Cable TV is so 2009. In the last decade, the evolution of our viewing options has become an endless list of gadgets and apps.
Each allows us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. We no longer have to set up our TiVo or wait through commercials. We can stream our favorite shows ad-free at 2 am when we get off work — no more plugging our ears to avoid the spoilers. We’re caught up with the rest of the world, and all it took was the click of a few buttons.
With the abundant options available, it’s difficult to navigate which alternative to cable tv is the best. Many of us end up utilizing several of the available choices to allow us access to everything we want. However, ultimately, this isn’t always the best or most cost-efficient way of handling your streaming choices.
Cutting The Cord
According to the Mental Floss, the average consumer spends over $100/mo or $1200 a year on pay-TV service. For years, Cable TV companies and satellite tv providers have had a relatively unchecked monopoly. However, readily available high-speed internet, smartphones, and smart TVs are providing the opportunity for nearly 5 million Americans a year to save money by becoming cord-cutters.
Instead of investing in all the choices, we’ve made a simple list of the top streaming apps and gadgets you can’t live without. We’ve even included the special channels you know and love, and where you can access them. So call up your cable company and cancel your service. You’re ready to move into the future of streaming, and we’re here to guide you to your best television watching life.
Cable Cutting Devices
First, we’re going to outline our top picks for streaming devices. These are actual pieces of hardware that you hook up to your viewing device (television, projector, computer, etc.) to access a multitude of streaming apps or any of the free channels available within the particular device. Keep in mind, your initial investment in most of these is for the physical device only.
This does not give you open access to any show, app, or channel your heart desires. When you’re looking at each of your streaming device choices, it’s a good idea to create a general overview of the channels that are most important to you and your family. Then, you can consider which device may be the best fit, based on the access it provides.
Apple TV is one of the more favored streaming devices. This option allows you access to premium channels and to utilize various streaming apps within the device. You also have the choice to rent or buy thousands of movies. A great perk of Apple TV is that it will customize your viewing suggestions based on your past decisions. Therefore, you can review content that aligns with your interests continually.
Apple TV is a bit more expensive as an initial investment, and you will still have to invest in the various viewing apps you want to use with your device. This may include Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming apps that you prefer. The initial investment for the device itself is around $150.00 and includes free access to over 70 channels, including ABC News, PBS Kids, The Smithsonian Channel, and The Weather Channel
Amazon Fire TV Cube
A newer option on the market is the Amazon Fire TV Cube. This product combines the functionality of “Alexa” with a streaming device. While this added feature allows you to give commands (think “Alexa, turn on the TV”), the cube’s overall functionality works similarly to that of the Apple TV. The initial investment is around $120, making it more cost-effective than Apple TV.
You also will have access to channels such as HBO, Starz, ESPN, and HGTV. These channels will offer you the ability to launch them from your device. However, keep in mind some of them will only give you a preview of the series and movies they offer and require you to pay an additional subscription fee to view their full selection.
Unlike the Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Cube, the Google Chromecast is a much smaller device. The Chromecast is a simple USB cable and allows you access to many of the same streaming apps that you find with the other methods we’ve mentioned. This includes, but is not limited to, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and the Google Play Store.
Available for the reasonable cost of $35, you can purchase the regular Chromecast and begin streaming shows with little-to-no set-up. However, if you’re looking for heightened resolution and increased content, you may want to shell out a bit more cash for the Chromecast Ultra. This device will run you about $70 and will require an external power device.
One enticing feature of the regular Chromecast is the ease in which you can travel with it. Its convenient USB size allows you to slip it into your pocket and use it to watch anywhere you have access to WiFi and a television or a computer. Your hotel room, the airport, or even your office (although we don’t recommend this if your goal is to stay gainfully employed). The Chromecast may be the perfect option for anyone on the go who still wants access to their favorite shows and movies.
We hate to say this, but the Roku is also a close tie for the best travel companion. I know! You thought that we gave you a definitive answer to your best streaming device to travel with! However, the Roku and the Chromecast are a toss-up in terms of the size and ease of transport.
One thing to consider with the Roku (because, truthfully, it works pretty much like the Chromecast and we’re going to spare you the torture of us repeating ourselves) is the cost. A Roku is going to run you more along the lines of $40 for your initial investment, but that is for the newest generation model. With the additional $5 investment, we determined that if we were going to call something the “best travel buddy,” we’d have to go with Chromecast.
However, none of that is to persuade you from one product to the other. Roku is a great device, especially if you’re an avid music junkie. Streaming music from a Roku is user-friendly, convenient, and allows you to tap into apps that offer free membership like Pandora. For this feature alone, we think Roku may have the edge over the other devices if easy music streaming is a priority in your household.
Best Cable Alternatives to Save Money
Maybe you’re a poor college student or new professional. You’re reading this article thinking to yourself, “This is great for people who have televisions and expendable funds, but what about those of us who just have a computer?”.
Don’t worry, friends. We didn’t forget about you. Here are our picks for best streaming apps that you can watch from the convenience of your laptop, desktop, or smartphone.
Sling is a streaming app that has progressively increased in popularity over the past 3-5 years. One of the best parts about it is the package options it offers to accommodate any budget. The base orange package is $25/month and provides you with one method of streaming. This means you cannot share your username and password with your friends, and everyone can tap in and watch their shows at the same time.
One device, one show. Period. Sling offers users 33 channels with the Sling Orange package, including ESPN and Disney, both highly desirable for a wide range of audiences. We’ve heard a lot of good things about Sling and their packages.
However, it’s easy to start with a base level package and gradually upgrade to the more expensive options. Make sure that you’re not ultimately paying just as much for this app as you were for your cable.
When it comes to cost, Hulu is king. With a plan that starts at $5.99/month, we’re not sure where else you’ll be able to live stream for such cost efficiency. Another admirable attribute about the app is that they’re running a special right now that allows new subscribers to tap into a free trial. If you select the $5.99 plan, you’ll receive a free month of viewing.
The best part of this is that if at the end of the month you find that Hulu is not for you, you can cancel with no penalties. This is one feature we like about this app – no contracts.
It’s important to realize that with a lot of these apps, you can easily sign up for something that requires you to commit for a specific duration of time. Be mindful of this fact whenever you’re signing up for this (or any) service. With plenty of non-contract options in existence, you should never feel cornered into using a specific app longer than you want to.
Good old Netflix. This is the streaming app world’s tried and true. And for a good reason! Netflix was one of the original options when the revolution of television streaming came around. Offering both original shows and movies, and some of the greatest classics, this app has done it’s time and perfected the art of streaming quality entertainment.
One of the best parts of this particular app is that the shows and movies featured are names you’ll know and love. So, you’ll never pull up the kid’s Netflix option to a slew of titles you’ve never heard of. You always have a quality supply of shows and movies that are familiar.
This is not to say that there aren’t ample amounts of content available that border on bizarre and obscure. However, sometimes those end up being gems, too. And, if you find the entertainment you’ve selected isn’t satiating your viewing desires, you’re a few clicks from another option.
Netflix plans start at $8.99/month and also are contract-free. They also offer a free trial of 30 days, that enables you to test drive the app and discover if it’s a good fit for you.
Disney+ is a new service launching this November. Disney+ promises to deliver your favorite entertainment to smart TVs, phones, laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles. The app offers both streaming and unlimited downloads of your favorite movies for just $6.99/mo or $69.99 a year.
Never-before-seen original feature films, series, short-form content, and documentaries, only for Disney+ subscribers. – Dinsney+
At Your Money Geek, we as Huuuuge Star Wars fans, IMO, the best reason to get Disney+ is to watch The Mandolorian. However, if you need more convincing, Disney will be offering content from National Geographic, Pixar, Marvel, and even 30 seasons of Simpsons episodes.
One of the biggest challenges in cutting cable is giving up premium children, and family entertainment, Disney+ offers a content-rich and moving saying alternative.
PS Vue App
Get the PS Vue app on your favorite devices like Amazon Fire TV, Roku® players, Apple TV®, your mobile device, web, and more. No PlayStation® console ever required.
The Playstation Vue app allows you to watch live and on-demand tv on your favorite devices. The PS Vue app offers several packages and is an excellent option for less budget-conscious viewers looking for a way to stream sports. Their sports pack is a 10 dollar upgrade that offers NFL REDZONE and a host of sports channels.
The only real downside is that Playstation Vue does not offer Viacom channels like MTV and Comedy Central. The former we can live without, but paying $49.99/mo (lowest cost package) for a TV without South Park and The Daily Show is a hard pill to swallow.
If you are looking for the most “cable tv like’ service for sports fans, the PS Vue is a better choice than Hulu Live.
The only trouble I have found since cutting cable is the inability to watch occasional local news, and some nationally broadcasted events, like the recent Super Bowl. I also feel bad when I have visiting family, who prefer to watch some of the major networks when they’re staying over.
To solve that small problem, I bought an HD Antenna that gets all the local channels for free! It only cost me $87 as a one-time cost and was worth it in case we need to tune into anything important.
I had tried this solution in the past without much luck, but recent technology has improved dramatically in this area. I bought the new Mohu Leaf Glide HDTV Antenna, which was super easy to install, and very discreet.
If you go this route, make sure to check how far away the digital stations are from your home, since that will determine which antenna works best. I used this site to check and went with an amplified antenna to make sure I received the signals.
Works great and I receive all the local channels in HD quality!
Free Cable TV Alternatives
We had a feeling you may be curious about options that cut the cable cord and provide you with free entertainment. We aim to please! Here are a few cable alternatives that will cost you nothing more than the expense of your energy.
Free Movie Streaming
If you missed it, it’s worth pointing you in the direction of our article that outlined free movie streaming. We put in the time to find you the best options to see movies online that allow you to watch for free. All you’ll need is an excellent internet connection and device to view on, and you’re set to go.
Your local library is an underutilized resource to save money, renting movies, and borrowing books. The only drawback is you need to drive or catch a ride to your local library. However, two new apps are making it possible to stream free entertainment directly in your home or on the go, and the price of admission is a simple library card.
Both services work with hundreds of libraries around to allow card holds to watch movies, TV shows, and documentaries, all for FREE.
Hoopla was launched in 2013, and in 2017 they launched an app for smart TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. Once you sign up for an account, you begin borrowing eBooks, digital movies, music, and more.
Hoopla is a groundbreaking digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV! With no waiting, titles can be streamed immediately, or downloaded to phones or tablets for offline enjoyment later. – Hoopla
Kanopy works similar to Hoopla; however, it tends to offer more independent and less mainstream movies.
Stream thousands of films for free, thanks to the generous support of your public library or university – kanopy
While YouTube now offers an option to purchase a TV package, the original, good, old-fashioned YouTube is still a quality choice. Whether you’re seeking re-runs or want to view favorite funny moments, YouTube is the place.
You also have the opportunity to dig deep into the catalogs and find hours of creative and educational entertainment. While it may not wholly satiate your desire for live television, if you’re on a budget, this may help ease the cutting of the cable cord.
We’re about to share some shocking information with you. Once upon a time, not too long ago, television didn’t exist! We can hear your collective gasp at the processing of this information. While it may seem unbelievable, there was a time in which people had to find alternative methods to entertain themselves. One of the best ways of entertainment was reading.
Opening a book allows individuals to create imagery with their minds and explore concepts and ideas without the guidance of lighting, acting, or reality camera zooms. Even if you aren’t interested in cutting the cable cord, or saving money, reading is an excellent hobby to pick-up. Often, television shows and movies find their origin in books. If you’re reading, you’re getting a glimpse into the world that inspires tv. It’s like having the ultimate spoiler, right in the palm of your hand.
The Bottom Line
Some people are traditionalists, in that they want the security blanket of live television. However, more people are happy to jump the cable ship for a more cost-effective option. The efficiency, cost, and convenience of online apps and streaming devices allow you to expand your viewing horizons beyond the limits of your family room. ,
With the convenience of smartphones, you can watch anytime and anywhere, as long as you have a secure WiFi connection. The benefits of streaming devices and purchased apps far outweigh the heavy obligations of your monthly cable bill. So cut the cord, and take a jump into the deep end of the cable-free movement!
You can call me Max…I’m a Gen-X executive planning to retire from the corporate grind by the age of 45. Although I’m already financially independent, I haven’t yet reached true financial freedom. Join me on my journey as we discuss everything from personal finance to travel and beyond.