to get at least 3-4 local network channels. Once you pay for your antenna, that’s it. No monthly charge, nothing, and that make this one of the cheapest (and nearly free) alternatives to cable TV.
If I had to guess which streaming service most millennials already have, Netflix would be my guess. Netflix consistently churns out quality shows and movies, like Stranger Things and Ozark, and they keep switching their lineup so that things feel fresh.
Netflix comes with three different plan levels running from $8.99-$15.99 per month and comes with a 30-day free trial.
BTW, I need some new Netflix shows. Help me out and leave some suggestions down below. Thx.
3. Hulu and Hulu Live
Next to Netflix, Hulu is definitely already a favorite cable alternative because the base level is pretty cheap and allows you to access the current season of your favorite network TV shows. There are also a ton of original series, movies, and add-on channels, like Showtime, HBO, Cinemax, and Starz.
The least expensive level of Hulu is now only $5.99 per month (it was lowered in 2018) and comes with a 30-day free trial. With this option, you are going to get some commercials, but you can go ad free for $11.99 per month.
Another option is Hulu Live, which is already ad free and gives you access to 60+ live and on demand channels, plus live TV recording. Hulu Live is $44.99 per month (with a 7-day free trial), which is still much cheaper than paying for cable.
4. Amazon Prime
If you’re already paying for Amazon Prime for free one-day or two-day shipping, then you should also be taking advantage of their Prime Video library. Amazon Prime has a ton of originals, like The Man in the High Castle or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but you can also get add-ons for HBO, Showtime, Starz, and even PBS.
Amazon Prime comes with a 30-day free trial and costs $119 per year or $12.99 per month and also includes thing like:
- Discounts at Whole Foods
- Access to their Kindle Lending Library
- Amazon Music
5. Watch network TV online
Want a completely free alternative to cable? This one's for you.
With most streaming devices, you can download free apps for many network channels or watch them online with your laptop. Now, not all networks give you free, unfettered access to all of their shows, but HGTV, for example, does unlock some of their programs for free.
Sling is a cable alternative that gives you access to live TV on your laptop or through your streaming device. There are three levels: Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and Orange + Blue. The cost is $20-$40 per month depending on what kind of channels you want and how many devices you want to stream through at the same time.
With Sling, you have access to channels like:
- Comedy Central
- Food Network
You’ll also get a ton more, including some local channels depending on where you live.
Sling also has a bunch of customizable add-ons starting at $5 per month, giving you things like more sports, comedy, or premium channels. Sling also runs offers for things like a free Roku if you pay for a couple of months up front.
7. YouTube and YouTube Premium
YouTube has come a long way from weird videos about slime to offering a ton of educational and entertaining content. You can catch up on SNL, watch travel videos, and even find amazing home decorating tips. That link is for my wife’s new YouTube channel called Coral Hoyt – Practical Tips for a Home You’ll Love. I don’t even know how she does it, but our home is so boujee now without us having to spend a ton of money.
Back to cable alternatives… YouTube is completely free, but you can upgrade to YouTube Premium for $11.99 per month to watch ad free videos, watch your favorite YouTube channels offline, and access music and YouTube originals. It comes with a 1-month free trial.
8. Premium channel subscriptions
Premium channels like HBO and Showtime are one of the reasons that so many people keep paying for cable longer than they should. I get the need (err.. want) to watch the newest seasons of Game of Thrones or Billions, but you don’t need to pay a ton for all of those channels you aren’t watching.
Most premium channels offer a la carte style options that can be streamed through your laptop or streaming device, and you can even just pay for the channels when the new season of your favorite shows are on.
Here are some popular options: HBO Now runs $14.99 per month with a 7-day free trial, and Showtime starts at $10.99 per month with a 7-day free trial.
9. PlayStation VUE
Starting at $44.99 per month (5-day free trial), PlayStation VUE gives you access to a ton of popular live channels. There are four different plan options, going up to $79.99 per month. PlayStation VUE also gives you add-ons for sports packages, FX, etc.
And… you don’t need a PlayStation to use VUE!
Like most of the cable alternatives on this list, you can stream PlayStation VUE through Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, etc.
Access to sports channels and games is another one of the biggest reasons people give for not finding alternatives to cable, but fuboTV is geared towards sports fans and makes it easy with access to 100+ channels and 30 hours of free cloud DVR. The base level option is $44.99 per month, but they have some great add-ons, like:
- 500 hours of cloud storage for $9.99 per month
- Simultaneous streaming on up to three devices for $5.99 per month
- Additional sports packages for $8.99 per month
- FX+ for $5.99 per month
If you want to find out which local teams they cover, here’s a nice list for you.
This is another option for sports fans, and ESPN+ is surprisingly one of the least expensive cable alternatives on this list. You’re going to get live sports, exclusives, and more.
You can stream ESPN+ on Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, etc., and it’s only $4.99 per month after a 7-day free trial.
12. The library
I decided to save one of the most obvious but overlooked cable alternatives for last… your local library! You know that place where you can borrow books for free and make 10¢ copies? Yeah, them! Your library has a ton of popular movies, seasons of your favorite shows, and probably some really weird obscure stuff you never knew existed.
Unless you don’t bring back your DVDs on time, the library is free, and it’s available to anyone. It doesn’t get much better than that.
A warning about trying alternatives to cable TV
I just gave you a comprehensive list of cable alternatives which can save you a ton of money every month. BUT, if you find yourself subscribing to more than one or two, you may end up paying just as much as you would for cable. Remember, the point is to save money.
The other thing… if you’re not watching the shows and channels you’re paying to have access to, then just cancel your subscription. Most of these cable alternatives let you cancel at any time and pick back up when you want more. There’s no reason to pay for something if you’re not using it.