Save Thousands of Dollars While Watching the TV Shows You Love By Brian Shim, Updated April 2nd, 2017
I'd like to help you save thousands of dollars by showing you how to set up free and cheap alternatives to cable and satellite TV. And it's completely legal!
The average cable customer spends $100 a month on cable! That's $1,200 per year for the rest of your life, or about $60,000 in your lifetime! Why pay when you can watch many of the same shows for much less or free? People are dropping cable in record numbers (about a million people per year according to one estimate). Why not figure out how to watch Hi-Def TV without paying for cable starting right now?
The solution to the ridiculous cost of cable TV is to switch to FREE broadcast digital TV using an antenna like one of the ones below. This can get you the network shows (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, etc.)
If you have an Internet connection, you can connect your TV to a device like Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV box to get additional free and subscription TV and movie services. I explain all of this on DisableMyCable™.
Start with Free Broadcast Digital TV
Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in Hi-Def for free? It's called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little leg work to set it up, but I'll guide you through it.
To see which channels YOU can get using an antenna, click the big Station Finder button below and enter your zip code.
You will see a map of your area. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact, but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.
If the stations you want are available, then keep going! If not, skip down to other options.
If you have a modern flat-panel TV (the kind that you can hang on a wall), all you need is an antenna to get these channels, and you'll be getting most of them in high-definition, mostly in better picture quality than you got with cable!
If you don't have an antenna right now, here is a quick-and-dirty way to test your TV to see if it will work:
For detailed instructions on how to hook up your antenna and configure your TV, go to the antenna setup page on this site!
If you have an old analog tube TV, you'll need to get a converter box in order to use an antenna.
I've done extensive testing and come up with my top two favorite indoor TV antennas - the ones which bring in the most channels reliably in my testing. Hint - they are both flat! Read more about the TV antennas I chose!
My other main source of free TV programming comes from the Internet. Most of the major networks have websites with FREE full recent episodes. Check out my Internet Remote Control for links to all of these free TV sites. The main catch is that you can only watch them on a desktop or laptop computer. Most of these sites don't work on a tablet or on any set-top boxes.
If you are willing to pay a little, there are a plethora of set-top boxes and services that offer on-demand programming from the Internet. Examples include the Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. These devices connect to the Internet through your Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable and stream movies and shows to your TV. It's like having a movie rental store in your home. If you have a gaming console (Wii, XBOX, PS3), you already have what you need. More info on set-top boxes here.
Once you have one of these boxes, you can stream programs from pay-per-show sites like Amazon, iTunes, and others. Or, you can subscribe to a service like Netflix or Hulu, and stream unlimited shows for a fixed monthly fee. Here's an overview of media services.
Personally, I am a cheapskate. I don't want to pay anything to watch TV. If you want to watch all of the free video from the Internet on your TV, you can connect your computer directly to your TV, bypassing the need for a set-top box. Most modern flat-screen TV's have a computer input. If you have an old computer lying around, why not try it? If your TV doesn't have a computer input, you can still do this if you get a video output card or usb interface for your computer. Go to my computer+TV page for more info.
Don't forget about borrowng DVDs from friends and family, and from your local library!
There are so many ways to watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other streaming services on your TV. But the one that I am recommending for most people is Roku. It offers the most channels, voice search across many content providers, and headphone output, all at a reasonable price. Read my full review here.
One of the nice things about having cable TV or satellite is the ability to record shows. For a long time, there wasn't a good solution to record free broadcast TV, without paying a fee (TiVo). But now, there is a solution: the Channel Master DVR+. It's my favorite way to record broadcast TV shows. Check out my review of the most popular DVRs, my review of the Channel Master DVR+, or go straight to the Channel Master site to check it out there.
What if you want to keep cable? If you love to watch sports in real time played by teams that are not in your local area, cable/satellite might be the only viable options for you (although this is changing with the advent of Sling TV). If you live in a remote area, far from digital TV transmitters, you might not be able to get good broadcast reception. If you don't want to deal with antennas, websites, set-top boxes, and the like, or if you simply enjoy surfing through lots of channels without putting much thought into what you want to watch, cable is for you.
Here are some ways to save money if you keep cable:
Negotiate with your cable company. Call them up and tell them you want to cancel cable because it's too expensive. When I did this, they immediately offered me a $15 discount off of my $57/month cable bill if I agreed to a one year contract. This is an unpublished rate. That still wasn't worth it for me, so I passed on it, but it's there if you want it.
Cut the extras. Take a look at your bill and see if you're really using all of the services you're paying for. If you cut a movie channel package, for example, would the money saved by cancelling it pay for a Netflix account that would give you greater satisfaction? Cutting down to basic cable has another nice advantage outlined next.
Ditch the cable TV box and remote. If you just want basic cable, you might not need to use the cable TV box - you can try hooking the cable right into your TV (if it is a modern flat-screen LCD/Plasma/LED). The cable TV companies let you believe that you need a cable box to get high-definition. You often don't. In fact, you'll probably get better picture quality by hooking your cable directly to your TV instead of going through the cable box. The difference can be tremendous. Ditch the cable box and remote control "rental fees". (Plus, you'll save $10 to $30 per year in electricity costs - those set-top boxes really use a lot of power!)
If you want to save on your Internet bill as well, check out some ways to cut your Internet bill in half .. If you want to save up to 50% on your cell phone bill, read this article on how to cut your cell phone bill in half.
People have asked me for an easy way to watch their favorite TV shows on the Internet. Here it is: your Internet TV Remote Control! I've assembled the best sources of free TV on the Internet and put them on one easy-to-use page . To get it for free, click the image and bookmark it!
Note, these channels mostly work on desktop and laptop computers, not tablets. :-(
I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, "well, that's just the cost of getting TV". More and more, however, I realized that I wasn't getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month "introductory cable rate" ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to "Disable My Cable" and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days... Read the rest of my story here.
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