Cutting The Cord – A Year Without Cable TV

Cutting the cord
1973 TV Guide

Our family decided that cutting the cord on cable TV was right for us. After a full year, here’s how it’s going. 

Read my post about saying bye bye to cable TV by clicking here.

Overall, we have no regrets about our decision.

We miss a few things like the DVR, certain sporting events, and some mindless cable shows we would occasionally indulge in.

But we’re watching less TV now, making us much more productive in the evenings after the kids are asleep. When we do watch TV, we’re consuming much higher quality programming and still able to avoid most commercials.

To top it off, we’ve saved more than $500 over the year.

The way all Americans watch TV is quickly evolving. We now have more ways to consume content than ever. With this post I want to share what our family has done for in-home entertainment this year, and how we’ve adapted after dropping cable. If you are considering cutting the cord, this will hopefully give you an idea of some options that are available.

Cost Savings

In the previous post, I calculated our our savings like this:

  • $115 – old cable/internet bill
  • $60 – minus new internet only bill
  • $8 – minus the monthly cost of Netflix
  • = $47 savings per month, or $564 per year

This held true. The amount we saved is the equivalent to receiving a year’s worth of dividends from owning 427 shares of Coca-Cola (KO), worth about $17,300. I’ve reinvested KO dividends for almost 18 years and I still don’t own that many shares!

Our provider did try to raise our internet by $6 per month after the first year. I called negotiated it down to a $1 increase for the next 12 months. Even without cable, I find myself playing cat and mouse with the idiotic cable company.

Our Habits Since Cutting The Cord

Dinner time through bedtime is rather chaotic in our household. One of the kids will either throw a tantrum or get very messy at the dinner table. Bath time is another chore, as is brushing teeth. But we split the duties and get through it, then read books to the kids before bed. I’m sure when we’re older, we’ll look back at this time in our lives and cherish it. But day to day, it’s exhausting.

Some nights we’re so tired that all we want to do is watch TV. Other nights, we complete tasks around the house. Also, I recently joined a gym, and my wife does some exercise classes one night a week. And night time is when I write and maintain this blog. So we really only sit down about twice a week to watch TV anymore. Except, of course, when we binge watched our way through the first four seasons of Game of Thrones.

Without numerous recordings waiting for us on a DVR, we don’t feel an urgent need to finish shows. So we watch less and get stuff done around the house which is otherwise impossible when the kids are awake. We feel much more productive, and we don’t miss the backlog of House Hunters International episodes. By not watching as much TV, we generally get to bed earlier too, improving our health and well-being during the day.

What We’ve Been Watching and How We Get It

One of the reasons we cut the cable cord was because we were watching bad TV. Remember Revolution on NBC? I hope you don’t, it wasn’t that good. Yet, that took up an hour of our time every week. We knew if we started accessing content from sources other than cable, we would watch better TV, catching up on the very best shows we missed.


After cancelling our TV service, I bought an Amazon branded antenna for about $30. It’s similar to a Mohu. The cord is not long enough to reach our window, so I sort of hung it off a bookshelf. It doesn’t look great, but if it’s in the perfect spot, we get clear HD reception for ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. We don’t get PBS, but most of that content is available online.


We signed up for the Netflix streaming service for $7.99 per month. The movie selection is a bit disappointing, but we don’t watch movies that frequently.

Neflix has PLENTY of kids programming, so no issues there. My son and daughter utilize their limited TV time by watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train, Chuggington, Curious George, and a number of other shows. It turns out some of these are accessible through the PBS app on Apple TV too, so that’s another option.

The only real hole in kids programming is movies. There are some on Netflix, but most, if not all Pixar and Disney movies are not there. DVDs make great gift suggestions to the grandparents.

Instead of watching crappy dramas on the main networks, Netflix has provided us hours of some of the best programming out there. Namely, I watched the entire Breaking Bad series right away. We also binge watched the first two seasons of House of Cards, and are slowly getting through season three (not as good so far). A new season of Arrested Development is also available, but disappointing and we haven’t even finished it yet, after being huge fans of the original show. More shows are waiting for us like Orange is the New Black and Mad Men (if we dare start that long one). Not to mention all the new programming they have in the works.

Apple TV

We watched our Netflix through a Sony DVD/Blue Ray player that has an ethernet connection at first. Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are all built into it. We knew all along we’d upgrade to Apple TV and received one as a Christmas gift this year.

The Apple TV interface is much better than the Sony. It’s easy to use, utilizes WiFi, and has a lot of free programming built in. Apple TV connects to any iTunes purchases we’ve ever made, plus has a great Netflix interface. What’s annoying about Apple TV is that many apps don’t work unless you have a cable subscription. So you see a CBS icon, but the shows are unavailable unless you can link it back to a cable provider. We do get some CBS shows, primarily The Amazing Race, on our iMac which we can then AirPlay to our Apple TV. For whatever reason, they let you watch the show on a computer, but not on Apple TV directly. The number of shows available are limited and don’t stay available long, so you have to keep up.

Other applications like the ABC app, allow us to watch certain shows without logging in. The selection is limited for shows like Modern Family and you still have to watch commercials. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory are the types of shows we don’t really watch anymore, probably due to lack of DVR capability.

What’s most annoying with not having cable is that you do this runaround, where you can get some programming, but jump through a few hoops to get it, or it disappears before you can watch it. With more people cutting the cord, there is a glaring opportunity to make this all much simpler.

Enter Apple again. Rumors about an upgraded Apple TV and possibly a subscription service in the works could be a solution. Apple is allegedly working deals with the main networks (except NBC), and popular cable channels like ESPN, to stream through Apple TV for about $30-$40. If deal is worked out, we may be interested as long as our internet costs don’t spike.

HBO Go vs. HBO Now

HBO Go is an app on your device (Apple, Roku, Chromecast, tablet etc.) that allows you to access HBO programming that you pay for through your cable subscription.

Some family members came to visit us last summer for a few weeks. They were very helpful giving us a much needed break from the kids here and there. They also signed into the HBO Go app on our iPad. We didn’t have any interest in watching HBO on the iPad, aside from a few episodes of Veep, but still had the accessWe later learned HBO doesn’t necessarily frown upon sharing IDs for their content, noting they’re in the business of creating loyal fans.

Once we got the Apple TV, we were able to start using the AirPlay feature. This allowed us to beam whatever is on the iPhone, iMac, or iPad screen right up to the TV through WiFi. I was skeptical this would work. But when we gave it a try, to our amazement the HD picture was perfect.

The time came to start watching the ultimate show – Game of Thrones. Simply put, if you haven’t it, you’re missing the best TV series out there right now. Lost held that badge for a while, then Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Now it’s Game of Thrones.

People who don’t watch usually hear about the excessive violence and nudity. There is a lot of violence for sure, and I can understand the reluctance to watch because of that. Bare breasts and butts on the other hand, are certainly not a reason to abstain. There’s plenty of T & A, but it’s not every episode. Just make sure the kids are asleep.

Not long before the start of season five of Game of Thrones, HBO and Apple announced a deal to make available a stand alone subscription service called HBO Now through Apple TV for $14.99. After a few months, HBO Now is expected to be available on other devices like the Roku and Chromecast. HBO now is essentially the same as HBO Go, just it isn’t paired with a cable subscription.

Instead of continuing to watch through our iPad on a borrowed cable ID, we decided to buy the HBO Now subscription for the new episodes of Game of Thrones. The first month is free and we’ll continue at least through this season then decide if we want to continue.

Downsides of Cutting the Cord

The biggest downside of cutting the cord is sports. ESPN was a big loss, but I’ve had other problems watching sports too. Most recently, I was annoyed that CBS aired dramas on their main channel Saturday night while putting the March Madness NCAA Men’s Basketball semi-finals on TBS. I ended up watching at a bar.

We do miss the DVR. While watching shows like Shark Tank live on the antenna, I could do without the commercials. But paying $18 per month to rent a DVR was too much, and I don’t miss it that much.

My biggest fear is that the cost of internet will rise briskly. It’s obvious the cable companies are increasing the internet prices to offset cord cutters. So until somebody else can deliver huge and growing amounts of data to our home, we’re stuck.

My hope is the next iteration of the Apple TV and other devices will come with a built-in hard drive, perhaps with a Tivo-like service installed. With the presumptive Apple TV subscription service, we could record live TV again and watch it on our own time.

It’s also possible, in my view, that Apple could use this device as a gaming interface too. By embedding that functionality, developers could program games for the TV, almost like a console. Technically, you can already play a game on your iPhone and AirPlay it to the TV, but I think Apple may have more ambition on that front.

Apple is the elephant in my portfolio, so I pay attention to these things.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line for us is that we enjoy our cable-free lifestyle and we aren’t turning back. There’s plenty of free content for us to watch from various sources. We also pay a little for Netflix and HBO Now to give us access to unlimited hours of quality entertainment, at a lower cost than cable. I watch less sports now, but I do many things less now since I have kids.

If you’re considering cutting the cord on your cable, I’d say go for it. If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask in the comments below.

What about you? Do you still pay for cable? Are you using Apple TV or other streaming device now instead of cable? Thinking about cutting the cord?  

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  1. RBD,
    I almost cut the cord a few months ago, but Dish Network said I can have the same service for 50% off for a year. I was paying about $80/month. I think $40/month is reasonable and I don’t mind paying that much for great service. I am very happy with Dish Network and it doesn’t make much sense to cut cable at that price. I will revisit this expense at some point but right now I am happy with that low price.

    1. DM,
      Nice deal there. Do they offer Internet too? I’m curious about satellite internet. But when I read about it last year, it was expensive and not fast enough to handle HD. Perhaps I’m not up to date on that technology and someone can fill me in on this. Thanks for you input Mongrel!

  2. Very good article. I have lived without cable TV for 7 – 8 years. Incidentally, many shows are available on Netflix, or Hulu. You can also stream from your PC to your TV. The other interesting thing is that there is a lot on Youtube that is tailored to my interests – for example you can watch a speech by Buffett from whatever year you choose. I doubt they ever showed any of his speeches on Cable TV.

    As for Game of Thrones.. I saw that it is one of the most pirated shows ever.. And I saw that on my CNBC app.

    If you are into watching investing news, CNBC app could be helpful. So could the Nightly Business Report on NPR. Actually, public television has a lot of interesting and cultural shows related to travel, cooking etc.

    However, the opportunity cost of watching a show is increasing for me. I would get a better ROI by analyzing a dividend stock 🙂

    1. Thanks DGI. Part of the deal when my wife moved in was that we ditch the old school 26 inch tv and get a flat screen and cable. I was fine without the cable before we met. However, we had two incomes back then and the streaming options were limited. She’s since come around.

      I get CNBC through my TD Ameritrade brokerage account. I can watch on a computer of through an iPhone app. At work I just use the audio..

      I don’t utilize YouTube as much. That said, I did stream some live Coachella shows on Apple TV the other day. That was cool. YouTube is a huge player when it comes to content. I’m sure if I explore that more I’d find plenty to watch.

      We do get PBS through Apple TV for free and it’s great. Downtown Abbey was another show we watched without issue. And the Great British Baking Show which was a nice relief from over sensationalized american programming.

      Sometimes it’s good to step away from the spreadsheets and financial data to reset the investing mind!

  3. John Sullivan says:

    I got rid of cable 2 years ago. My OTA antenna gets the major broadcast networks. The antenna goes to a 7 year old desk top computer running windows 7. Windows Media Center acts as my channel guide, DVR and playback. It is hooked to my TV. My universal remote controls the tv, Windows Media Center, Apple TV and my X Box.

    CBS teamed up with TBS to keep the March Madness tourney. ESPN and ABC tried to get it. This year I used Sling TV’s free 30 day trial to watch the games. i think the actual Championship game is on TBS next year or the year after.

    1. Good idea to get the free Sling for the tourney. That’s a serious setup you have going there. One of my friends does something similar, but I’m just not that into the idea of hooking everything up to a computer. What we have going now is fine. Thanks for sharing your setup.

  4. I just can’t do it over the sports. I spend too much time watching college basketball and football. I would just end up blowing the cable budget on wings and beer at a bar otherwise.

    1. Adam,
      I used to watch a lot more sports. But my teams are not in my current city, so we I don’t get the local feeds. College basketball is the big one. I pretty much don’t watch it any more except for the tourney. That’s why I was so angry about TBS. I spent $13 on beer the night I went to a bar to watch the game, so can’t make that a habit.

  5. We been cable free for close to 4 years now I think… in fact we went as far as no TV so we don’t even have the option of watching shows via OTA antenna. Can’t be happier with this decision.

    1. Tawcan,
      That is awesome. Gives you plenty of time to do other things, like write. I don’t think we’ll ever get that extreme.

  6. When I first bought my house, I didnt have cable TV for 2.5 years. It is amazing how much more gets accomplished when you don’t have TV. It’s also great to be able to fall asleep at 8pm because there is no such thing as “I’m going to miss my TV show” or “I’ll just watch one more episode”…


  7. Ah god, revolution was awful, I had high hopes for it as well!

    I don’t watch much TV. The only things I seem to watch are Game of Thrones and the professional cycling (cannot wait for the grand tours this summer). The cycling is on a free channel anyway over here in the UK.

    Thinking about it I will often have a music channel on in the background if I’m reading blogs or doing a bit of writing, like I do now.

    Your point about a back log of recordings on the DVR rings true, Mrs Z gets really angsty when these start to build up and has to put an evening in of watching them.

    It’s amazing how much TV you can watch and then looking back most of it was tat and only one or two shows stand out.

    Mr Z

  8. Good for you! We did the same last year when we moved into our new house. No cable now for 10 months. I miss live sports most. But not enough to want to spend more than $1,000 a year…

    Like you, we enjoy watching TV series. After Game of Thrones, watch Dexter, if you dare… It is very well written!

  9. RBD,

    Nice move! Not only are you saving money, but you have more time for other awesome activities.

    We’ve been without traditional cable for many years now. However, the OTA antenna drove Claudia nuts (spotty coverage, etc.). But she negotiated basic cable (we just get the major networks) along with our internet. So we spend about $54 per month OTD for internet and those basic channels. It works.

    Enjoy that extra cash.


  10. I still want to “cut the cord”, but the DGF will not have it. Just signed up for a 2-year deal, but at a greatly reduced price.

  11. Dividend Explorer says:

    I cut the cord about four years ago replacing my expensive Comcast service with Hulu. Youtube is a good resource as well. I have seen so many great full concerts of my favorite music groups for free on Youtube. With the savings I have from cutting the cord I can buy more shares of dividend paying stocks!

  12. I finally convinced my wife to cut cable. We are saving about $1k per year and quite satisfied with Netflix and Amazon prime. Only things I miss are game of thrones and baseball, but well worth all the extra divvys.

  13. Thanks for posting this, we need more internet exposure on such topics.

    Not watching TV for almost 5 years now which changed my life for the better. I would occasionally peak at it when at my parent’s but I don’t even own one myself. The occasional show or sports game could easily be acquired over the internet anyway, many times even for free after it was aired on TV.

    So why pay precious money to enslave myself in front of the TV, depriving myself of precious time to be productive in some way? No reason whatsoever.

    I would strongly advice against frequent TV sessions but then again, to each their own.

  14. I ditched cable TV earlier this year as well. I was paying more than $200/month on Comcast’s premium package for all the TV shows and sports I never really had time to watch. Now, I pay $39/month for high-speed internet and $8/month on Netflix. So I’ll be able to save more than $1800 per year. I thought it would be the hardest thing to go without live TV but I’m enjoying the freedom to spend more time with friends, reading mindless stuff on Facebook or catching up on work.

    1. Lidia,
      Ha ha, not sure which is more mindless, TV or Facebook! There’s so much content out there on Netflix for just $8, it’s a great value. I feel much freer with my time now. I think a lot of that has to do with not having a DVR. Thanks for your comment.

  15. I’ve gone without cable for a few months and to my surprise, have not missed it at all. I did get a Netflix subscription and I have Amazon Prime so I get the Prime Instant Video service as well. That’s more than enough programming with the HD antennae I already have to keep me busy. I may have to add that HBO Service to catch up on the latest season of Game of Thrones, my favorite as well. Thanks for sharing. I love ways to save money and improve our lives.

    1. AAI,
      Awesome. There’s plenty of programming out there without cable. I’ve watch much better TV since we dropped the cable. I don’t watch as much now, and I don’t view any commercials. Smarter TV watching gives us more time for other things. GoT is the best. Although some people were disappointed with this latest season.

  16. Love this – we cut the cord about 2 years ago and by some fluke, couldn’t get the cable company to actually turn off our cable for a while. I kept calling and finally gave up…they eventually turned it off. LOL Now we have Amazon Fire stick and love it. I don’t watch many shows either, due to blogging, but when I do there are plenty of options free on Amazon and on Hulu Plus. We occasionally will buy a show or movie, and that beats actually going to the theater!

    1. Lena,
      Hey thanks for stopping by!!! It’s always good to hear other cord cutting experiences. We’re still loving our Apple TV, especially for kids stuff. I admit my TV watching has declined quite a bit due to blogging too. But the very good shows (GOT, OITNB) are definitely worth my time. And nice to see you electronically instead of in person 😉

  17. We gave up cable two months ago and I can’t believe how easy it was. Plus, it prevents me from watching the Duggar’s new show. They are like a train wreck; you just can’t look away.

    1. Emmy,
      It’s been nearly two years now for us and we don’t regret it at all. Our weakness was house hunters. But now we’re watching less TV, and much higher quality stuff when we do. More deliberate too. Game of Thrones is our favorite now. We have Netflix and HBO.