How to eliminate your cable TV bill and save $500 to $1,000 per year

by | Mar 13, 2009 08:00 AM ET

Several months ago, the Brain family got rid of cable TV. With four kids we have four college funds, and the elimination of cable (multiplied by a decade) will send one of the little guys off to college for a couple of years. The reason we were able to cut the cable is because there is now so much programming available online. For us, there was no reason to keep the cable connection.

Understand that we are not big TV watchers to begin with, nor are we sports fans (e.g. - we don't care who wins the Superbowl). If you are hugely into sports, I don't think you can cut the cable. But if you are like us and you watch an average amount of non-sports television, it is now easy to eliminate your monthly cable bill and save that money.

Here's what we do. We have a laptop that has an HDMI connection. We either watch TV directly on the laptop screen (e.g. in bed together) or we plug the laptop into a screen. With a laptop like this, you don't need anything else.

We get our content primarily from five sources:

1) Network web sites like NBC.com. (e.g. if we want to watch 30Rock or something like that, that's an easy place to get it. The Daily Show is available on theDailyShow.com. Etc.).

2) Hulu.com. Hulu has tons of older shows plus lots of current stuff plus lots of older movies (e.g. we watched Family Man the other night). Joost.com is another place with the same kind of stuff.

3) Amazon Video on Demand (e.g. we saw Iron Man for 99 cents rather than renting the DVD)

4) Netflix DVDs and streaming movies

5) YouTube.com. There is all kinds of stuff on YouTube if you use the search bar. You can find episodes of MacGuyver and many other older TV shows. Many major outlets like Discovery, NatGeo and BBC have stuff on YouTube. Leigh even watched Twilight on the day of release on YouTube, although I doubt YouTube wants to promote that fact.

There are lots of other options as well, but those five are totally reliable and have almost everything we would ever want to watch. For special events there is usually somebody streaming the event. For example, on New Year's Eve we watched the ball drop at Times Square on Hulu. We watched the inauguration through a live stream on CNN.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, we also have an old PC permanently hooked up to one of our TVs. It works exactly the same way the laptop does when we (or the kids) want to watch TV. The kids can also play all kinds of computer games with that PC. The Wii is also connected to that TV. That computer has a wireless Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. It's a great setup for watching YouTube videos on a big screen.

The other advantage to cutting the cable connection is that it frees you to watch TV wherever you are and whenever you want. Everything is at your fingertips because everything is online. For example, if I want to watch an episode of Firefly, I know I can find it on Hulu.com. I can view it on anything from our Eee PC to my desktop machine. If you are stuck in an airport and you have a laptop, you're good to go. It really makes things convenient.

Here's an article with some additional suggestions (especially on the hardware side) if you want to give it a try:

Dreaming of cutting the subscription TV cord

We didn't buy anything when we cut the cord. We already had the laptop, and the old PC already had a graphics card that would drive a TV. Both the laptop and the PC have WiFi connections into the home network, and we already had broadband via cable.

What if there was a show on cable that we HAD to see? Like the Superbowl for example. The Superbowl is easy because plenty of people have Superbowl parties. But if there is a show we have to see, we call up our friends or visit the grandparents and have a little party. It's a great way to socialize.

PS - what if you are outside the U.S. and you want to watch Hulu? Here is a possibility:

How To: Watch Hulu.com, MTV.com, ETC. Outside Of The US

You can find other options like that as well.

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