How We Avoid Cable And Watch Free TV Online
Greeting fair Frugalwoods friends! It’s Mr. Frugalwoods here, making a rare appearance as author. I’m usually your trusty behind-the-scenes tech guy, but today I want to share our strategies for securing gratis TV.
“Hold on, you don’t have cable?!?”
Yep. Don’t have it. Never have and probably never will. We’re a cable TV executive’s worst nightmare.
But fear not, fair tube viewer, Mrs. FW and I do watch TV. It’s just that it’s the free kind that’s delivered over the internet. And no, we’re not sailing the frightful and dangerous pirate seas (unwise since Frugal Hound is afraid of boats).
This is the totally legal, totally free kind of internet video content. And, it’s also the $0 per month plan after the initial start-up costs, which are minimal.
They key to making this work comes in two parts: personal philosophy and good old-fashioned electronics.
Change Your Channel Needs
If you just have to see a particular show, then going without cable AND without piracy is going to be tricky. We can watch broadcast TV with our rabbit ears, though we rarely do, so anything we watch has to be freely available online.
And we’re not talking about paid online sources such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu Plus. We used to have an Amazon Prime account and while it was nice to have all those shows, we decided it wasn’t worth the $100 per year. Our free internet TV comes mostly from two sources: YouTube and PBS.
YouTube has all sorts of great content. Tons of amazing British shows like Grand Designs and Escape to the Country are available, with scores of back seasons. And there’s a whole new crop of made-for-YouTube channels that provide both entertainment and education. The amount of machining knowledge I’ve gained from watching Keith Rucker’s channel is unquantifiable… but I digress.
And big name shows often have YouTube content too. HBO’s Last Week Tonight posts most of their shows directly to YouTube. Who needs HBO?
PBS has an amazing internet presence with astoundingly high-quality shows. Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Downton Abbey, the Woodwright’s Shop… we could only watch PBS and still have more TV than we have time for.
Watch Less TV
And that brings up the other mental switch needed to make a cable-less life work: watch less TV. I think we’d get bored and frustrated with the amount of video available for free if we watched it all the time. But since we generally watch maybe 30 minutes of “TV” a night, we always have more than enough tantalizing options to view. And, I just realized that we haven’t actually watched any TV since last Friday, so I guess it’s often less than that.
For us, watching less TV is equal parts frugal and a general life choice. We only have a finite numbers of hours in our lives and we don’t want to look back and realize we spent a ton of them in front of the tube. Plus, since we insource most things in our lives, we’re constantly busy with one project or another around the house, which leaves little time leftover for TV viewin’.
But since TV isn’t something we wanted to eliminate entirely (we do like us our Friday night pizza and TV date nights), finding a way to maintain this avenue of entertainment for $0 is a key frugal weirdo strategy.
Use the Right Hardware
While we source our content from the ol’ internet, we don’t view our shows on a computer screen. Like most folks, we enjoy kicking back on the couch while watching a decently sized screen. So how do we get PBS on demand and YouTube on our sweet 9-year-old 37″ LCD TV?
Via the most magical little box I’ve ever come across: the Roku.
The Roku, which is slightly larger than a deck of cards and at $69 costs less than one month’s cable subscription, streams all the TV content we could ever dream of from the internet. There are free apps for both YouTube and PBS, which makes it really easy to select and play content. Since there’s no monthly fee or ongoing maintenance cost for the Roku, it truly is a one-time expense of $69 for all our TV needs.
The trick to making this a seamless solution is to connect your YouTube account to your Roku. This allows you to do a couple of freakin’ neat things:
- Your “watchlist” on the YouTube web interface synchronizes with the Roku watchlist. This means that you can use your laptop to easily build a queue of videos you want to watch on your TV. It’s so much easier to discover content on the web vs. on the Roku, so this is a tremendous usability improvement.
- You can “cast” a YouTube video from your phone to the TV. This is a tad more gimmicky, but still dang fun. You just start watching a video on your phone, and then you can select to send it to your Roku (which YouTube knows about since you synced the two together).
- Your YouTube suggestions are synchronized between your desktop and your Roku. I’ve found that the more YouTube we watch, the better it gets at suggesting other content that we’ll probably like. Our YouTube suggestions section is full of shows about machining, welding, homesteading, small engine repair, British home building, history, and videos of greyhounds looking goofy while running around. YouTube knows us well…
The PBS app works fine on its own and looks like any on-demand interface you’d encounter on a cable box. Select the show and click play. Just that simple! New programs generally appear the night of airing or the next day… though we tend to be woefully behind in any series due to how little TV we actually watch.
What About Live Events?
AKA “Superball World Series of Poker de France.”
I’ll be honest, we don’t watch sports. And I know that’s the major thing that keeps many people subscribing to cable. I’m afraid I don’t have much experience here, but I hear Sling TV is a good compromise.
However, we do occasionally want to watch something live. Actually, I know exactly how many times per year:
- Superbowl. We’re in it for the commercials, which coincidentally are both funny and surreal given that we don’t commonly see commercials (nor do we see the point in buying any of the things that are advertised… ). We don’t quite feel like we’re in Idiocracy… but we’re getting there.
- Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a family tradition to have this on while working on Thanksgiving dinner. Not sure we’ll be watching it this year since Babywoods is due the day before Thanksgiving, but we shall see. It might be baby’s first TV show!
- New Year’s Eve ball drop. If we’re awake (something that’s increasingly less of a given… ), we’ll tune in for the last 5 minutes or so of the New Year’s Eve spectacular. Again, it’s more tradition than actual interest. And we’re long past the time when we recognize any of the entertainers featured. Mrs. FW and I are woefully uninformed about the pop culture. Man I sound like an old guy*!
*Note from Mrs. FW: if the shoe fits…
So how do we get these sporadic live events on our TV?
Ye olde Rabbit Ears. Yep, they still exist. And better yet, the signal is digital and HD which means the quality is spectacular and (at least here in the city) very reliable. For a one-time expense of $7, the ears give us all the live TV we need.
Before we splurged the whopping $7 on our very own set of rabbit ears, we actually used a 3 foot length of red 22 gauge hookup wire. I wrapped the stripped end around the inner conductor of the RG6 jack and strung the wire up into the air and through the slats in a nearby closet door.
I thought it looked industrious, and Mrs. Frugalwoods endured the cosmetic challenge like a champ, but its utility was undermined by how often it slipped apart and required me to worm behind the TV with a pair of needle nose pliers to fix. A couple of times during “important” parts of the game was enough to convince us to go with a pro antenna. It was a solid choice.
Homestead Contingency Plans
This system is all well and good while we’re in the city and have an internet plan that’s unmetered and super fast. But what if we’re not so lucky on the homestead?
Many of the properties we’ve looked at have either cable or DSL internet. It might not be as fast as we’re used to, but it’s not dial-up either. However, some properties only have wireless (cellular 4G) or satellite internet. And while that’s a serious mark against those properties, it doesn’t disqualify them from consideration for purchase.
My plan for a constrained internet situation is to download the videos from YouTube while we’re in town or at the library, and then watch them back at home. Sites like KeepVid make it easy to download YouTube and other sources for later viewing. While it’d be more of a hassle, I imagine we’d manage. Plus, since we don’t watch much video each week to being with, it wouldn’t be too unwiedly to wrangle on a regular basis.
But man, I hope we can find a homestead with solid internet. Lots of things are harder without it, the least of which is watching our shows!
Mr. FW’s Favorite YouTube Channels (since I know you’re dying to know)
- Keith Rucker Vintage Machinery – This guy is a true master of turning metal into functional machines. He works/volunteers for a museum that has tons of vintage steam machinery and is always fixing something.
- Wranglerstar – He’s occasionally over the top, but there’s a lot of good instruction on tool care and forestry. Sometimes he’s making it up as he goes along, but aren’t we all?
- Frank Howarth – Less for learning and more for woodworking eye candy–the man makes gorgeous pieces out of wood. And I love his cinematographic style.
- Work Safe BC – Yes, the OSHA of British Columbia. While I’ve operated plenty of chainsaws, I never truly understood the mechanics of felling a tree until watching this series.
- SV Seeker – This guy is building a boat in his front yard. Not a canoe-sized boat. Not a boat made out of wood. But a truly enormous ship larger than most houses. He’s a mechanical genius with a heart for explaining and teaching. I really appreciate his willingness to show mistakes and how he fixed them.
- This Old House – Yes, this one is on the PBS app too, but the YouTube channel has every season since 2005. It’s fun to see how trends and technology have changed (or not!) in the 10 years its been available online. And who doesn’t smile in amazement when Tommy freehands a complicated joint with his circular saw faster than you or I could take a sip of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Yes, I do have a soft spot for the Boston traditions :).
As with all things in our extremely frugal life, we’re flexible about the TV we watch. We don’t require perfection or the latest and greatest television set or the newest, hippest program options. What little TV we do watch, we appreciate. But I tend to think it’s another area where moderation leads to greater enjoyment. And, the money we save by forgoing cable, Netflix, and the like is just another factor in our ability to save 71% of our incomes every year. It all adds up, my frugal friends!
Do you watch TV? How have you frugalized it? Am I missing any awesome machining/woodworking YouTube channels?
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Yes! I’ve been actively campaigning to cut the cable cord since we got married. So far I’m losing to Shark Week and sports. However, I love this post. I’ll be sharing it with the husband tonight. And This Old House is great!
This old house is such a classic. They don’t typically do frugal projects… but I’ve learned enough from their explanations that I count them as frugal legends. 🙂
This is awesome! While I have to say my Netflix account will leave me over my cold dead body, otherwise I have a really similar set-up, including my persnickety pair of rabbit ears. The one other free option, especially if you already have a Roku, is Crackle. It does have ads, but it also has some original content and lots of slightly older movies.
Also, for Superbowl fans without rabbit ears, CBS will be streaming the entire game – including commercials! – online this year.
I’ll have to check out Crackle, thanks for the recommendation! Nice of CBS to wake up to the streaming reality of the times. Though at least here in the city the broadcast HDTV signal is way nicer in quality than anything I can stream.
I’m surprised anyone pays for cable anymore! It’s so expensive. We have Netflix for the kids and that works really well. It’s only $7.99 per month!
Cable doesn’t make sense to me either, but some people love their shows… At the very least à la carte would make things much more budget friendly. It’s funny how the cable companies insistence on bundles is forcing people to choose… any many are making the choice to go without!
There is a la carte available now.
“Hold on, you don’t have cable?!?” – Do people actually say that? 🙂 Seems like these days the hip folks dropped cable, like, totally, last year, dude. 😉
We have a similar set up. Playstation 3 (instead of a roku) for streaming youtube and Netflix (using mom’s account that we don’t give her $4/month for!). So much good free or cheap stuff online. It’s crazy to think of paying $50 or $75 for an unlimited firehose of content that’s full of commercials when we can get an unlimited firehose of content without commercials for $0 or $4 (if we reimbursed Mom for 1/2 her subscription).
Even with kids, I don’t think they miss the cable TV that much. Our 3 year old gets confused when he watches cable TV. “Waaaahhh wahhhhh why did my cartoon go away and why are they showing me all the myriad flavors of this fruit roll up product. I want my cartoon back waaah waaaaaahhhh”. That’s paraphrasing, but pretty much sums up what it’s like to go from commercial free goodness to watching 5 minutes of TV then 3 minutes of annoying commercials.
Hip? You think I hang out with hip people? 🙂
Neat idea to split a netflix account with someone else. At $4 a month, it might almost be worth it to me. If they could just get Game of Thrones then I’d be sold!
It is funny how normal TV commercials are so jarring after getting used to streaming internet content. So little content for the amount of ads!
I can relate re: commercials! My 4 year old grew up with Sesame Street’s YouTube channel, and watching episodes at PBSKids.org. We tried watching some Dora the Explorer on the Nickelodeon website, and that lasted until the second or third commercial before she decided No, Dora wasn’t worth dealing with commercials.
Comcast has a monopoly in my city, so they wanted $250/mo for cable tv and internet a few years ago, which is when I dropped cable.
I love watching Criminal Minds, and being able to have the news/live tv, but didn’t want the rabbit ears so I got the $40 Mohu Leaf. It’s an HD antenna about the size of a mouse pad, so I just push pinned it to the wall behind the curtain and you can’t even see it 🙂
Also, I still pay for Netflix.
$250/mo for cable and internet is highway robbery! That Mohu Leaf looks pretty dang fancy! I admit that our rabbit ears do not have the style of the flat antenna 🙂
We cut the cord in 2009 and haven’t looked back.
For sports, there are some non-legitimate sites that stream them, and most sports offer packages to see most of the games. NFL, NHL, MLB all offer legitimate packages. They’re not cheap, but I’ve split them with a friend who likes a different team and had a lot of success!
On top of that, I watch a lot less sports than I used to. When I was younger, ESPN would always be on. Now, I barely check the sports once a week and will try to watch a football game once a week. It’s just not as fun as it used to be. There’s a lot better ways I can be spending my time.
“There’s a lot better ways I can be spending my time.”
Yep. In college, I used to watch a lot of college basketball. And even after college for a while I’d try and catch the games whenever I could. But as I got older, I just don’t feel the urge to commit that amount of time to the TV… no matter the team or matchup.
We’ve gone without cable for the past year and I love it. The internet more than feels the void. With endless blogs, ability to stream music and watch videos online there are plenty of other media sources.
Too true. The internet is truly an endless font of entertainment.
I love our Roku. It has everything the kids like. I do have Netflix connected to it. Luckily they change up the shows and movies so it’s always rotating.
Between Netflix and YouTube, we’re set.
It’s a pretty neat little box! I remember being skeptical when we first got one many years ago, but they work like a champ! It must be the best $/hour of entertainment spending ratio in our entire house.
shut off cable TV three years ago. Installed an antenna on the roof. Pick up 18 local channel with better picture quality than cable. Kept cable internet only and bought a Roku. More content than I have time to watch. Reduced bill by $75 a month. Changing the oil in both vehicles today. Use synthetic, so this is a once a year event done by me. Easy enough. Mow my own lawn and shovel my own driveway.
Rock on! 18 local channels is pretty good, I think we only get 10. But our cheapo antenna is indoors, so we’re probably losing out on some possibilities.
We love Netflix! And I also love YouTube, there’s so many things we’ve actually learned how to do ourselves around the house by watching YouTube videos. So it’s actually saved us money at times too 🙂
No joke, YouTube has saved us 1000s of dollars in appliance replacement. So many things around the house have little parts that can wear out, and youtube always has a guide to replacing them.
I’ll also add that almost any TV series that is worth watching will come out on DVD and candy reserved at your local library no problem .
Our library system allows us to reserve any movie that is available through any library in our state and will mail the item to our local library for free ! Thus as long as you are not desperate to watch the TV show as soon as it comes out there is no need to miss anything, including stuff on HBO .
Libraries win again! We’re generally book-only library users, but that’s probably because I don’t even know if we own a dvd player anymore!
FWIW, most current blueray players play DVDs and have Roku-like apps & streaming. DVDs look great upscaled.
…but what are Mrs. FWs favorites?
Mostly PBS shows. She doesn’t quite get into YouTube like I do. Though she does like a good This Old House from time to time. 🙂
We’ve also never had cable. We get excellent reception over the air with a homemade HD TV antenna my husband made. We also have a blu-ray player that has several apps including Amazon Prime and Netflix. Sadly no PBS app so for online PBS shows we connect our laptop to the TV.
Neat! I love how many different ways folks are getting streaming content into their TV. I had no idea DVD players could have that option available.
I agree! We cut the cord five years ago and it has forced us to be creative, which has been amazing! There are so many awesome blogs and podcasts to enjoy.
Creativity can solve almost any entertainment need!
We have Netflix and a digital antenna. It’s all we need! We cut cable out of our lives this year (or was it late last year? I can’t remember), and haven’t missed it AT ALL!
And you save soooo much money. Insane to think of the price-to-value ratio of cable these days.
We cancelled our cable, although we still seem to be getting the basic networks. Hush hush…. No antenna we’ve tried has worked around our house, so we abandoned that plan. The only things we’re paying for now are Hulu and Netflix. My favorite Roku channel is NHK World, which also streams live on their website. It’s a 24-hour news, culture and educational network from Japan. Kind of like the PBS of Japan!
Of course there are other shows we manage to get, ahem, *online* we wouldn’t be able to get any way other way. Canadian shows like Mantracker and the Amazing Race Canada, but I’ll keep that method on the downlow…
OK, I had to lookup “Mantracker”. Despite the unusual name, it actually looks pretty neat! And our library has a copy of their first season. I’m going to have to find our dvd player…
I love Mantracker so very, very much. The hiking through unknown terrain, the thrill of the chase! Go, Mantracker, go! We’ve forced basically all of our friends to watch it with us at some point.
Chromcast is a great cheaper alternative to Roku. It is only $30–one time fee–and then you can “cast” anything from your chrome browser right to you TV. It also is integrated with apps like Pandora, YouTube, and Netflix, which means you can cast right from the app on your phone.
And seriously, who has cable these days?
Yeah, chromecasts are pretty neat too. I kinda prefer to roku though, since I don’t need to have my computer on in order to use it.
We have never had cable. We get on-air programming through an antenna on our roof. As sports fans it is getting harder, as more and more events leave network and move to cable. But now our boys are grown and do have cable and are very generous about inviting us over for big events. We also don’t have high-speed Internet as we live in a rural area and options are limited and expensive. So your concerns about moving are valid. If you are fortunate enough to have it where you move, it is likely to be slower and more expensive than in the city.
Less internet options is usually the case, though there are parts of vermont that have community built fiber. That’d be awesome, but unfortunately it’s not in the area where we’re looking.
Just a shout out for the library! They have basically every season of any popular show ever made.
You must live in a large city. Our library is smaller than the average house and while it has tons of videos, they’re mostly junk. I was in there today looking for presidential biographies and only found TWO. Last I counted we’d had many more presidents than that, LOL, I’d trade a whole shelf of their junk movies for a decent educational section.
Yeah…about 300k but the library is a member of a regional association which contains about 40 or so libraries so you can reserve from any one of them and they will deliver it to your home library free of charge. Several states will mail books/media from the state library too.
Go libraries! I totally forgot about them for video checkouts… but it’s a fantastic option.
Yes, pirating is bad! Mmmmkay? Hey, is the TV from Craigslist too =)? We bought our bedroom tv from a guy at work. It’s a huge, flatscreen, newesh model that we paid $350 for. At the time, I thought he was upgrading to a smart tv but I later heard him say he just wanted something newer and thinner!? I am still confused by this.
The TV isn’t from craigslist… gasp!! It was a cheapo model at the time, ordered online. I don’t understand the thinner tv thing either… it’s already way flatter than they used to be!
We haven’t had cable for over two years and we’ve been able to survive just fine. Like you said, YouTube has a ton of programming. We do have Netflix and a digital antenna, and with those options we get to watch tons of shows. Maybe not the same day they come out, but to us it’s the same day.
As long as I stay away from coworkers discussing “last night’s” show, they stay new to me too!
I ditched cable back in college when I would have started paying for it myself. So expensive! And there’s definitely a lot of stuff that can be watched for free, as you’ve pointed out. Plus, I kind of prefer podcasts. There’s no television that compares to an episode of Radiolab, The American Life, or Serial 🙂
Serial! I hope it’s as good this next season as the first one was. It deserved the accolades and attention.
Same here…never had cable tv and probably never will. Growing up, I used to think we were deprived, but nowadays, I don’t watch much TV anyway. We use an antenna but signal can be an issue sometimes and we’re in NYC…I think buildings might block the signal. I also think I need to extend the antenna closer to the window for optimal signal. You’re probably right about New Year’s Eve ball drop with a little one…my wife and I both fell asleep, though I did manage to wake up to see it…and promptly went back to sleep!
Yeah, try moving the antenna closer to the window. Sometimes buildings have a lot of metal in the walls which can make the broadcast signal not so great.
My husband and I cut off our cable years ago … lost count. We have a roku. It’s much older but I am curious about connecting it to Youtube. I have to look into that. I like Ted talks. We also have Amazon prime but it is worth it to us for the free shipping – we live in a small town and shop often on Amazon perhaps not as frugally as you, but we adopted a vegan lifestyle so some of our ingredients for cooking are difficult to find in a small town and you know everything is available on Amazon! We also have Netflix streaming – I believe it is $7-10 per month – definitely cheaper than cable. I don’t mind waiting for a show to become available for streaming. I watch an hour of tv per day. It is liberating. When we visit family and friends it is “weird” to us to have the tv blaring constantly – or even in establishments – the hospital, airports, bars, hotels, just about everywhere and I deliberately try to find a seat far away from a tv. It is also interesting how so much conversation is centered around tv – “did you see that commercial?” – we’re always like, uh, no.
“When we visit family and friends it is “weird” to us to have the tv blaring constantly”
YES! This bothers me to no end, but most people are so used to it they are numb. I can hardly pay attention in a room with a tv on, it takes serious concentration.
Our smart TV gets the basics — Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Vudu — but doesn’t get PBS or some of the other services available on Roku. Right now we pay for Hulu Plus and Netflix, and watch plenty of free YouTube stuff, but end up having to watch PBS stuff on a laptop, which means we don’t watch much! We’ve been debating whether a Roku stick makes sense, but we’ve been disinclined to spend that money when we already have good on-board options on our TV. Given the $69, we’ll probably stick with what we have. But thanks for this super helpful rundown!
Glad it was helpful! Sounds like you have a pretty good setup.
We pay for cable, but I have at times gone without cable in the past and didn’t find it too challenging. We have a Chromecast, which seems to provide all of the functionality you describe in the Roku but is only about $25.
Another great option for watching TV shows is the library. You can usually rent past seasons of any TV on DVD from the library for free. You’ll have to wait for the DVDs to become available, but you don’t have to compromise at all on what you watch!
I second the library! My daughter went through a Clifford the Big Red Dog phase and those episodes aren’t on pbskids.org. The library had 5 or 6 DVDs. And DVDs are great because you can watch the same episode OVER and OVER again as 3 and 4 year olds tend to do.
I’m going to have to find our old dvd player! The library had totally slipped my mind, which is funny since I’m there at least once a week to pick up a book! 🙂
Love this article! My hubby and I dropped decided not to get cable even before we were married. We had loads of debt and my hubby was unemployed at the time. I’ve always felt like cable is a useless luxury (if that makes sense) lol! It’s way to expensive and no matter where you go or what you do, you can only watch one show at a time. Not to mention, for us, there are about 5 stations worth watching lol! Youtube is our “go to”. We are considering prime as we can benefit from the shipping as well as the movies.
If you can really use the shipping, then prime can be a good deal. I imagine that once we’re on the homestead we’ll re-appraise prime’s usefulness to us. I could imagine that cutting out some trips to town could become very valuable. We’ll see!
We have a digital TV, a good antenna mounted on the balcony sliding doors and Internet (about $35.00 on Amazon). I recently bought a Amazon Fire Stick on sale ($19.95). Most of what I watched was on free regular over-the-air channels anyway, so cutting cable was no biggie. I watch PBS and their two other stations, CREATE (lots of how-to on that station!) and MHZ International. MHZ has lots mysteries and comedies from other countries, including a drop dead funny French farce about Afghanistan. I also watch a few shows on NBC (AD, Grim, Aquarius), ABC (Modern Family, Blackish, Scandal) CBS (Good Wife), Fox (So You Think You Can Dance and Sleepy Hollow) and UPN and occasional nostalgic shows from ME-TV and such.
I find much of what is on the boob tube to be insulting to my intelligence and not worth anything to anyone except the advertisers and producers. I find it ironic and sad that some Americans are considering electing a so-called reality TV show host/producer to the Presidency.
For movies, I either watch online content or DVDS that I buy at yard sales and thrifts stores for about a buck each or less. I bought a case on Amazon to hold over 250 DVDS and their liner notes. 250 DVDS now take up less space than 25 in the plastic cases. I recycle the plastic cases. I didn’t buy the cheapest DVD case because customer reviews said those fell apart too easily. I only keep the DVDS that I want to watch again. The rest are donated after watching the first time.
I think our roku can also get CREATE, we’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion! I love how many good suggestions are coming out of the comments. Thank you!
When we switched to an antenna, the first thing we noticed was how much clearer the picture was vs the old cable- We still have basic channels which is all we really need- PBS/ NBC/CBS/Fox and a handful of other channels- For the kids we pick up DVD’s at the library and that works good for them. With cable there are just way to many garbage channels to wade through…
I set up an antenna in the attic and ran the cable through the wall right to the same outlet that the cable went through so it will be easy in the future to switch back in the event we move or rent out our home…
The other thing I don’t get why watching movies at the theater is so popular- Movies are way too overpriced- With all the other technology out there I’m surprised movie theaters have not gotten irrelevant yet… I’d much rather watch on DVD at home on our schedule where we can pause as needed and take breaks-and also turn the captions on so I don’t have to replay parts where the actors mumble or talk fast.
I’m with you on the movies in theaters. I don’t get it either. It’s expensive, and there are tons of other people making noise and generally fouling up the experience. If I got an entire theater to myself… that might be another story.
We bought a tiny dell computer that we hooked up to our tv monitor so we can watch hulu for free as well as any online content (because it’s a computer with a tv monitor). Mr. T also discovered this little gadget that can record live tv (olympics, primarily, as well as some of the award shows we like to watch on fast-forward) to the computer similar to a DVR that we can watch later: http://amzn.to/1TOP32z.
Nice work! I used to do something similar, but after having it stop working one too many times while I was away on business trips and couldn’t troubleshoot (read: sad Mrs. FW) we switched to the roku.
Just Rabbit Ears for us. People keep offering to give us their Netflix password, but we haven’t taken anyone up on it. We do watch a lot of movies, either from Hubs’ collection, our wonderful library or the occasional Redbox.
I couldn’t imagine paying for cable. Both our parents still have it and we’ll flick through the channels. I keep expecting to find something we are missing, but we haven’t found anything yet!
Hey, if you get a free netflix password I wouldn’t turn it down! They have great content!
We haven’t had cable for years. There is too much drama with all the reality shows… why would anyone want to pay for that? I do like some shows on Discovery or History channel, but those are all available at the library on DVD. In fact, a lot of series are available at the library, including from TV, HBO and Showtime. I try to limit my YouTube viewing, because I could get caught up for hours watching, which is a waste of time, like you mentioned…. we all need less TV! That is also why I don’t have Hulu or Netflix. Another great site is TopDocumentaryFilms.com. They have a lot of free documentaries and some for pay. I just go for the free. Again, it can be easy to watch too much though when it is free. The rabbit ears work fine for us. We get the local PBS channels, including Jazz and Classical music stations. We get the prime time shows, news, parades, SuperBowl. We get and like some sitcom reruns, but only the ones that really make us laugh. We have gone a few times without TV, during a couple of moves. I didn’t mind it and if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have TV at all, but the hubby likes the background noise. 🙂
Totally agreed on the reality tv. It just doesn’t make sense to me! Thanks for the reccomendation for TopDocumentaryFilms.com , it looks awesome! I do love documentaries!
In the UK in order to watch live TV, you need a TV Licence and it helps fund the BBC. This is about £12 per month. I have a flatmate so we spit the costs. I’m not much of a tv viewer so will cut this whenever I get my own place. Funnily enough, a licence is not required for BBC iPlayer catch up as long as you are not watching them live, and the on demand for other channels are free, so I won’t miss out on the little I do watch.
Paying for cable TV just baffles me but then we never had it growing up.
Wait! You have to pay to have bunny ears? Does the BBC still have commercials and sponsors? Or is it 24 hours a day of solid programming?
It has adverts, which only last a couple of minutes, for it’s own upcoming programmes between shows but that’s it. Programmes themselves don’t take ad breaks. The other channels do have ad breaks every 15 mins or so.
Interesting! I knew you had to pay something for the BBC, but I didn’t realize it was levied that way. Neat that you can do on demand for free though. That’s pretty much all you need!
We’re one step ahead of you, don’t even own a TV. 😀
We don’t either. The little bit of content we seek is watched on a 17″ monitor. Its enough.
BAM! Nice work! We could do without one… but it’s a nice tool to decompress with on occasion.
I just have Netflix and do use YouTube occasionally, but even that may disappear soon. I’ve recently become single and this Saturday morning I realized I had not turned on the TV since last Tuesday. I’ve been working on the house and getting stuff done! I’ll probably switch from Netflix to Amazon prime though once they release Jeremy Clarkson’s new motoring show. Top Gear was one of the very few shows I loved to indulge in.
Top gear is hilariously awesome. I hope his new show is as good!
Found your blog last week via the Boston Globe. It is fantastic – thank you for so many great ideas! We just bought a house in the Boston area and I’ll definitely use many of your tips.
Something unrelated caught my eye in these posts: I absolutely love the color of your walls! Would you mind sharing the paint name? Thank you!!
Thank you! I wish we knew, the walls were this grey when we moved in. We’ve since attempted to color match (twice!) and both times didn’t get close enough.
When our 30 year old TV bit the dust we replaced it with a Smart TV, which allowed us to get rid of the Roku box. We also use an HDMI cable attached to a computer to stream PBS. We are sports fans, but the sports we like are Baseball and Lacrosse. We can stream the LaCrosse games from the NLL website. For baseball, we listen to the radio broadcasts on the computer. It was a bit of an adjustment from watching them, but now we prefer it. During the Olympics, we were able to stream events from Canadian Broadcasting. We have Amazon Prime for movies and other shows, but the library is also a great resource for these. And like you, we really don’t watch much TV. Last night we watched Austin City Limits from PBS and I think that’s been it for the week. Too much else going on in our lives right now.
There is something nice about listening to a baseball radio broadcast. I don’t know what it is, but the sport really does lend itself to the medium of radio!
We watch ALL the sports. We’re particularly partial to pro golf, tennis and cycling as well as college volleyball, football and basketball. We suspend our Dish package between March madness and the French Open to save a couple months of cash and switch over to the Roku and antenna during that time.
To keep our costs in control, we’re constantly harassing Dish for a better deal and more discounts. We’re only at $60/month right now off of contract for a package with all the sports fixins’, so I consider that cheaper than heading to a local bar to catch our sports coverage.
That’s pretty darned reasonable for all those expensive sports channels! And a good idea to suspend the service in the off season. I didn’t realize they’d do that!
I wanted to add that we live in a rural area and do just fine with DSL internet. When we first moved here it was a little slow, but we got together with 2 neighbors and began a lobbying campaign with our provider to increase speeds. We took turns calling every week to complain and beg them to extend the high speed service. It only took about six weeks and now we have speeds plenty fast enough to stream TV.
Wow, I love that community organizing! Nice work!
We cut the cable when we downsized from large house to apartment. We used a Philips outdoor HDTV antenna, very compact. When we traveled several months in a pop-up camper we took the Philips and a Sprint 4G data plan and a mobile hotspot. We watched live NFL from many remote places and RV parks. In Mexico and Central America we did some Netflix and torrenting and VPN tricks. Now, back in the States for a couple of years, I bought an Insignia LED w/ Roku built in. I’ve been mirroring and sending and watchlisting and having a blast!
I guess your 4g was unlimited? I’m always wary of doing any video over cellular, but I guess if you were careful you could make it work. Pretty cool that you managed to use streaming all across the continent!
It was something like 20gb per month. Sprint data reseller.
Learn something new every day.
We cut cable about 3+ years ago. I’d been angling for it for awhile, but spouse was resistant. He finally agreed right before I went on maternity with baby #2. Which seemed like bad timing. Anyway.
It’s been fine for us, but I admit to having a Netflix and Prime account. And Hulu+.
1. We don’t have the option to use rabbit ears. Too far from anything but one station, and that one, even though it’s just over the hill, has bad reception.
2. We don’t watch sports either.
3. Our only internet option is cable internet, which totally sucks. Because they raise the price constantly. We pay $100 a month for cable + phone. I’ve considered dropping the phone, but we are dinosaurs who have had the same phone # for 14 years now.
This is some very good info, especially considering I watch very little TV. I’m still trying to figure out how to drop our internet bill, but we are for sure stuck as there are no other options on our street.
You might be able to port your number to another provider and still keep your number even if it’s on a non-traditional service. We ported our “home” phone line to Google Voice years ago and use Callcentric for our VoIP service – $1.50/mth plus whatever we use at .02 cents per minute.
Yep, I was going to suggest looking into porting your number to an online phone service (or a cell phone) if you want to keep it. Then you’d only be paying for internet, which is sort of inescapable unfortunately.
I, too, am a huge Roku fan! As someone else mentioned, Crackle is a great channel for tv shows and movies. There are some stations that also have Roku channels with limited content for non-subscribers (History, AMC, Lifetime). Perfect so I can keep up with Project Runway, which just started 🙂 I also like the NASA and Animal Planet channels. So much great content for free.
TiVo is my best friend, since I rarely stream online and don’t subscribe to any services. I have the Roamio and it can record 4 shows at once so I’m never at a loss for something to watch. Fortunately, my antenna picks up a lot of channels.
I had no idea that YouTube has British shows — I’m definitely going to check that out!
We just purchased a ROKU TV 2 weeks and we like it. We still have cable and we are testing ROKU to see if we live without cable. Thanks for your tip on the Lifetime ROKU channel ! Now my wife can watch Project runway if we cut the cord. We watch the Bravo, TLC, History, Discovery and my Velocity channel for the car stuff. Too bad I cant some of the shows that we watch on these channels on the ROKU.
Cool, I definitely give crackle a try. I think that last time I looked at them a long time ago they didn’t have much in the way of selection. But it seems they’ve grown!
The only time I had cable was when it was included in my rent. I love watching women’s gymnastics, but very little of it is available on YouTube. I’ve never found the rest anywhere, so I go without. I don’t even know what is on TV these days.
That’s a pretty specialized type of content! I wonder if major competitions ever stream live from their websites?
Yeah, I’ve not had much luck. Most competitions are only aired on special sports channels, and take place all over the world. Anything that is aired on broadcast tv I can find on YouTube, but that’s not much, so I go without. I’m not paying for cable.
LOL – We love Idiocrary!
We haven’t had cable in over ten years and not watching television has been great for our kids. They only watch YouTube videos (educational PBS shows or old cartoons) and movies. As a result, they don’t see commercials. They have no exposure to the plethora of useless toys being advertised today, unless they see it at a friend’s house or in the store. A lot of parents seem to rely on television as a babysitter. I’m really proud that we usually manage without screen time and like to think that it will have a significantly positive effect on our children.
Our kids are ad-free as well, our youngest has never lived in a home that has cable and the oldest doesn’t remember it. They’re not missing anything, too much is marketed at kids and creates a false sense of “need.”
Having ad-free kids does seem like it would help with the consumer pressures. I’d never thought about our viewing habits in that way, but it seems like an excellent side benefit!
I am in the process of scoping out internet providers. I telework once a week and I will need reliable internet service. Any suggestions on reliable internet service providers?
Depends on where in the country you are. If you need to video-conference, you’ll probably need something non-satellite. So DSL, Cable, Fiber, or high speed cellular.
I have never personally paid a cable tv bill in my life. I’ve had it when I was growing up, in the dorms in college, and in a couple college town apartments where it came bundled with rent, but once I moved out into the real-world, I’ve been on the OTA (rabbit ears) band wagon since 2010!
I am a big football fan and personally, I use a mix of rabbit ears, a PS3, and a Google Chromecast. Rabbit ears for OTA network channels, the PS3 for Netflix, Crackle, and Amazon Prime Streaming, and I use the Chromecast for the Youtube App, and the one that always amazes people…dun, dun, dun….the WatchESPN app!
The key to using the WatchESPN app to watch live sports is to use a close friend or family member’s log-in….some might say it’s cheating, but I just say it’s being smart and using the resources around you. Those resources I’m talking about of course are some of the non-frugal people in your life. Almost everyone has a friend or a family member that has a cable subscription. You can watch live ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, etc on the app. If you can find someone willing to help you out, it’s a sweet deal!
That’s a pretty great idea. I don’t think it’s unethical at all. If the companies wanted to discourage it, they could limit you to a single stream at a time.
Oh my aching head!! Way too tech-y for me. I still struggle with the remote. Thankfully, my machinist husband is a whiz at these things. But, alas, he is not willing to forgo cable at this time. Good thoughts on the homesteading part though. When I moved to Vermont ten years ago, he still had those rabbit ears on the TV. We’ve long ago upgraded and now have Direct TV and internet, albeit a bit slow. But much of Vermont is so rural that it’s a real consideration for you. I admire your brain and lifestyle, Mr. FW! I’ll have to check out Keith Rucker though, I don’t think he knows of him.
For this non-machinist but very interested fellow, Keith Rucker is a near wizard 🙂
I haven’t had cable TV (unfortunately, I have had cable Internet) since 1996 when I moved out of my parents’ house. I don’t miss it at all. Dad gave it up when we moved in together about 2007. We survive on Netflix and Amazon Prime. We use so many of the other benefits to Amazon Prime that this is kind of the icing on the cake 🙂 Netflix carries Daughter Person’s current favorite TV show (My Little Pony), and we’re grandfathered into the 7.99/mth rate. And we buy the occasional series via Amazon or AppleTV (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*). But, not counting the My Little Pony TV that I try to studiously ignore as my daughter watches the same episode 3 times in a row, I haven’t watched a TV show (on TV or otherwise) in 3-4 months. We really do love our Roku though!
Nice! The prime video is an awesome bonus if you can make use of the shipping. We just found we weren’t ordering enough for it to make sense.
It makes this librarian happy to hear so many people touting the library as a great source of DVDs! It’s true, most libraries have popular tv shows and movies, but we also have great independent and foreign films that might not come to your local megaplex, documentaries, and how-to videos.
Not only that, many libraries will show movies if they have the space (other community centers also often show films).
In addition, our library recently purchased access to a service called hoopla, which allows patrons to stream and download (for a limited borrowing period) movies and audiobooks from anywhere. No trip to the library and nothing to return. Ask if your library has a similar service and if not, ask them to consider purchasing it.
Some other thoughts for live sports or other tv that might be hard to find online (I’m thinking of my own love for some terrible reality shows): talk to family and friends and coworkers. Events like the Superbowl tend to be social events anyway, and part of the fun of reality tv is laughing at/discussing what happened with other people. Offer to bring food and you’ll probably be invited. If people at work are talking about a show and you feel left out, ask if someone would mind having you over to watch it (again, offer to bring food).
Thanks for being in an awesome profession! We love our library so much. The amount of resources it has for free, and the number of helpful people who work there, is astounding.
Live in Jacksonville, Florida and we have a spectacular library system here. I just started using hoopla and although I am still in the learning stage, I am finding it relatively easy and it opens up a huge amount of access.
We do not have cable either. We have an aerial antenna for our local channels and we chromecast on our television from the Internet. It works well for our family and we love not having a bill for television!
It’s really amazing to think how much we’ve saved over the years without cable. Many $1000’s of dollars for sure!
We just moved into a new place. Any frugal ideas about selecting an Internet provider?
By the way, the column about the Lucid memory foam bed you ordered on Amazon was awesome. Thank you so much! We’ve enjoyed restful nights ever since we received ou new bed. A friend of mine has Amazon Prime and told me she can select up to four friends to receive the free 2-day shipping (simple process, just confirm with email). We timely received our beautiful new bed on the day we moved in. Thank you again for all the helpful information!
And now back to my initial question, which is ar least tangentially related to Mr. Frugalwood’s excellent column on avoiding cable expenses: Any suugestions on obtaining the best prices for home Internet?
Thanks again for your enjoyable and informative blog!!
Oh I’m so glad the bed worked out! We think it’s an awesome deal, and ours is still going strong after 3 years of sleep!
As far as frugal internet, it really depends on what you have access to locally. If you are in a city, you’ll probably get to choose between cable and dsl. I’d price them both out, and see what makes sense for your used. If you are a heavy internet house, cable will normally be better. But light users can often get away with cheaper DSL.
If you aren’t in a city, then you may only have one provider… or none at all.
We haven’t had cable since July 2003 and never want it again. We watch a little PBS on a comparatively tiny computer monitor and are awaiting the next installation of the Great British Baking Show. The kids watch a little youtube (supervised), she watches symphony performances (she’s a musician) and he watches science shows. People look at us weird but we don’t miss it. Too little time to get a bunch of stuff done.
Great British Baking Show is so much fun!
We actually just bought our very first TV. 14 years of marriage, we now have a TV. Weird. We bought it for “educational purposes.” Specifically, we opted to take a dvd-based Birthing course, which was significantly cheaper than paying for in-person classes plus many many hours of babysitting since we were not going to bring the 3 year old along for that. Then we are hosting a church group coming up, this also requires dvd-viewing capability.
Then we remembered that we have no way to watch these DVDs. The DVD player has wifi, so we can watch internet stuff on it. We do not have cable or rabbit ears, so its all internet stuff (or DVDs of women giving birth, take your pick.) It was still cheaper than paying for all of that babysitting.
The funny part is that our son can’t remember what the TV is called. He calls it “that black thing” or “radio, mama? Is it called a radio?” I do keep telling him, he just wrinkles his nose and says, “no, that’s not right! I think I will call it a ko-ko.”
Oh that’s too funny. I can’t imagine there are many kids running around America today who don’t know what a TV is. I bet he’ll be the better for it!
We’ve never had cable, and it is no big deal. Netflix (mostly for my spouse to watch while exercising) and Youtube are the bulk of our viewing, pretty much solely via laptop. But occasionally I will use one other resource: the library. Free DVDs of all kinds for checkout! As long as you still have a DVD drive–we have an $80 external Apple USB drive, which is reasonable enough for a one-time expense–it’s a pretty great deal.
Yeah, I’m going to have to find our dvd player and hit up the library. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!
No cable here either. When we had cable (3 years ago), it seemed like there was nothing on so we gave it up. We have Netflix and a library that checks out DVDs. If there is something we really want to watch, we can go to our local pub and they will put it on for us.
The pub is always a solid, if somewhat dangerous, fallback 🙂
We only go during Happy Hour and its in our budget. 🙂
We had cable for many years, mostly because Mr. FP likes sports. It was hard for him to give it up, and we do pay for MLB TV. Our cable Internet also comes with free (low quality) local channels that carry things like the Super Bowl–we tried rabbit ears, but they don’t work in the basement. Go figure.
We also occasionally get a month of Netflix streaming (finally convinced Mr. FP to cancel the DVD portion–hell-O, I’m a librarian! We can get everything we want from the library or with the occasional free Redbox coupon that comes our way). And Mr. FP insists on paying for his two favorite shows–USA’s Suits and AMC’s The Walking Dead. We get season passes from Amazon. (I like The Big Bang Theory, but we can watch that for free on a laptop.)
There is some cost, and I would not personally choose to pay any of it–but sometimes one just has to let one’s spouse have his way :-).
Go librarians! Heros of our information world! And sometimes there is a certain amount of peace-making in every relationship. Sounds like you’ve ended up at a pretty frugal spot!
We canceled cable last December, and quite miraculously, still get the basic 70 channels or so, in HD. (Shh… don’t tell the cable company.) The thing I was most worried about losing when we decided to cancel cable, was live news. I’m a breaking news junkie. 🙂 Fortunately, we still get the major news networks, plus our local channels. We lost a couple of the kid channels (Disney Junior, Nick Junior, Sprout), but our daughter is very comfortable watching her shows on the iPad. As for premium channel shows, we get them – and our movies – from the library.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself watching less and less TV. There seem to be so few shows that don’t make me feel like I’m losing brain cells while I watch them.
Nice! I won’t tell anyone 😉 And yeah, the quality of regular tv seems to have gone downhill!
We went cable free two years ago! We have an HD antenna and a Roku and also subscribe to Netflix. I love the Roku! It was a little bit of an investment into the HD antenna and Roku, but we made that back in 2 months with all the money we saved from cancelling cable.
Cable free is the way to be! The ROI on getting setup for streaming only is ridiculously good. A 2 month payback period is awesome!
TV is one of the sticking point in our lives. We have always had cable, but as time has gone on, and not as a big TV watcher, I could live with out it. I think I would still want Netflicks or something like that, because sometimes I want a little mindlessness!. However, hubby is Mr. TV. He PVRs and watches at least 20 hours of TV per week (it use to be closer to 40 so this is an improvement). He loves it. He won’t even imagine living without it. When I bring it up, he gets stressed.
There are seriously 3 shows I really enjoy that are currently on TV – Game of Thrones (although I didn’t enjoy last season as much and am thinking I may be done with it); Ray Donavan (I love Mr. Live Schreiber and his character is my favourite type); and Last Week Night. There are Netflick shows I enjoy but really, I could take or leave it.
I think it is a battle I am not going to win!
Now if we were talking about internet and lots of us, since I have been using it some since 1989 and seriously since 1993, it wouldn’t even be a conversation:P
20 hours down from 40 hours is a big improvement! I’m a fan of gradual change, and it sounds like you are on a solid path. We’re huge fans of last week tonight too! So glad it’s also on youtube.
I thought I would die when my roommates decided to get rid of cable. It’s been 6 years and I’m still alive. 500 channels and there is never anything to watch. What a waste. Bravo on your almost free solution! I’m still a Netflix/Hulu addict myself.
Yep, I think most normal folks are intimidated by the idea but there are so many alternatives… you can still watch lots of TV and just pay way less!
In general we watch TV or movies just two or three hours weekly.
Since we are not native english speakers living in not native english speaking country we have little harder situation. The youtube and such stuff is ok for music, but not for shows and series.
There is the law that all customers of electric distribution company have to pay few bucks to national tv. So technically everyone is an subscriber of national tv. It’s broadcasted using DVB-T with fair quality so all you have to have is TV set with digital video tuner. The movies are not interrupted by ads and you can get a lot of good quality european (and american) movies for free (with the native language dubbing which is in very good quality with fair translation too). There is also a weekly show of BBC Earth and similar nature related documents (which are very good).
I live near the signal broadcasting tower, so I run on the 50cm long coax cable connected to TV with other end just bent behind the TV. Since the HD was sometimes ugly, we bought an DVB-T antenna which is one 30cm piece of metal with the stand. No active power. Works pretty well.
We also have few other commercial dvb-t channels (with ads during movies) but we watch it very rare. When we want to watch sth. I save the dvb-t stream to the computer hdd and watch it from there (skipping ads).
I was also trying to use DLNA to broadcast stuff from pc to my tv, but the DLNA servers were in such awful state (mainly the problems withcodecs) that I just stopped trying.
Sounds like broadcast TV is a great option for you! Since you have to pay for it anyway, it’s a good thing that the quality is acceptable!
Well, the TV quality is not the fact, just an opinion, so YMMV. When you are not keen on 256th episode of silly NCIS or another breed of meaningless reality show full of weirdos and slobs you will appreciate the national TV.
We don’t watch much TV. I pretty much only pull something up on the computer is either me or my toddler is sick and we need to be resting. That said, after my toddler goes to bed I’m pretty much surfing the web for a few hours. Pretty much the same thing, right? For a while I went without internet and I can say I slept earlier, better and more soundly. And I got a TON of book reading in. I wish I could live without internet at home but it would make running a business as a single parent just too difficult.
Yeah, the internet is a wonderful, yet addicting, thing. One rule we have in the house is no internet in bed. So when we lay down, it’s books only. I think it helps us wind down from the day and go to sleep faster. Maybe give it a try and see how it works for you.
We have an Amazon Prime membership, and we have decided it makes financial sense for us because we do tend to need our Amazon purchases quickly (so the free 2nd day shipping is what makes this a no-brainer). So we have it and we watch the free shows available. We had both Hulu and Netflix for a while, watched on our flat screen TV through our AppleTV. But we decided that the Hulu offerings weren’t as good as Netflix and further consolidated so that we ONLY had Netflix. The big problem? I’m a huge NASCAR fan.
There was a day where half (or more) of the races were on braodcast TV, but that’s not the case so much any more. I have tried to get by, listening to it on the radio (or a radio app on my iPad), but it’s just not the same. One day, we will have a little disposable income and I’m thinking we will get a small cable package that allows me to watch some of the races. It would be AWESOME if companies would start allowing a la carte packages…
If you wait long enough, I bet nascar will eventually have an online offering like mlb.tv. It seems like all the sports are headed in that direction eventually. It’s great for folks who passionately watch one sport but don’t really need all the rest.
What is the type/ brand of rabbit ears you use please? I joust Imwould have to install an antenna on my roof to,do,this but if rabbit ears work, well hooray!
Thanks for a great post.
I’m not exactly sure of the brand, but the ones we have look just like this one from amazon. I think that’s about what we paid to ($7). Certainly worth a try before going to the trouble of putting a big antenna on your roof.
God, we haven’t had cable in years. We get a little taste of it each year visiting my ILs and that’s enough. We are on/off again with Netflix. Sometimes we get in the mood to watch certain shows, which inevitably the library doesn’t have on DVD, so we renew our membership, but in the average year we pay for fewer than 6 months. We do a token system for screen time. The kids used to spend their tokens to watch shows on Netflix, but lately it’s been 100% used for PC games, so they’re not even clamoring for the TV.
We have Amazon Prime but only for the shipping, and we share the cost 4 ways with family ($25/year for unlimited 2 day shipping is worth it to us) and will continue to do this as long as Amazon lets us.
Our current 3 favorite shows are all geeky web series produced by Geek and Sundry on YouTube. (Tabletop, Spellslingers, and Titansgrave.) Yes, we’re total gaming nerds and so are our kids – they watch the first two with us every time there’s a new episode!
There are a few other channels I like, but I get overwhelmed with the amount of content versus my willingness to watch. Most of my down time is spent reading blogs/MMM forums and books. I need to also get back to my fiction writing, which has been nil the past few months, but that’s another long story.
That token system sounds pretty neat, have you written about it before? I guess someday in the not too distant future we’ll need to decide how to mete out screen time to our child… certainly don’t want it to be unlimited.
That’s a sweet deal on amazon prime, I think if we could get it for $25/year we’d probably do it.
I haven’t written about the token system on the blog, though I’ve probably mentioned it in my forum journal. I got the idea from some other MMMers. Each kid gets two tokens a day good for either 30 min of screen time or $1. We also try to give them jobs to earn more tokens, but I also try to balance out chores for free to help out, and desperately don’t want to teach my kids to be mercenaries. They’re quickly learning “if I help you do i get a token?” is never answered affirmatively! But, on the other hand, if they help me for a period, I’ll then reward them with a token.
On the Prime, Amazon lets you share it with 4 other emails, so 1 goes to DW and the other 3 go to family members. They then kick back $ to us towards the membership fee.
I’ll need to check those YouTube channels out! I’ve never had a cable bill, but we definitely watch lots of TV (when I moved out of my parent’s house I figured I would never be a fully functional member of society with cable, too much temptation to never leave the couch). We loved our bunny ears and surprising people with high def hockey games with them. We’re trying to out being TV free at our new house because we don’t have much space for it, so that’s something I’ll miss. Streaming TV from network sites and Youtube is what we’ll be relying on now. HGTV online for the win!
I’ll have to check out HGTV online, I didn’t realize they put so much up for free. Thanks for the tip!
Great blog! We’re frugal wierdos hailing from across the pond in the good ol’ United Kingdom. Over here there are plenty of expensive cable and satellite TV options, all of which we eschew for a combo of Netflix £5.99 per month) and something called freesat (HD digital TV with about 60 channels). We are fortunate having access to the BBC with all that brings. Although we are forced to pay for an antiquitated thing called a TV licence if we want to watch live TV (about £140 per year, this funds the BBC- a non-commercial organisation). I’ve also recently bought a Chromecast dongle for about £30, this sounds a lot like the roku box thingy but casts shows directly from your smartphone (YouTube, Netflix etc). I’d recommend a show called ‘The house that £100k built’ the title says it all, its quite ‘grand designs’ like with a couple trying to build their house of their dreams on a meagre budget – suits frugal wierdos like us! Anyway, keep frugalling and good luck with the imminent arrival!
Thanks for the show recommendation, we’ll check it out! Sounds right up our alley… 🙂
I know I waste too much time watching tv, but it helps me relax after a long day at work. As I have insourced more projects the last year or two, I have decreased my tv hours on the weekends, so at least I am making progress. As my boys get bigger, I think we will be out playing more instead of playing with toys with the tv on in the background.
I am seriously thinking of dropping cable this fall. I need to see what hulu, amazon prime, you tube, etc exactly offer so I can decide to live without my favorite shows or not. This is one area where my wife is ahead of me and says to just cut the cord!
“but it helps me relax after a long day at work”
Yep, this is what we use it for too. Makes me wonder if we’ll watch more or less once we’re on the homestead and less stressed.
We have really cut back on our cable bill to the smallest package and this year my husband has said that he is not getting the sports package. That was quite the surprise! Around here it has been little steps to the final goal of being cable free. While I would do it all at once as I really don’t watch much on TV anyway, I also have to take other peoples feelings into consideration that do enjoy watching it, so we are definitely a work-in-progress family.
I think like anything, it’s a process that takes time. It’s been easier for us since we didn’t watch tv to begin with. Though having the roku means we don’t feel deprived.
My wife and I haven’t paid for cable TV at all since we got married 2 years ago. For us it was as much a lifestyle choice as it was a financial one. I saw my dad come home most nights and veg out in front of the TV for hours, and I decided I never wanted to slip into that trap.
We do have a Netflix subscription along with an old WDTV device (similar to Roku), but by and large we really don’t watch a lot of TV. Sometimes we’ll binge-watch a show that we really get into, but these are few and far enough in between that we don’t feel guilty about it (I’m looking at you, Daredevil and Breaking Bad)
As far as YouTube channels, you should definitely check out Mike and Lauren if you haven’t already. .You guys would love them, since their channel is dedicated to Early Retirement, personal finance, AND Mike does a lot of woodworking/handy projects. I’ve been following them since they started maybe a year or so ago and love their content.
Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll give them a watch!
We don’t have cable, and never have. There’s just not that much I want to watch on cable. We can either get it elsewhere (sports), or just wait a bit for the interesting shows to show up on Netflix. I didn’t know you could get Last Week Tonight via Roku! We’ll be adding that to our watch list immediately. The Superbowl is streamed live online these days, so we just plug our laptop into the TV and watch that way. Our internet provider has an agreement with ESPN so we can get ESPN3 online, which lets us watch international soccer when the World Cup comes around.
Frugal High Five! I imagine more and more stuff will be streamed in the future. Just think about how much it’s changed just in the last couple of years. So many more options today!
Perfect timing! A couple of years ago, we wanted to get a ROKU to see if we can cut the cord but did not like to enter a credit card. Two weeks ago, our 6 year old LCD TV broke and we replaced it with a LED ROKU TV and we like it. We searched youtube and discovered that you can register the ROKU without a credit card via a nocc link.
We still have cable tv. We dont watch any OTA shows or movies. We watch reality shows from bravo, tlc, discovery, history and my favorite velocity car channel. Wife and I know that we can live w/o it. We are still playing with the roku to find channels to add.
When we get eliminated from work due to outsourcing in the near future then we will cancel cable tv to save a $100 a month. We are currently saving 86% of our income and this is our last re-occurring expense.
Thanks for this post because I found a couple of roku channels from the readers!
I cant believe that we got something cheaper that the frugalwoods!!! We brought rabbit ears for $1.39 from a dollar store 🙂 .
Hah, nice job on the rabbit ears! I really should have waiting until I could get them used or free… I don’t remember why I felt like I needed them quickly. c’est la vie!
Tell Mrs FW she must watch Call The Midwife on PBS!!! My favorite show about extraordinary young nurses in the UK post WWII. It’s seriously the best.
Oh believe me, she _loves_ that show. It’s a mainstay of her viewing when I’m out of town on business 🙂
Oh good!! Phew.
We also love our Roku and rabbit ears for watching TV! One thing you didn’t mention that we do, though, is to draw on our community for watching big TV events, especially sports. We host our friends to watch games when they are on over the air and we go to our friends’ homes when cable is needed.
Good idea to swap TV oriented big events! We have in fact hosted a superbowl party… which is amusing since we’re sooo not football fans. But it’s as much a cultural event as a sports event, and I like to cook finger food.
i have not owned a TV in 10 years. iPad mini + u tube app + the occasional download from iTunes works great for me. Each year at the holiday times I tell folks to get me an iTunes gift card for movie rentals etc in iTunes. Works for me but might be too minimal for some.
Oh that’s a nice idea. We do like our big (ish) screen, but the itunes gift cards thing is a clever way to do it!
I also despaired about cutting the cable/ditching the dish as a sports fan, particularly as a hockey fan. Out of the major sports hockey gets screwed in the over-the-air TV department–NBC shows a handful of games during the season, but everything else is on cable, mostly the NHL Network, which is only included in “extras” packages. However, Hockeystreams came to my rescue. For roughly $10/month, I get ALL the games (no local blackouts, the scourge of the sports packages) and even the minor and European leagues. It’s one of my very few luxuries.
Nice! A pretty good discount from the NHL provided streams too!
OMG–Thanks so much for this post! We are in a very rural area with no cable (no biggie as we enjoy the money savings!) and, unfortunately, not very high speed internet. We get about 5 local channels and pay $8/mo for netflix–our only entertainment budget. BUT, thanks to your info about YouTube having PBS shows (who knew?), my husband is one happy camper to watch old episodes of This Old House and many other shows we would never have looked for on You Tube. He didn’t believe me when I came into the living room to tell him he could watch This Old House whenever he wanted–so we pulled it up on the TV and I won major brownie points. Then today I got to checking out what other PBS shows were on YouTube and, lo and behold, his absolute favorite–NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP! He’s been so sad since they discontinued it several years ago. Again, thanks so much for this info!
Yay! So glad this was helpful! And PBS is a national treasure, isn’t it?
Off-topic, but libraries have lots of uses beyond DVDs or books. They often have eBooks, audiobooks, and streaming audiobooks, music, & movies too.
For eBooks you can also use Calibre & download many classics from Gutenberg & other sources. Gutenberg also has audiobooks.
Thanks Tom, great suggestions per usual!
Really enjoy reading about the alternatives. I just cut the cord myself – have me a new Roku! One thing I do notice about Roku though – doesn’t seem to matter the channel, I get all kinds of commercials! I choose a show, play it, and then two or three times per show there’s a break with a stream of commercials showing 1/3 then 2/3 and finally 3/3. Maddening when they’re showing the same exact same commercial too!
Anyway, I really curious about all the love for YouTube. So curious that I’ve been looking around the site for ‘content’. I see a movie here and there, but what about the tons of content (lasting beyond 3-6 minutes of instructional stuff)? I’d love to hook myself up to what you all are talking about, but don’t see anything on YouTube about it.
Can I ask? You must have a ‘subscription’ of some sort? Do I need to ‘sign up’ to find these options? How are you watching YouTube through your TV? Literally a cable from PC to TV? Or …?
Great site and one that really piques my interest – keep going!
Hi Ken – We have the free YouTube app for the roku. We’ve also connected our personal YouTube account on our computer to our roku. This allows us to select videos on the computer and then easily watch them on the TV. Popular shows are hit or miss, but tons of great PBS and BBC content is there in full. Hope this helps!
I finally cut Netflix a few months ago and now just stick with my digital antenna and dvds with some occasional internet tv watching. It leaves plenty to watch and I don’t miss wasting my time watching things I didn’t really care about but would watch just because nothing else was on, it means I’m more purposeful in taking the time watch something I’ll enjoy and more productive with the rest of my time.
“I’m more purposeful in taking the time to watch something I’ll enjoy”
Definitely! This is something we notice too when we visit friends with heavier TV habits… sometimes people seem to just watch whatever is on. Since nothing is “on” here, we really have to seek something out so we probably enjoy it more, and we certainly watch less!
What a coincidence! We were pondering just this move yesterday! Here’s the roadblock we ran into: we REALLY need high speed internet. We both work from home, and as data analysts are uploading/downloading big files all the time. When we started investigating options, the only way we could get high speed internet was by bundling it with the cable package. So, yeah, we could cut our bill by $60 by getting rid of a bunch of channels, but we’d still be paying around $100 a month for 150 Mbps internet and a bunch of channels we no longer want. We’re in the Boston area too, so if you found any way to get high speed internet without cable, do share!
We get 25/10 from comcast for $56.95 a month. For our usage, it’s plenty of bandwidth. And I think it’s about as cheap as reliable, reasonably fast internet comes in our neighborhood. In Cambridge we don’t have any competition, so no rcn or fios.
We cut the cord 2 years ago and cancelled our Bell Dish service. We rely on Netflix at this point for our entertainment but I am considering getting a Chrome stick or maybe a Roku to stream more variety.
Thanks for your post, lots of great info
Thanks Rob, glad it was useful! We’ve been really happy with the Roku, it’s accomplished most of what we wanted from a streaming device and “just works” without much fiddling.
The issue of high speed internet is my issue also. Happy to cut cable cord, but I need the max on Internet and that will then cost me a lot if not bundled with the channels. Solutions?
What worked for us was calling and threatening to cancel comcast all together. That brought them down to $56.95 a month for 25/10, which is fast enough for our purposes.
Thanks for the tip!
We pay for Netflix. Both our TV and our blu Ray player have apps for Netflix YouTube hulu etc. To anyone thinking they need to buy a roku or streaming stick check your devices first. There is a ton of stuff on hulu for free (not to be confused w Hulu+ which is pay). I can’t even keep up with the amount of shows that people have recommended. We do buy 2 shows a year off amazon – the walking dead and American horror story. They’re about$27 a season each. That and Netflix brings our yearly TV total to $150. Not too shabby.
That’s a good call. Our TV is old enough that it doesn’t have any of the “smart” features, and we happened to never get a bluray player. But I bet a lot of folks have one or the other!
Thank you for the reply – I appreciate your time. Please allow me to be a bit more specific because searching for ” free YouTube app for the roku” brought me into a huge wasteland.
1) Is the app Twonky? I saw a lot about that. That, I can handle.
Secondly, they all reference using your smart phone, but you mention a personal YouTube account on you computer? I would rather go via PC myself rather than download stuff on to my smart phone.
2) Using a set up similar to yours, would I need to create a personal YouTube account? And then, from my PC, choose a video and it will somehow find my Roku and then play through the Roku?
I’m truly sorry if this sounds simplistic to you, but I’m confused and really want this to work for me also! I see a lot of free movies on YouTube and I’d love to be able to watch them on my TV!
I thank you for your precious time if you are able to give it.
We have been humming and hawing about cutting cable all summer… in the summer there are a lot less sports on (read no hockey or football), so we don’t watch much TV, but we LOVE watching hockey in the fall and winter… And while there are some online sites that stream it sometimes, they are often quite slow and we miss the exciting parts. We used to go out to the pub to watch the games a lot, which was way more expensive with all the eating and drinking at restaurant prices… so I call cable my frugal alternative to that… Maybe someday I’ll graduate to the next level…
I’m sorry to add one more project to your do list 😉 But please, schedule “mounting that tv to the wall” in the next few months, or putting it on a much sturdier stand like a tallboy etc. Babywoods’s crawling escapades may well pull it down on themselves while it’s sitting on a very-lovely but small table 🙁
We cut the cable cord have a flat plastic indoor antenna (amazon)which gets PBS and all the Networks. It needs clear surroundings. We also have chromecast ($36 plugin) which allows us to cast anythig we can open in google
I think the last time I remember paying for cable was ab15-16 years ago. Right after Block buster came out with a muchcheaper $30/month subscription for unlimited movies you could have mailed to you then return to the store. Even then it saved at least.$100/month. Really loveYouTube for free content, how to and sometimes training.
I’m a huge fan of Chromecast due to the small one time cost and I can cast anything from my computer. This allows us to get the free shows from Hulu, many networks if you wait long enough for them to not need a password.
We can also find lots of free shows on Food Network, HGTV (wife loves that stuff).
We do have a HD flat antenna. Not a Leaf but some generic for 20 or 30 bucks. YouTube is awesome! You can go down lots of rabbit holes with TV shows or just random silly videos. Cable is super over-rated/over-priced
Love the blog! Its been helpful to see other people reinforcing ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for a long time.
Dear Mr Frugalwoods. Thank you both so much for what you do, you are both such an inspiration. I’ve been reading your blog on a daily basis since I’ve discovered it a few weeks ago and I’m hooked. Each posting is so full of amazing information! I have 2 questions and I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this somewhere else on the blog. I would love to know what Mrs Frugalwoods’ favorite TV & YouTube shows are and also which books have inspired you both the most! Thank you so much!
We use a Chromecast to stream Netflix to one of our tv’s, it works awesome. You could also stream Sling to it but I hear that is coming later. Chromecast cost us $30 and our Netflix is $15 a month (we pay for hubbys’ dad to have a profile on our account too so ours is a little more expensive than the standard 3-account setup). We also have a digital antenna for televised games on local channels (picks up about 25 channels locally.
Chromecast allows viewing of youtube and such as well so that’s a cheap way to go if you don’t want to spend $69 on the roku. Best Buy does sales on them too.
Hi Frugalwoods! Thanks for the fun and interesting posts and pics. Based on your roster of shows, you might enjoy BBC’s Restoration Home – a number of seasons are findable on YouTube. Each episode features a new historic property, often with serious structural issues, and owners who are bringing them back. The owners range from some with limited funds who are doing all the work themselves, to others who hire the work. At the same time a historian, Dr Kate Williams, and architect, Kieran Long, hunt down the story of the featured home-to-be.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you get what you pay for. Crackle is free, but you get second rate content and ads. YouTube is free, but many of its streams aren’t in HD. I pay $23 a month for quality, ad free streaming content, and find other ways to save. Also, I have an Android box and a Roku. This pretty much opens up the Internet to stream, legally.
And oh, buy a decent box with hard drive space, processing power, and a fast wireless connection. With most streaming devices, which are mini computers, you definitely get what you pay for. I had a Chromecast dongle at one point, but ended up giving it away to a friend. Roku 4 and Nvidia Shield have Chromecast built in, and handle an abundance of streaming apps.
Hi Frugalwoods, so what’s the name of the “pro” antennae that you upgraded to, and how has it worked?
We use my parents’ Netflix account and my fiance’s parents’ HBO Go account (Game of Thrones). We do pay for Amazon prime but we buy so many household goods on Amazon I think it’s worth it. In any event, we have way more TV than we could possibly watch and will never pay for cable.
Hi, I’m loving this idea of a frugal approach to everything. I have cut the cable for a while now, it wasn’t initially a frugal thing, it was because I thought the cost was outrageous for something I used about 1% of. Now I don’t know if this was mentioned as I didn’t read ALL of the comments, but pretty much every major network puts the full version of the latest episodes of their TV shows on their website for FREE. Now it’s typically only for a week or so, but if there is a show you absolutely love, I would bet that you can go to the Networks website and watch the most recent episode.
Hope this helps!
How are the rabbit ears working in the backwoods?
We have a satelite dish (for all the German programmes and it was a one of payment afew years back) and use FilmonTV app for the British programmes. Ok, it won´t let us watch Olympics live and propably all other mayor sports events either. Hubby thought, he will be sad about missing the rugby…. but can watch the occasional game we found.
I very rarely watch TV. I prefer a good book instead.
The kids love TV the most. Unfortunately, they seem to turn into gaming/TV junkies.
Hubby mentioned yesterday, that we should just get rid of the xbox and TV (after the kids squabbled at each other quiet a bit). I told him, that he will hear not objection from me. 😉 But I also know, that he will struggle without one… I suggested, that we just don`t replace anything, when it is broken… see if we can stick to it.
Do you get TV channels Free Speech TV and Link Speech on your setup? I like them because they offer real thoughtful programs compare to the major networks. Thanks
There is a website called the Documentary Storm that you can watch films for free. They send me an email every Sunday showing the films that they have in their inventory that you can watch. Good stuff.
Has anyone here tried reelgood.com yet? They have something called “free mode”:
free mode for movies: https://reelgood.com/free-movies
free mode for tv: https://reelgood.com/free-tv-shows
We too are a YouTube family. We love watching horticulture and gardening shows. One of our favorites is Justin Rhodes. YouTube is our go to when we don’t know how to do something. Watch a show and DIY. Love that!
Paul & I were avid live concert goers, we both love live music. I would have found it very difficult to give this up (however, I’ve retired and we both find it difficult to stay up too late so that sort of rules it out at this stage of the game). It’s possible to volunteer for certain music festivals, there is no charge for tickets if you volunteer and you meet some really cool people. We also test drove a Cadillac once because they were giving away tickets to a County Music Festival if one took a Caddy for a spin. Tickets can also be won on the radio and other contests. We used to plan arrival to a bar just before it started taking a cover (8:00 pm). We saw some great talent this way, opting for a bar is a good way to see some great musicians; eat before you go so you don’t have to buy dinner maybe just a shared appetizer. This won’t eliminate your concert budget but anything you save as a result goes into the pot. PS I have a Boston terrier too, she my second BT. Love them.
My spouse and I are all new to the streaming. We were paying a hefty cable bill and we took the plunge, cut cable and landline phone. Now, we do have Fire TV with Amazon Prime. And we’re pondering on that. We do use rabbit ears for live TV. Our big beef is cell phone bill, anyone have any suggestions? We have Verizon, and have two cells due to spouse slaving to the 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. We’re planning on retiring, retiring in three years, and like you all we have land picked out we’re planning on buying. In March, we go to visit the spots we have picked out. Hubby and I depend on our cells, but that bill!
Check your library for free access to streaming movies and programs. My library card gives me access to https://www.hoopladigital.com/