If you’re paying more than $100 a month for cable or satellite TV, switching to an internet-based streaming service could save you up to $1,000 a year!
This beginner’s guide to cutting the cord will explain how to stream TV for $50, $25 and even as low as $0 a month.
How to Cut the Cord and Save Up to $1,000 a Year
Where do you begin? If you already know that you want a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV, Sling TV, AT&T TV Now or Hulu with Live TV — we have a separate guide with the best plans and deals!
- Extreme Saver: I am mostly satisfied with just my local stations.
- Big Saver: I primarily watch TV for entertainment networks and can give up sports and news channels.
- Great Saver: I have my favorite cable TV channels (including sports), but I don’t need 100 of them.
All three options require a high-speed internet connection. You’ll also need either a smart TV or a streaming device like a Roku Express, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick. (Read below for our Quick Tips for First-Time Streamers.)
Extreme Saver: $0/month
Big Saver: $25/month
Great Saver: $50/month
KEY TAKEAWAY: Those who follow our Extreme Saver track pay low start-up costs and no monthly charges, but the TV experience doesn’t come close to cable.
- Monthly cost: $0 per month, plus high-speed internet
- Start-up costs: $10 to $40 for an indoor antenna and $30 for an entry-level streaming device
- Potential savings: $1,200 a year (based on $100/month cable TV bill)
For cord-cutters on a tight budget, start with the Extreme Saver track. Purchasing a digital antenna will provide free over-the-air TV for around $10 to $40 and no additional monthly fees.
Forget about old-fashioned rabbit ears, modern indoor HDTV antennas are flat and can be hidden behind your TV.
I have a Mohu Leaf antenna with a 30-mile range. You just connect it to your TV, scan for channels and start watching local news, sports and entertainment on networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS.
You can enter your address on their website to see a list of the channels you’ll get with an indoor antenna.
For those who live far away from broadcast towers, money expert Clark Howard has recommended AntennaWeb.org over the years to help you find an outdoor antenna with good reception.
If all you care about is the channels that you can pick up with an antenna, then you may not even need to pay for internet.
Download Free Streaming Services
To supplement the content that you get with a digital antenna, there are several free ad-supported Netflix alternatives that you can use to stream movies and TV shows.
You won’t find every episode of “Friends” on any of the free streaming services, but there’s usually something good to watch.
Pluto TV, Crackle and The Roku Channel are three of the most popular free options. They offer a mix of TV shows, movies and even live news in some cases, but much of the content is dated.
Team Clark Reviews:
- Pluto TV Review: Get Live Streaming TV For Free
- Crackle Review: Free Streaming TV and Movies From Sony
- The Roku Channel Review: Free Content on Your Streaming Device
Available on the Roku home screen, you can now see the latest in-season episodes, classic series, hit movies and more from multiple content partners — not just what’s available on The Roku Channel.
Since we’re talking about streaming, remember that you’ll need an internet connection and either a smart TV or a compatible streaming device to watch shows and movies on the big screen.
I recommend the $30 Roku Express so that you can easily find free content with Roku’s Featured Free navigation.
KEY TAKEAWAY: For $25 a month or less, Big Savers can watch local channels with a digital antenna and get lots of entertainment networks with either a live TV or on-demand streaming service.
- Monthly cost: $25 per month or less, plus high-speed internet
- Start-up costs: $10 to $40 for a digital antenna and $30 for an entry-level streaming device
- Potential savings: $900 a year (based on $100/month cable TV bill)
If our Extreme Saver track is a little too extreme for you, there are several ways to access a lot more content for less than $25 a month with our Big Saver options.
You’ll still need a digital antenna, but then you have a choice to make: live TV or on-demand streaming.
For $20 a month, Philo is your best live TV streaming option. It has a mix of entertainment networks like HGTV, Hallmark, Investigation Discovery, TLC and more — but no sports or local channels.
If ESPN or other sports networks are on your family’s must-have list of channels, skip ahead to our Great Saver track.
Live TV Streaming
Read More: Philo Review
If you’re already paying for Amazon Prime, check out Prime Video first. It’s included in your membership!
These on-demand streaming services have their pros and cons. Netflix has the best overall selection of content, including original programming, while Hulu is great to catch up on the current season of your favorite hit TV show.
Amazon Prime Video
Of course, if you decide to go the Big Saver route, you can also use the free streaming services that I mentioned earlier.
KEY TAKEAWAY: The Great Saver track will provide a live TV streaming experience that closely resembles cable, with a mix of sports, news and entertainment options.
- Monthly cost: Around $50 a month, plus high-speed internet
- Start-up costs: $30 for an entry-level streaming device
- Potential savings: $600 a year (based on $100/month cable TV bill)
Our Great Saver track is the best route for people who like everything about their existing cable or satellite TV service — except the expensive bill.
What does that get you? The live TV streaming services offer different channel lineups (see our comparison chart), but you’ll get about 60 networks at that price point — sports, entertainment and cable news.
Depending on where you live, these services may also carry your local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC stations.
Team Clark has been testing various streaming TV options over the past few years. Some of the key differences are price, channel lineup, cloud DVR, supported devices and the ability to watch multiple streams at once.
- Price: How much will I pay to get everything I want?
- Channel lineup: Does this service offer the channels that I watch the most?
- Cloud DVR: Can I record my favorite shows to stream later?
- Supported devices: Can I use my existing smart TV or streaming device with this service?
- Multiple streams: Does this service let me watch on multiple screens at once?
The list of channels is probably the most important factor for the majority of streamers, so we can’t pick a single service and say that it’s the best for everyone.
Live TV Streaming
Read More: Sling TV Review
Read More: Hulu + Live TV Review
The nice thing about all of these live TV streaming services is that they offer free trials, typically for a week. If you don’t like one service, just try another.
And once you become a paying subscriber, there are no contracts or long-term commitments. You can cancel anytime!
Team Clark’s Quick Tips for First-Time Streamers
If you want to cut the cable cord and switch to streaming TV, you may think the process is overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
The picture below shows a very basic setup that’s ideal for first-time streamers: Internet, TV and a streaming device.
You must have a fast internet connection to stream TV. The streaming services mentioned in this guide all have their own requirements, but a minimum download speed of 10 Mbps or higher is generally recommended.
Start by reviewing your internet bill to see what you’re paying for and learn how to test your internet speed here.
If you have a smart TV, which is a television set that can connect to the internet, the most popular streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu are pre-installed — so you may not need to buy a streaming device.
However, many smart TV users end up purchasing streaming media players because they’re so easy to use.
The Roku Express is our pick for first-time streamers because it’s cheap, user-friendly and has lots of free content.
Most streaming services will work with Roku, but not all of them. Always check your streaming service’s website to see a list of compatible devices. See our full Roku Express review here!
Optional: Digital Antenna
You may be able to get a lifetime of free over-the-air TV for a one-time cost of about $40.
If you live in an urban or suburban area that’s not too far from broadcast towers, an indoor HDTV antenna like the Mohu Leaf will help you pick up local stations. See if this is an option for you on Mohu’s website.
An outdoor antenna may be a better choice if you live in a rural area. Find the best one for you at AntennaWeb.org.
With so many live TV and on-demand streaming options, there has never been a better time to cut the cord.
My advice is to take advantage of the free trial offers and test them out while you’re still paying for cable or satellite TV. Once you find a streaming plan that you like, go ahead and cancel your traditional pay TV service.