Home » How to Save Money: Frugal Alternatives to Cable TV

How to Save Money: Frugal Alternatives to Cable TV


Happy Friday, friends!  No, this isn’t our actual TV, but ours isn’t far off; we still have the old 36-inch tube TV sitting in the living room, and like any true frugal family, will have it there until the debt is paid off or the thing dies. 🙂  We’ll have the week’s good reads tomorrow, but today, I want to welcome back Kyle from Rather Be Shopping with more money saving tips for you.  Thanks, Kyle, for sharing your wisdom again!

About two months ago, my wife and I made the big move and eliminated the cable TV bill from our lives and haven’t looked back. In our case, it was actually our Dish Network bill since we don’t get cable out in the countryside where we live, but the savings was still the same and quite significant. We were paying $55/month for the satellite TV service, which equated to $660 annually. We now only pay $7.99 a month and I’d make the argument that we actually get better programming now and shows that we actually watch. Here are some great frugal alternatives to your expensive cable TV service.

1. Netflix

Step 1 for us was getting the very affordable Netflix streaming service for $7.99 per month. This is the only monthly fee we pay. Netflix allows us to stream 1000’s of TV shows and movies and view them when and where we want, including on smartphones and tablets. The new “Netflix Kids” is very popular with my three children and provides them with more than enough viewing entertainment. The movies may not be the newest releases, but they have plenty of newer flicks. The complete TV series they have available for viewing is what we really love. They literally have every popular TV series from the last 7-8 years for viewing. We are halfway through the first season of Breaking Bad and are thoroughly enjoying it.

2. Roku Streaming Player

For about the cost of a month’s worth of cable, you can get a Roku device which will make streaming online content not only painless, but incredibly productive. Essentially it works by pulling all streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Fox News, and Pandora into one sleek little interface. It’s the size of a drink coaster and plugs directly into your TV and connects automatically to your wireless connection. The best part is that Roku will gather free web content from hundreds of sources. My personal favorite is a service called Crackle that gives you hundreds of movies streamed directly to your TV for NO cost.

3. Indoor Mohu HDTV Antenna

Another smart thing we did was purchase a Mohu Leaf which is an indoor HDTV antenna that sells for just under $40 at Amazon.com. The Mohu device plugs directly into your TV and has a really thin antenna that you place on your wall above the TV and you can get a bunch of FREE channels in full HD. The number of channels you’ll get depends on your geographical location and I can honestly say that I was a bit skeptical at first since we live out of town and wasn’t sure we would pick up any channels. But I was made a believer when we immediately picked up FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, and a couple regional channels with amazing high definition picture quality. This is a great way to watch local news, network programming, and sports action and never have to pay a monthly bill.

4. Public Library

Maybe you are really cutting costs and don’t want to buy an antenna or Roku device, then you need to swing by the library and get movies and TV shows for free. Are you aware that your local library has movies and TV shows available to checkout? Until last year I had no idea this was an option until a friend told me about it. This is especially a great option for family movies which are not necessarily new releases, but are classics nonetheless. Hard to beat free.

Still Just Can’t Pull the Plug on Cable?

If you are like many and having a tough time letting go of the convenience of cable TV, despite the costs, I have a final tip for you. Many satellite and cable TV providers offer a welcome package which they don’t really advertise. Call them up and ask what “bare bone” options they have available. I know for a fact that Dish Network offers a welcome package for $19.99/month and it gives you 60 channels including your all your locals. They might call it a “welcome or introductory package” but don’t be confused by the name as it is available for all customers. You’ll typically have to call and ask a customer service rep about it as you won’t find anything about it on their website.

Also, my old favorite of making the “cancel threat” phone call still works. Call up your provider and tell them you just can’t afford your bill and want to cancel. They’ll work hard to keep you as a loyal customer and will throw some great promotions at you to keep you from canceling. In the past I have received free movies channels and up to $15 off my monthly bill for a 6-month period. When calling, be sure to work your way to their “customer retention” department” as they are the employees who are given the power to lower your bill or offer you incentives.

The bottom-line is that with a little creativity you can easily ditch the cable bill and still enjoy much of the same programming. Take the money you save and throw it towards your credit card debt or retirement fund. Over the course of time you’re going to accumulate some pretty amazing savings.

As for related coupons, here are some great offers to help you cut the cable cord and save money on alternatives like Netflix and HDTV antennas.


Editor’s note: Thanks, Kyle, for the great info here.  We cut our cable bill almost a year ago and haven’t looked back.  Like Kyle’s family, we have some pretty good regular antenna TV channels here, so that’s worked well for us.  We may get Netflix as a reward when one of the CC bills are paid in full, though.  We were at a neighbor’s house the other night and got to experience Netflix for the first time.  It seems well worth the $7.99 a month.

About The Author: Kyle James is the founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com which has been assisting families save money with coupons and frugal living tips since 2001.


  1. Thomas says:

    I must say our family is guilty of not pulling the plug on cable TV just yet. Well actually I dont know if it will ever happen. We do have netflix and usually do a redbox movie instead of buying or going to the movies. Just saves us a lot of money. I remember my grandmother having one of those tvs.

  2. Alexa says:

    It was easy for me to pull the plug on the cable. I’ve got a DVD player and Youtube! If I really want to watch something on TV I ask my mom to record it for me and catch up on the good stuff when I visit her.

  3. We’re bad PF bloggers and still have our DirecTV. My thing is the sports as we can’t get all the games we (ok, I 😉 ) want to be able to see. I have heard though that ESPN has had exploratory talks with Google about possibly moving it’s content to the web. That happens and we cut the cord right away.

  4. Matt Becker says:

    You guys did pretty much exactly what we’re in the process of doing. The only difference is we’ve gotten a blu-ray/dvd player that also serves as our wi-fi streamer instead of Roku, though we would have gone with Roku if we wanted the dedicated device.

  5. I remember about a year ago, my cable company jacked up the price. I called them and told them to cancel it. Of course they offered me short time promotions but, I wasn’t falling for that again! I went to Netflix! Now, I’m a Netflix junkie! Thanks for the great read!

  6. Wonderful read, its amazing the number of cheaper and quality alternative entertainment options that are there if we are really dedicated to saving. I watch almost zero tv, not necessarily to save, I just don’t like it that much.

  7. I haven’t had cable for over 3 years. Had Netflix since then and last year we tried out Amazon Prime. Not sure if we’ll be keeping that or not because a lot of what I watch can be streamed online, for free (even Packer games)!

  8. Good on you for cancelling the cable. It is great to see people cutting the cord. We have not yet had the guts to do so, but your tip for the welcome package could still be a huge savings over what we pay for now. Thanks!

  9. We were holdouts for years, but pulled the plug in July, and my only issues is why on earth did we wait so long? I haven’t missed anything. We do exactly what you are doing with Netflix and an antenna. After the whole Miley Cyrus raunchiness this week, I’m so glad we don’t have to worry about stumbling across anything like that, and not having the stupid commercials means our daughter doesn’t want everything under the sun.

  10. lyle @ the Joy of Simple says:

    I don’t need to cut cable ’cause I never had it to begin with 🙂 I do have a 32 inch LCD TV and I do have an over the air antenna like you mentioned. I get about 22 channels in glorious HD and I couldn’t be happier. Total amount spent including TV and Antenna was about $300.00 three years ago. So that breaks down to about $100.00 a year, which breaks down further to about 8 bucks a month! Not bad at all 🙂

    I also have a great library so I’m good!

    Thanks for an informative post and take care.


  11. we have cable TV, but it´s included in our rent, so we don´t have to pay anything for it. But I have to say, I prefer streaming tv-shows for free online, because then I get to watch my favourite shows just a day after they´ve aired in the States, instead of waiting a year or so before Norwegian tv broadcasts it.

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  13. Mackenzie says:

    We still have our cable, but it’s because of sports: Football and Hockey. But it’s definitely something to look into in terms of eventually getting rid of it. You shared some great tips in this post! Oh, and go 49ers!! 😀

  14. Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances says:

    I’d love to pull the plug on cable! We still have another year of our contract, though. It might be worth it to take the cancellation fee, of course, but it’s something we’ve been reluctant to look in to.

  15. saundyl says:

    The streaming video online bumps our internet bill up much higher for a month than the extra 80 dollars a month to have our satellite. The isp here charges 5 dollars per gig over their max of 40 gb…and its ended up being less than cost effective to stream or download. I;ve heard of some families going over because of online gaming through the xbox and paying well over 400 a month for internet usage.

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