Have you been thinking about ditching cable or satellite? We did for a long time, but had been hesitant to sacrifice sports and local news. Yep, as a frugal blogger, it’s time for me to come clean. We continued to pay $175+ a month simply because we like football (college and NFL), didn’t want to stream local news stations on PC or our phones/iPads, and were determined to keep service hooked up in multiple rooms of our home. Well, we finally reached the point where enough was enough. In the last few months, I became determined to figure out just how we could keep all, yes ALL of these things, and still save money. I wanted to give it a few months before I said anything to you because I wanted to make sure it would not only work, but be a truly viable replacement. Now that we have a little experience under our belt, it’s time to share the results. So, here’s what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It is a huge savings for us no matter how we slice it and we don’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything – which has been vitally important to us. If you’ve been considering ditching cable or satellite, too, you need to bookmark this post. It has everything you need to help you do just that – and save. BIG.
Before I get started, all of these changes assume you have a relatively high powered internet connection. We already had AT&T U-Verse going into this change, and would have had it if we had kept satellite, so I am not including that in the final cost.
As it is, my kids don’t watch much TV. They watch YouTubers. My daughter does like to watch Monster High, Ever After High, and some other kids shows, periodically. Most of them (the full seasons!) are available on Netflix. In addition, we’ve been enjoying Sunday afternoon movie time together since we joined. It has already become a tradition. They have an unmatched library that boasts approximately 100,000 movies and TV shows, as well as a few original series like Orange is the New Black. You can’t get bored here.
What do we pay? $8.99/month because we want to be able to stream on two devices. That way, the kids can stream on their iPads or we can use the TV (via the XBox 360 or Amazon Fire TV) and one iPad, etc. It works well for our family. If you need more, that option is available at incrementally higher (but reasonable) prices.
Our Amazon Prime Membership fills in the gaps as far as newer movie releases go and adds some old favorites, too. Current TV seasons are available by subscription and new episodes are available the DAY after they air, which is also nice. I wouldn’t buy an Amazon Prime membership specifically for this purpose, but we use it so often for free shipping that it’s worth it for us. I love not having to meet the $35 shipping threshold – especially when I find an item under $1 shipped after a clippable coupon. It’s definitely a perk, though, as we have access to a huge selection of movies to rent sometimes starting as low as 99¢, or purchase. All purchases are available to watch at any time in the Amazon Library of our account when signed in. My daughter has some Monster High movies and my son has some Abbott & Costello favorites here. I have some fitness shows.
We stream it on our XBox 360, Amazon Fire TV, iPads, and even my phone. Sometimes I prop my phone up in the office and watch a movie while I’m working. I don’t keep a TV in here because it hampers my productivity, but I do like to have something to listen to while I’m doing matchups. 🙂
What do we pay? $99/year ($8.25/month)
If you haven’t heard of Sling, you’re not behind the times or anything like that. It’s a very new service that just became available in February. Now, here’s where things get interesting as THIS was the final nail in the satellite and cable coffin for us. Sling is a no-contract live television service run by Dish Network (like I said, without the strings) and it includes channels like ESPN, ESPN2, AMC (for you Walking Dead fans), The Food Network, The History Channel, The Disney Channel, TNT, TBS, CNN, Lifetime, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, and MORE. Yes, I said more for $20/month.
Plus, you can add on HBO and other packages for additional monthly fees. We like the Sports Extra and Kids Extra Packages, but there are others – Lifestyle Extra, Hollywood Extra, World News Extra, and Spanish packages. Each features 5 or more additional channels for an extra $5/month.
What can you stream it on?
Roku LT or higher, Amazon Fire TV (all), Chromecast, Google Nexus Player, ZTE, Xbox One, Android 4.0.3 and higher, iOS 8, RCA, OSX Lion 10.7 and higher, Windows 7 and higher
Note: Sling TV does require some patience, as they’re new. You can currently only stream on one device with one account and it isn’t offered on all platforms. This is fluid, as are the streaming options, and expected to improve shortly. Either way, it very likely has big dogs like Comcast and DirectTV sweating quite a bit because a flawless small system has the potential to take out those Goliath’s with one quick shot.
What do we pay? $20/month for base channels and $10 for Sports Extra AND Kids Extra = $30/month.
Update 2/1/16: Sling TV has a new promotion with Best Buy. Prepay for three months of Sling TV and you’ll qualify for a free $50 store coupon to use at Best Buy to purchase a streaming device compatible with Sling TV.
Hulu is a TV series junkie’s best friend. We don’t watch any TV series that we need to keep up with regularly, so this was
not a necessary addition to our lineup. (<— We signed up in July.) I want to mention it for those of you who do like to see new episodes, full seasons, as well as new series premieres. If that’s a necessary feature for you, you’ll want to sign up for Hulu.
And if you are going to subscribe to Hulu, I recommend upgrading to Hulu Plus.
1.) You’ll have access to back seasons. Hulu only offers up to the last five episodes that aired on TV and Hulu Plus offers all current season episodes.
2.) Expanded device access. This is the main reason I would subscribe if Hulu was of interest to us. Hulu is PC only. Hulu Plus allows you to watch on TV, Blu-Ray, Xbox, iPads, etc. This is a critical distinction. I do not like being tied to my PC unless I’m working.
3.) Standard definition vs. HD when available. Hulu = standard def. Hulu Plus = HD when available.
What would you pay? $7.99/month.
What do you NEED to stream all of these services?
If you don’t have a gaming system at home or you need additional streaming devices, you have two very solid choices that can stream all of the services I mentioned above. The Roku 3 or the Amazon Fire TV.
I’ve already mentioned that we stream a couple of these services on our XBox 360. We do this because we already have one. It wouldn’t be our first choice. It was our least expensive option pre-Sling and it does what we need! No complaints from us on that front. The only problem is that Sling does not stream on our XBox 360. If you want something that streams ALL of the services I’ve mentioned above (particularly Sling, which is still somewhat limited), you want an Amazon Fire TV or Roku . Why?
Amazon Fire TV
What sets the Fire TV apart for us vs. the Roku 3 is the quad-core processor and expandable USB storage. The kids can play Minecraft, Crossy Roads (and over 500 other games) with no lag. There is also no wait time for TV buffering. Although, if you’re in your 40’s, buffering and waiting are old school terms you learned a long time ago. It’s probably not a huge deal, but yeah, time’s a-wastin’, my friend. We don’t have to live like that anymore. So don’t.
Another perk? If you’re going to be away, either out of town or your kids are away at college, you can access your Fire TV via Wi-Fi. This is awesome. No two ways about it.
If, for whatever reason, the Amazon Fire TV doesn’t appeal to you, you can get a Roku 3 Streaming device.
What’s the difference? Well, both the Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV are $99, so clearly that’s not it, so let me break it down for you. There are a few major differences that I think give the Amazon Fire TV a distinct edge over the Roku 3.
Let’s just start with the things the Amazon Fire TV has that the Roku 3 does not. I only really consider one to be major:
1.) Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound
2.) Optical Audio Out
3.) Captive Portal (long distance WiFi access – this is major)
4.) Fox Sports GO (may be a big deal to you sports fans)
6.) Optional dedicated game controller
Now, the differences in capacity and offering, which is where the rubber meets the road for us:
Amazon Fire TV vs. Roku 3
|Quad-Core Processor||Dual-Core Processor|
|2 GB Memory||512 MB Memory|
|Over 500 Games||Less Than 100 Games|
See what I mean? These are some sizable differences.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about local channels. Heaven help me, this is a big one for me. The biggest, maybe. I must see my Wolverines play on Saturday. If I haven’t impressed upon you my deep love of all things maize and blue in this world, I have failed miserably. It’s one of my Alma Mater’s, of which I have a few, and it also holds captive the coach I’ve been watching since the early 1980’s. Think I’m kidding? You really don’t want me to tell you that my first email address was HarbaughQB and license plate was also Harbaugh4, shortened a bit, but you get the point. I started driving in 1989 and had my first email addy around 1994ish. This has been going on for ages with me. Gold is the best way I can describe Jim Harbaugh coming back to coach my beloved Wolverines. G-O-L-D.
Now, another reason I need local channels? If I have to boil water for a water main break, yeah, I want to know it. CNN isn’t going to tell me unless it’s a national problem. See where I’m headed with these two things? I’d need medication to cope without having either and that’s not going to happen. Thus, we need an antenna.
Now, to figure out which antenna you need for your location, you’re going to have to either actually BE intelligent or pretend you are. It will require some effort and learning. Like school. But not. Because you’ll actually be able to apply what you’ve learned to something practical….like watching TV. Ahem, yeah, just go with it.
OK, so there are all sorts of articles out there about uni-directional and multi-directional antennas. Indoor vs. outdoor. You can get really bogged down here. Know what we did? First, we checked our local reception map to determine what kind of range we needed for our antenna. Since we’re sandwiched between Detroit and Flint, we knew we weren’t in terrible shape, but we didn’t know if an outdoor antenna might be the best move with woodsy and/or building interference. In the end, we felt pretty comfortable with our reception possibilities, so we bought this highly rated beast (powerful, not large) of a Mohu Leaf HDTV Antenna for $69.88 over at Amazon. It’s so easy to hook up. Yes, you can do it. We can not only pick up the strong signal channels from Flint, but the moderate channels from the metro-Detroit area (channels 4 and 7). Yahoo! We have local TV again!
Other highly rated and lower priced Indoor Antenna options:
Amplified HDTV Antenna $29.99
For us, this was the end of the line. We have live TV, local channels, movies, TV series, and current episodes at our disposal if we want them. However, if YOU still want DVR options, you can purchase one of those (TiVo Roamio, Channel Master, Tablo) just about anywhere.
Now, you may be starting to wonder about all of these prices because it seems like it may be a lot of money. Yeah, the startup is where the cost is, but you remember that we were paying $175/month. It doesn’t take long to get back in the black when you’re paying that each month and Fire TV’s only cost $99. That’s a one time payment. So, let’s break it all down.
Cost of Satellite vs. Non-Satellite Startup (first year) vs. Non-Satellite (second year)
|Streaming Devices||Streaming Devices||Streaming Devices|
|included in the $175/month for 12 months||Xbox 360 - already own on 1 TV||None|
|Fire TV for all other TV's in the house @ $99 = $495 - $50 Sling Discount = $445 (5 TV's)|
|Mohu Leaf Antenna - $69.88 + $30 in additional accessories|
|Subscription Services||Subscription Services||Subscription Services|
|included in the $175/month for 12 months||Sling TV - $360/yr||Sling TV - $360/yr|
|Netflix - 107.88/yr||Netflix - 107.88/yr|
|Amazon Prime - $99/yr||Amazon Prime - $99/yr|
|Total: $2100/year||Total: $1111.76||Total: $566.88|
The bottom line for us is that in the FIRST YEAR ALONE we will save nearly $1000. That total will go up another $500+ in the second year. This is big, my friends. It’s a car payment for a small economy car or a vacation or more money for retirement, kids college, and so much more. So if you’ve been thinking about ditching cable or satellite, think harder and smarter, and make the switch. With the advent of Sling TV, there has never been a more comprehensive selection of live, as well as local TV, movies, and TV series options available at such reasonable prices. It’ll take a little time – signup, setup, and installation, but this is the very definition of ‘time is money.’ And for the little amount of time needed to get these up and running, you’re saving money at a relatively rapid rate that’s well worth the effort.Be sure and take a look at all the great deals we've posted today here!