Cutting the Cable Cord: Will it Really Save You Money?

Old vintage TV television on colorful wooden wall background.

You’ve moved out of your parents’ house and you’re far from the free cable of your college dorm. And now that your ex has changed her Netflix and HBO Go passwords (effectively shutting down any chances of reconciliation), you’re on your own.

Well, you could always try using sketchy illegal streaming sites and infect your computer with the digital equivalent of swine flu.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and before you know it, you’re stuck paying at least $66 a month for a cable package. Everybody says you can survive life after cutting the cord. But now you’re hooked on TV and you’re left wondering if cutting cable will be worth it. Don’t worry about crunching the numbers–I’ve done your homework for you.

Cable: Worth it or Nah?

Let’s lay out some figures before delving into the streaming services. The average cost of a basic cable and internet package sits at about $66 a month. I’ve also added a $15.00 HBO subscription to our figure (bumping the cost up to $81 per month) because you’re addicted to Game of Thrones.

Don’t forget the monthly cost of high-speed internet which you’re probably paying for, regardless of how you get your TV fix. The price will vary from state to state, but you can expect to pay between $30 and $50 a month for sweet, sweet internet. For the purpose of the explanation (and more straightforward math), I’ll say you’re paying $40.

If you cancel your cable, you’ll only have to worry about paying for internet. $40 a month isn’t bad at all, especially if you’re splitting the expense with any roommates. Comparing an $81 bill to a service that only costs $7.99 or $8.99 looks like a sweet deal. However, it’s easier to think that you’re getting a bargain when your service provider bill has drastically decreased; meanwhile, your debit card is being charged by multiple streaming subscriptions at the end of the month.

The perfect package isn’t always the cheapest.

So you’ve quit cable cold-turkey and you’re only paying $40 per month for a speedy internet connection, which you’d need for any streaming service. Now you need to think about what you’ll miss about traditional television.

Are you wondering how you’ll keep up with your favorite TV shows? You’ll need a Hulu subscription. Hulu carries your favorites from 13 channels, in addition to several original series and old favorites that were given a second chance online. Pricing starts at $7.99 per month, but if you grow tired of watching the same five commercials interrupt your shows, you can pay $12 per month for a “no commercials” option.

Even though Hulu has been trying to beef up its movie collection, they have nothing on Netflix. If you’re actually paying for your own subscription (proud of you for adulting), you have three options. Netflix’s introductory cost of $7.99 lets you stream standard definition content onto only one screen. If you must see every episode of Friends in the best quality available for 90s television, go with the $8.99 package. For that price, your account can be used to stream in HD on two different screens at once. 

Deciding whether to go with Netflix or Hulu is a tough choice. One has high-quality original series and the best online collection of movies. while the other has a broad collection of current TV shows (along with a few old-school favorites). So why not go with both?

Here’s where costs add up.

Subscribing to a basic Hulu and a decent (HD) Netflix package costs $16.98. Add that to your internet package, and you’re paying about $57 every month. Saving about twenty-five bucks every month? Sounds good to me. But what do you do if you need more TV in your life?

For everything covered by Hulu and Netflix, there are many channels and programs that fall through the cracks. Sports fans will need to add another subscription to the mix. If you feel like shelling out $100 or more every year to watch a season’s worth of games–and depending on the service, you may not have complete access to all games or live games–you can pay for an annual service directly from the organization.

Skip the overpriced season pass and subscribe to Sling TV. This new service comes from Direct TV and costs $20 per month. Yes, it is steeper than the previously mentioned services. However, Sling comes with 30 live TV channels and the ability to watch previously aired programs; for $15 extra per month, you get live HBO and HBO Go. Sling TV also offers a robust sports package for only $5 more each month, you get nine additional sports channels.

If you’re looking for a way to keep up with your favorite basketball team, only pay for the months you’ll be using Sling, then cancel your subscription after the finals. You might have a change of heart–it’s essentially a basic cable package with pseudo-DVR. It might be hard to part ways.

The bottom line: how much will I save by cutting cable?

Let’s look at three scenarios:

Option A: Internet + Netflix or Internet + Hulu

Going with only one streaming service will obviously trim down your monthly expenses.If you can survive on one service alone (admittedly I cannot), you’ll be paying about $48 instead of $66 or more.

Option B: Internet + Netflix + Hulu

The best of both worlds. For $57 a month, you have access to a wide array of TV shows and movies. However, you don’t have any premium channels, nor do you have sports. If you can live without that, then this is a good deal for anyone.

Option C: Internet + Netflix + Hulu + Sling TV

Sling TV is a solid cable replacement on its own, but you can’t watch what you want on-demand, a la Netflix or Hulu. If you want it all, you’ll pay about $77 a month. Remember the average cost of a cable and internet package? Yeah, you’d be spending almost $11 more if you choose this route.

And there you have it, folks. If you want to actually save money, consider a smaller streaming bundle. And if you like having every expense in one place, you may be better off with good old fashioned television. For now.

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