It’s time to cut cable – here’s how we did it

June 30, 2015 — 8 Comments

The time is finally here:  when technology, innovation and convenience catch up to the annoyance of paying high cable bills. It’s time to cut cable!

When we moved to Dallas a year ago, we signed up for a one year contract with AT&T Uverse (200 channels) and internet for $108/month. It wasn’t too painful as I need a good internet connection for work and we got most of the basic channels we watch. Admittedly, 90% of our cable watching was concentrated on three channels – ESPN, HGTV and Comedy Central, but luckily AT&T gave us 197 other channels to choose from too just in case we got experimental.

I knew our contract was up June 23rd, and I even put a reminder on my calendar to make sure I didn’t miss this important date when our rates were sure to increase. And increase they did – our $109/month jumped to $175 per month! Luckily, I had already been prepared to make the jump.

Here’s how we approached cutting the cord and finally moving off of cable.

1. Installing the OTA antenna

First, I’ve been working on my OTA (over the air antenna) solution for about a month. As we’re in central Dallas, I thought a cheap interior antenna would be enough, but it didn’t get us any channels. After some research, I decided to go with this outdoor antenna for around $100.

Come installation time is when cutting cable gets challenging, because you have to do it yourself! For me, this meant crawling through my itchy, insulated attic in the middle of a hot summer day and fishing cables through walls and through a roof vent. I should have planned better – like two months previous during spring.

Luckily, my chimney already had a bracket for an antenna so I didn’t have to install a new one. I got our bedroom television hooked up and when I originally tested it, we only received a few channels. It was pretty disappointing after nearly dying from heat exhaustion in the attic. I did some more research and found exactly where to point the antenna. This helped quite a bit, and I got most of the major networks.

We have a second television in the living room and after I saw the decent reception I ordered a splitter and a second coax cable. Then I crawled back up into the attic, installed the splitter and once again fished a new line down a different wall in the middle of a hot summer day. As before, it would’ve helped if I did this two months earlier and at the same time as the first one! I turned on the second television and the results were pretty disappointing – only half the channels of the first television. The second television was further away and older, so it wasn’t getting a strong signal.

I did some more research and bought an amplifier. After Amazon faithfully delivered it in two days, I installed it, hoping it would miraculously fix the second television and make all of my sweaty attic crawling worth it. It didn’t, and actually it made the only working channels worse. Apparently if you’re close enough to the towers, an amplifier can actually mess up the signal.

The next thing to check was if my antenna was high enough. So I searched around the house and shed and found a metal bar we intended to use as a curtain rod but haven’t installed yet (I hope my wife doesn’t read this). I crawled back up on the roof (in the evening, see I learn) and installed it. I came back in, hoping for a miracle… and… it worked!!! Both televisions now get all of the major networks over the air!

But what about ESPN and HGTV?

Good question, and my other major concern. Luckily, the good folks at Dish have it figured out. You can now pay $20/month for streaming television delivered over your internet! There are no contracts and they include a lot of good channels (ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Travel, HGTV, CNN, etc). We’ve had the service for a few days, so of course I have some initial thoughts:

  • The interface is just ok and takes some time getting used to scrolling through the channels
  • It can be a little slow and take a few seconds to react as you change channels
  • It has been a little glitchy and sometimes shows will cut out (inevitably, it will happen on ESPN during the biggest play of the year)
  • You need a streaming device to watch it (Roku, Amazon Fire, etc) and if you sign up and pre-pay three months they’ll actually give you a free one!

Are we actually saving any money?

Here’s what I spent:

  • Antenna (with a coax cable) plus a second 50 ft coax cable = $112.98
  • Splitter = $8
  • Amplifier (which I’ll return) = $15.99

Total = $136.97

Roku = $20/month

I’ll run two comparisons, one using my previous Uverse charge and one with my new charge:

  • Previous Uverse charge = $60/month
  • New Uverse charge = $108/month

It will take me 5 months to break even on the previous Uverse charge, even when factoring in the $20/month I pay for Roku. When comparing against the $108/month for my new Uverse charge, it will take less than 1.5 months to break even!!

It was more work than I thought it would be, but in the end it will be worth it. Also, we have Amazon Prime and sometimes we “borrow” my mother in law’s Netflix account, so we have a lot additional television and movie streaming options.

The only thing we’re missing still is a DVR. If it becomes too painful not having this, I found a DVR solution I can buy on Amazon for about $250 total. This would take our break even to 11 months, so hopefully we can live without it.

Little sacrifices like this are what enables you take take control of your money, and now it’s easier than ever. Have you – or are you planning to – cut the cord?

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8 responses to It’s time to cut cable – here’s how we did it

  1. I got rid of DirectTV about six months ago and I don’t miss it at all. I bought a lower-power Amazon HD antennae at Christmas time because it was on sale for only $25. Looking back, it would have been better to get the amplified version. I have something like 14 channels and that’s just fine. I doubt I’ll ever bother with getting a box so I can record shows. The thing about TV is that once all those channels are no longer within a click, they cease to be as appealing.

    • Jeri – you are so right. I didn’t think about it when writing this post, but when we were traveling we totally lost any kind of dependency or need for television. I’ve already adapted to not having my most important channel (Comedy Central) by watching the Daily Show online! I still don’t know how I’m going to deal with Jon Steward retiring.

  2. The problem in some areas with the cable company is you can get rid of them for TV, but then you are still stuck with them as only option for internet service and they gouge the heck out of u either way. No wonder cable companies are some of these most hated companies out there. It shouldn’t cost $65 a month just for internet service. That’s why as soon as people have the option to jump ship they do it!

    • Susan – totally agree, that’s the thing most of us can’t go without. It’s possible to buy some of the portal wifi hot spots, but none of them are powerful enough or give you enough data to use NetFlix or Sling regularly… yes.. cable companies will be just fine because they know they’ll always get that payment from us!

  3. I’ve thought about cutting the cord numerous times. I like my sports channels way to much to do that. Sling sounds like it could be a good alternative. I need to research it.

    • Jason – it’s worked out so far, especially considering a lot of the sports have move back to network tv (Thurs night NFL on CBS, etc). The only sports channels I don’t have are the Fox sports channels… still have to figure that one out!

  4. Good solution if you have a house and a chimney. I live in an apartment. However, cable rates are cheaper in Florida (recently moved) than in Manhattan where I lived before.

    Here’s a story for you: I rented a car in Sarasota for $17 a day. However, with personal liability coverage and city, state and airport taxes that became a $69 a day car!!!!

    • I can imagine most things are cheaper in Florida than NYC.. I didn’t realized you moved! It always drives me crazy when the rental car companies do their famous bait and switch.. seems that industry could use some more regulation 🙂

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