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9 Cost-Effective Alternatives to Cable

By Rachel Cruze

6 Minute Read

Who doesn’t love TV? Nothing beats lounging on the couch after a long day and getting lost in a great show. But cable isn’t the only way to watch your favorite shows these days! There are many exciting and cheaper alternatives to cable TV.

Why pay for premium channels you never use when—for a fraction of the cost—alternatives to cable like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video can fulfill all your binge-watching needs?

If you’re trying to pay down debt or save up some cash, one of the best ideas is to cut the cable cord! And with these cost-effective alternatives, chances are, you won’t even miss it!

Best Alternatives to Cable

Here are some of my favorite options for watching TV shows without having to pay a big cable bill each month.

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1. Cable Network Channels Online (free)

Most major networks post recently aired episodes to their websites for a limited amount of time. CBS even offers online viewers an additional paid subscription option ($6 per month) to unlock more than 8,500 episodes of everything from The Brady Bunch to The Good Wife.

And if you own a smart TV or other streaming device (like Apple TV or Roku), you can download many network apps straight to your device and watch there—and most of them are free!

2. YouTube/Vimeo (free)

YouTube is known for hosting thousands of viral videos. But it’s also a great place to learn. In the span of a few minutes, you can discover everything from how to fold a fitted sheet to how to make delicious dishes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch many classic shows and movies there too! Are indie films and documentaries more your thing? Check out Vimeo.

3. Library (free)

Here’s a shocker, guys: You can find everything from contemporary TV shows to workout videos at your local public library. The only downside is that you actually have to drive to a physical location—but at least you can keep your rentals for a week or two!

4. Hulu ($8 per month)

Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks.

5. Netflix ($8 per month)

Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.

6. Amazon Prime Video ($8.99 per month)

That’s right, Amazon—it’s not just for shopping. It’s a major contender in the online streaming market. A membership to Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a wide selection of popular movies and TV series, plus a bunch of Amazon original series. And if Prime Video doesn’t include the show or movie you want as part of your package, you can usually pay per season or episode, or just rent it.

If you can afford it and you’re a frequent Amazon shopper anyway, an even more cost-effective option is to pay for Amazon Prime’s annual membership in one payment. It’s $99, but that comes out to just $8.25 per month (even cheaper than the monthly Prime Video rate), plus you get access to all the other Amazon Prime perks.

7. HBO NOW, Showtime, Starz ($9–15 per month)

After HBO launched its own streaming service a few years ago, Showtime and Starz wised up and followed suit. You can subscribe to each as stand-alone services or add them to your Amazon Prime, Hulu, Roku, Sling, or Netflix accounts for an extra fee.

8. Sling TV (starting at $20 per month)

With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air—you can watch it live like with cable or satellite, except you’re watching over the internet! The basic package includes 30 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, and Disney Channel. You can get a slightly different lineup of networks for $25, or get both for $40. There are also $5–10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones. So if ESPN is the only reason you’re clinging to your cable box, you may be out of excuses now!

9. HDTV Antenna (prices vary)

If you really want to cut back, all it takes is an antenna. Luckily, they’ve come a long way since your grandma’s rabbit ears. Not only do they look better than the finicky metal rods, but the HD quality can also be even better than what you get over a cable line. See what stations are available in your area before you buy at antennaweb.org.

Other Cable TV Alternatives

This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!

Regardless of whether you keep cable or decide to cut the cord, make sure you budget for it! Start budgeting for free today with EveryDollar!

About Rachel Cruze

As a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, Rachel Cruze helps Americans have a life and a bank account they love. She’s authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze, or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.

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