As streaming TV takes over day by day, it is probably time to finally get rid of that cable bill. But how do you watch regular TV without cable in 2020? You have heard the phrase, “it’s time to cut the cord” over and over again but what impact will that have?
If you’re like me, you love those one or two broadcast shows you watch on a regular basis. You know you’re spending too much money on cable, but you’re not sure how to completely cut it out of your life. Well today, I’m here to show you how to watch tv without cable, and still see all your favorite shows!
How Much Does Cable And Satellite TV Really Cost?
If you have recently created a monthly budget and are using the cash envelope system, you know exactly how much money you are spending each month to watch television. If you haven’t done a budget in a while, you may be surprised to see how much you are actually spending to watch TV.
According to Directv.com, their premier package is $110 a month (plus taxes) for 12 months if you sign up for a 24-month contract. After that first 12 months, you will be paying $189 a month (plus taxes).
By signing up for this contract, you are paying a minimum of $1,320 the first year and $2,268 for the second year for a total of $3588 over a period of 2 years!
*Data effective 08/06/19
Dish Network comes in a little cheaper with the America’s Top 250 plan at $89.99 a month. This price stays the same for two years if you sign the 24-month contract.
This contract locks you in to pay a minimum of $2,159 over two years.
*Data effective 08/06/19
Cox Contour TV
Last but not least is the Cox Contour TV package. For a comparable plan to the other two, you will pay $119.99 a month for a one year contract.
This contract locks you in to pay a minimum of $1439 a year, or $2,879 over two years.
*Data effective 08/06/19
Should You Cut The Cable And Watch TV For Free?
This is a decision you need to make as you closely look at your budget. Are you struggling to get out of debt? If so, it may be difficult to justify spending almost $1,500 a year on TV entertainment.
Depending on your current financial situation, cutting the cord may not be necessary. If you are generally concerned about the high cost of cable TV, you could negotiate a lower cable bill.
Ways To Lower Your Cable Bill
People often forget that there are several ways to save money on your cable bill each month.
Downgrade Your Current Cable TV Plan
Before you make the decision to get rid of cable, look at your current plan. It may be possible to watch some of your favorite TV shows on a lower-priced plan. Check to see if you can downgrade and still be happy with the service.
Negotiate For A Lower Rate
If you have been a customer for a while you should definitely reach out to your company and request a discount. Most companies have a “loyal customer” department that does nothing but talks to customers and convinces them to stay for a lower rate.
I recently called my internet company and was able to save $10 a month by requesting a discount.
Threaten To Leave
If you’re on the fence about cutting the cord, tell your cable company this information. Tell them you’re ready to cut the cord and see what they are willing to do for you. Often it takes the threat of leaving the company for them to suddenly offer a hidden discounted rate.
Will Cutting Cable Actually Save Me Money?
The short answer to this is, it depends. If you cut cable and watch free TV over the air then yes it will save you money. If you cut cable and then sign up for a dozen online streaming services, then no, you probably won’t save much money.
In order to save money by cutting cable, you need to decide the minimum amount of entertainment you need to stay sane. If that’s free on-air TV then great. If it’s one or two streaming services, then that will save you money as well.
Cutting The Cord Can Be Expensive!
If you are still under contract, you need to do the math to decide if cutting the cord is right for you. For example, DirectTV will charge you $20 dollars for each month you have remaining in your contract. If you’re paying $110 a month for the service, a $20 per remaining month cancellation fee makes sense – if you have the money to pay the lump sum bill.
If you decide to cancel your cable bill while still under contract, be prepared to pay a potentially hefty lump sum bill to get out of your contract.
Equipment You May Need To Buy To Watch TV Without Cable
Depending on your current setup, some of the items you may need to purchase in order to watch TV without cable are:
- HD Antenna ($30 – $100)
- Indoor Or Outdoor Antenna
- Digital Converter Box($30 – $200)
- If you do not currently have an HDTV
- Roku ($40)
- If you do not have a smart TV to stream services
- Digital Video Recorder (DVR) ($40 – $200)
- If you want to record shows that are shown over the air
How To Watch TV Without Cable For Free – The Free Broadcast Digital TV Option (Local Channels)
Depending on where you live, there are a number of free digital television channels you can watch over the air for free with an antenna or converter box. To see what channels you can potentially receive, go to this DTVMap from the FCC and enter your zip code. Below is a list of the channels I receive for free based on my location.
As you can see, with just an antenna, I can get up to 15 channels for free!
Will Your TV Receive Over The Air Digital Signals?
Depending on the age of your television, you may need a digital converter box to convert the digital signal (over the air) to an analog signal so your TV can show the picture.
In English: If you have an old TV that is not a High Definition TV (HDTV) you may need a converter box. If you have a TV that is less than 10 years old, more than likely it is an HDTV and you do not need a converter box.
If you are unsure if you need a converter box or not, enter your TV make and model into Google and see if it is an HDTV or not.
How To Get Free TV Channels With An Antenna
If you have identified your television as an HDTV and there are digital channels in your area, all you need to do is plug in an antenna and you are good to go! I have put together a list of some of the highest-rated antennas you can purchase on Amazon.com to receive the over the air channels.
Top-Rated Indoor Digital TV Antennas
Depending on your preference, you can either hook up an indoor antenna or an outdoor antenna. If you elect to use an indoor antenna, you will need one for each television you want to receive over the air channels. If you use an outdoor antenna, it can hook up to all of your televisions through your previously installed cable outlets (depending on your wiring setup).
#1. HYPOY – HDTV Antenna 4K 1080p Indoor Antenna
This is a flat antenna that you can either stick to a window, a wall, lay flat on a table, or place behind the television depending on signal strength. You can pick this highest rated antenna on Amazon.com here.
#2. Coolmade – 120Miles Directional TV Antenna-Indoor High Reception
This #2 antenna is fully compatible with digital converter boxes to give you the clearest picture. It boasts a clear picture even if the signal is 120 miles away!
You can check this antenna out on Amazon.com here.
Top-Rated Outdoor Digital TV Antennas
I personally prefer using an outdoor antenna for over the air channels. I currently have an outdoor digital antenna in my attic and it is able to provide a clear picture to all the televisions in my home.
I tied the outdoor antenna into my coaxial cable that runs throughout my home and I only need to plug my TV into the wall to get the signal. It saves me from having to buy an antenna for each TV.
Here are the top two outdoor digital TV antennas’ on Amazon.com
#1. RCA – Outdoor Yagi Satellite HD Antenna w/ 150 Mile Range
This is the exact antenna that I bought and put in my attic. Just because this is an “outdoor antenna,” it doesn’t mean you need to put it on the outside of your house. I hung mine in the attic and pointed it at the transmitters on a nearby mountain.
I am able to get my 15 clear channels without having to mount this thing on my roof!
To pick up the antenna I currently use, you can find it on Amazon.com here.
#2. KTPYRP – Outdoor TV Antenna 150 Miles Range Amplified Digital HDTV
The second highest-rated outdoor antenna is a product by KTPYRP. This antenna comes with a pole mount and 33 feet of cable so you can use it for your home or RV.
To check this antenna out, you can find it on Amazon.com here.
For a comprehensive video on how to install your antenna, check out this Youtube tutorial:
How To Record Shows On Broadcast Television
One of the potential disadvantages of using an antenna is the inability to record TV shows if you are not home. With your old digital video recorder (DVR) that came with your expensive cable, you could easily record your favorite shows if you were not home.
Luckily, there are DVR systems on the market designed specifically for over the air television! No longer do you need to set up a VCR and wait for the right moment to start recording.
In addition to DVR for on air TV, these DVR systems can also cut commercials out of the recording for you!
Tablo Dual LITE OTA DVR
If you can’t live without your favorite over the air shows, I recommend the Tablo DVR. It is specifically designed for cord-cutters in mind to deliver you all the shows you want without having to be at home to watch them.
Learn more about Tablo at Amazon.com here.
How To Watch TV Without Cable For Free – The Online Streaming Service Option
My family and I enjoy this option the best. While we do have the antenna in the attic, we also enjoy watching all our favorite shows through online streaming services.
Keep in mind, you will need a way to connect to the internet to take advantage of this option. If you already pay for internet services for your home, you will be good to go.
If you do not currently pay for an internet package, keep in mind that this could cost you at least $40 a month.
A Smart TV May Save You Money
If you currently have a smart TV, switching over to a streaming service is extremely easy. Connect your television to the internet, either through Wi-Fi or a hard line. From there, you should have access to a wide array of online streaming services.
If the service you want is not already programmed on your television, many smart TVs can download the latest apps to get you started.
What If I Have A “Dumb” TV?
If your television set is not as smart as the new ones, I feel your pain. We also have a television that is about nine years old and does not have the same smart TV capabilities. Do get around this, we bought a Roku for our main TV.
I picked up a Roku Express for about $30.00 and it gives me access to a bunch of streaming services (that require a paid subscription) as well as many free television channels.
By plugging a Roku into your television, it definitely makes it smarter than it used to be.
Online Streaming Service Options
No matter what type of content you enjoyed on cable, you can usually find the same shows on an online streaming service. Each service brings unique channels and experiences to the user.
As long as you don’t sign up for ALL the streaming services, you can easily save hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year compared to what you were spending on cable.
Below I have reviewed some of my favorite streaming options.
We currently subscribe to Hulu because it is a great affordable option to get some of the best shows on network television as well as cable. We have been using Hulu since the day we cut the cord and I highly recommend giving it a try.
For only $6 dollars a month, you really can’t beat it! Click the banner below for more information on this special offer.
Netflix is definitely a goto when it comes to online streaming. We also subscribe to Netflix because it has a great option to set an account up for your kids. Netflix Kids allows you to be more at ease when your children take over the remote.
Below is the current pricing plan for Netflix.
To learn more about Netflix, click the image above to go to their pricing page.
CBS All Access
What I like about CBS ALL Access is the one week free trial period. For less than $10 dollars a month, you can access more than 10,000 of your favorite CBS shows. In addition, CBS All Access also provides you with live TV in your area as well as the NFL games on CBS.
To take advantage of the 7-day free trial, click the banner below to learn more.
Philo TV is relatively new but offers many more channels than some of the other streaming services. Philo boasts 58 separate channels you can watch such as:
- Comedy Central
(Just to name a few)
What I like about Philo is they also offer a free 7-day trial so you can try before you actually pay for the service. For more information on Philo TV and the free 7-day trial, click the banner below.
Amazon Prime Video
If you have an Amazon Prime account, you have access to a free video streaming service called Amazon Prime Video. With your membership, there are thousands of free videos you can watch at no additional cost. For some of the newer or more exclusive shows, you can rent or buy them on a case by case basis.
Our family currently has an Amazon Prime account because we save a ton of money on shipping by using this method. In addition, we also watch shows on Amazon Prime Video and occasional will rent a video through this streaming service.
For more information about Amazon Prime Video or to get an Amazon Prime account, you can do it here.
Right now, my wife and I have been binge-watching Duck Dynasty on Tubi. Tubi is a free streaming platform that offers older movies and TV shows. The only catch is they have frequent advertisements that play during the episodes. Other than that, it’s great for binge-watching old shows that you didn’t see the first time.
Access Tubi on your Roku or download the app on your smart tv.
The Sling TV streaming service is a great option if you want all your local channels as well as many of the premium channels you enjoyed on cable. With Sling TV, you can watch shows from CNN, HGTV all the way up to ESPN and the NFL Network.
In addition, right now if you sign up for Sling TV and prepay for two months of service, they will throw in a Roku Express for free!
*deal current as of 08/07/19
For even more cable tv alternatives, check out this comprehensive guide by YourMoneyGeek.
Wrapping It All Up
Before you decide to cut the cord, make sure you are not currently under contract. If you are under contract, figure out how much it will cost you to get out of your contract early. Remember, you will need to pay the outstanding balance in full.
My wife and I stopped paying for cable years ago and we have saved a ton of money by doing it. I encourage you to explore other options to watch the shows you love without having to pay the expensive prices of cable.
If you want more than just your local channels, check out some of the online streaming services I reviewed above. Make sure whatever you subscribe to fits in your budget before you sign up for anything.
How to watch TV without cable?
You can watch TV over the air with an antenna and pick up free broadcast local digital channels. You can also use an online streaming service such as Hulu, Netflix, Tubi, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Philo TV, or CBS All Access.
What equipment do I need to watch TV without cable or satellite?
In order to watch digital on-air TV without cable or satellite, you will need an indoor or outdoor HD antenna. If you do not have an HDTV, you will need to purchase a digital converter box. A smart TV is needed to stream online services if you do not have a Roku. For recording over the air TV, you will need to purchase a digital video recorder.