Let’s be real: Cable television is ex-pen-sive. If you’re trying to pay down debt or save up some cash, one of the best ways to do that is to cut the cable cord. We know—nothing beats kicking back on the couch and getting lost in your favorite show. But these days, you don’t need cable to do that. There are plenty of cheaper cable alternatives out there. And if you make the switch, chances are you won’t even miss it!
With streaming shows being listed as everyone’s favorite hobby right now (while we’re living our best lives indoors), many providers are offering free trials and viewing for a limited time. Happy watching!
15 Cost-Effective Cable Alternatives
1. Disney+ ($7–13 per month)
Start budgeting with a free trial of Ramsey+ today.
A whole new world is here thanks to Disney’s streaming service. At this point, Disney basically owns everything, so it only makes sense that they would step into the streaming service space. Now you can watch original shows and films along with classic favorites from Disney’s catalog, like Frozen, Mary Poppins and everything else in between. Oh, and we do mean everything else. Let’s not forget all the Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic you can handle (because remember, Disney rules the world and owns all of those things). And right now, you can check out all Disney+ has to offer with a free seven-day trial.
But get this: The Disney+ triple package bundle also offers Hulu and ESPN+. So if watching sports was the only reason you were clinging to your cable cord, your excuse just met its match. Of course, ESPN+ doesn’t carry every single athletic game known to humankind, so just keep that in mind there, sport.
2. Hulu ($6 per month)
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch a Hulu original series or currently airing shows right after they broadcast. 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 six bucks. Still, it’s one of the best cable alternatives on the market.
Hulu is also offering ABC News Live for free to its on-demand subscribers. Now you don’t have to rely on Facebook for the latest coronavirus news. Not only that but they’re offering a free 30-day trial for new and eligible returning subscribers. Clear the calendar . . . oh, wait.
3. Hulu Live ($45–51 per month)
If you love streaming Hulu’s shows but also want access to things like live sports and news, then opting for Hulu Live might be the right fit for you. Sure, watching shows live in real time is nice, but the best thing about Hulu Live might just be the ability to record shows and watch them later. Not ready to commit? You can check it out free for seven days!
4. Netflix ($9–16 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 have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials!
And you just can’t beat how easy it is to access Netflix. 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 ($13) or premium ($16) plan.
For such a time as this, Netflix came out with a new way to watch: Netflix Party. Now you can watch your favorite shows and movies with family and friends while social distancing in your own homes.
5. Amazon Prime Video ($9 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 to watch, you can usually buy or rent it as a digital download. But just remember, if it’s a rental, your access to it will expire.
If you can afford it and you’re a frequent Amazon shopper anyway, an even more cost-effective option is to opt for Amazon Prime for $13 a month. If you pay for it as an annual membership, it’s one payment of $119. That comes out to just $9.91 per month (which is about a dollar more than the monthly basic Prime Video rate). Plus, you get access to all the other Amazon Prime perks, like free two-day shipping.
If you’ve been forced to homeschool your kids (and work a full-time job) like most people these days, Amazon Prime Video is offering kids’ movies and TV for free. Yup—free. And if you’re not a Prime member, that’s okay! All you need is a free Amazon account. You and your kids will love it.
6. Apple TV+ ($5 per month)
Being the dominant tech company of the universe wasn’t good enough for them, so look out, world—here comes Apple’s own streaming service! Just like their powerhouse contenders Netflix and Amazon, Apple TV+ will showcase their own original television series and movies. And at just $5 per month, Apple is coming out swinging. To top it all off, if you purchase an Apple device, you’ll get the streaming service for free for an entire year. If you were already saving up for a new gadget, they just sweetened the deal.
7. HBO NOW, Showtime or Starz (starting at $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 or Apple TV accounts for an extra fee.
To help your month go by just a little faster, HBO is offering all viewers some of their shows and movies for free—no subscription required.
8. Sling TV (starting at $25 per month)
With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air. You can watch it live just 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 the Disney Channel. You can get Sling Blue or Sling Orange (each with a 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 too.
If you’ve made your way through the bowels of Netflix and Hulu already, try out Sling. They’re giving viewers a free seven-day trial with many free shows and movies added to their lineup.
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 is better.
10. Philo ($20 per month)
If traditional cable still has your heart, fear not—here comes Philo to the rescue. You can get 58 popular cable channels like Nick, AMC, TLC and, yes, even Hallmark for $20 a month. Philo’s biggest claim to fame? You can stream it on up to three devices and record as many shows as you want. That means no more family feuds over what you watch every Friday night!
11. 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 (starting at $6 per month) to unlock more than 10,000 episodes of everything from Frasier to The Brady Bunch.
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! Why, hello, reruns of Fixer Upper!
12. YouTube (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 recipes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch many classic shows and movies there too!
13. YouTube TV ($50 per month)
Not to be confused with the viral video app where everyone watches cute cat videos, YouTube TV actually lets you stream your favorite channels—more than 70 of them, to be exact. You also get access to local cable TV channels in your area, plus 24-hour news networks like CNBC, Fox News and CNN.
YouTube TV also boasts a pretty good lineup of sports programming like ESPN and CBS Sports, plus very specific channels like the Tennis Channel and the Olympic Channel, if that’s your thing.
FuboTV allows you to stream more than 100 local sports, entertainment and news channels in your area depending on the plan you choose. The family plan starts with 101 channels, cloud DVR (for recording your favorite shows), and family share. The Ultra plan gives you 172 channels, extra entertainment channels, 500 hours of DVR and more. You can check it out starting at $59.99/month!
15. Library (free)
Here’s a shocker: You can find everything from modern TV shows to workout videos at your local public library. The only downside is that you actually have to drive to a physical location (when they reopen)—but at least you can keep your rentals for a week or two!
Check out your local library’s website for information on digital rentals and other free perks they might offer!
What Are You Waiting For? Just Cut the Cord.
So, why pay for premium channels you never use when, for a fraction of the cost, these cable alternatives can fulfill all your television binge-watching needs?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the cable alternatives that exist, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. Something to watch out for though: If you sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu, things will start to add up. Will it still be cheaper than a cable bill? Sure. But be careful that you actually use the streaming services you sign up for.
If you aren’t sure what’s worth it and what isn’t, just dip your toe in the water. You can usually get a free trial of almost any of these services before you fully commit. If you’re still not quite ready to give up cable (even after all of these fine options), you can always call your provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
If you’re looking for more ways to cut back, a monthly budget can show you exactly where you’re spending too much. Create your budget with EveryDollar and learn how to spend, save and take control of your money once and for all.