Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cut The Cable, Keep Your Shows

So you've decided to start budgeting and are looking for ways to cut costs. One of the most painless ways to cut your costs is to eliminate monthly bills for services that you're not using. Stop paying something for nothing.

You take a look through your monthly bills and one stands out. That cable bill. That bill that makes you cringe when you pay it. You only watch a few channels but the cable company charges you for hundreds. You'd like to cut out the bill, but you still want to watch television. You're stuck.

... Unless there was another way to watch your shows. Legal ways that, you know, still feel sneaky.

Well, there are ways to watch your shows without cable. Lots of them. I know because I've never paid a cable bill, but still watch way too many hours of television a week. So, I'm going to share with you the best ways I've found to cut the cord and keep your shows.

Hopefully you will be inspired to try some out and get the courage to cut the cord yourself.

Over-The-Air "Bunny Ears" Antennas

You're probably already familiar with bunny ears. Maybe you remember holding a set over your head on one foot trying to figure out what show was supposed to be on the screen. Yes, I'm referring to those charming things.

A few years back, Canada switched from analog to digital broadcast signals. Bunny ears still work.

Newer televisions come with a digital tuner included.  So you can just plug the bunny ears right into the cable plug on the back. If you have an older television without a digital tuner, you can buy an external digital converter box. Some even have PVRs built in so you won't even have to watch the commercials! Or so I've been told. I've never had a PVR.

Now that the signal is digital, the picture quality is awesome. There's no more fuzzy, squiggly pictures. Instead, the picture is either uncompressed HD perfect, occasionally block-ey, or black.

We use a set of bunny ears at our house. We consistently can get CBC, Global, CTV, TVO, and some French stations. When we're lucky we can get CTV2 and OMNI as well. This means that we can watch the news, talk shows, prime time network shows, kids shows and documentaries live on television. When the Olympics were on, we had full HD coverage for free.

Some days it is a little harder to get a signal than others and we break out the bunny ear contortions. Our daughter actually did a little dance with the bunny ears the other day to get her cartoons to come back. Adorable.

Depending on where you live and how close you are to the broadcast towers you may get more or less channels than we do. If you're in a rural area, you might be better off with an outdoor antenna, which can get pricey. If you're in an urban area it's likely that those free stations are just floating around waiting for you to pick them up!

You may decide you need an amplified antenna or a more modern looking antenna. I've tried fancier antennas, but I didn't get any extra channels. There are lots of models out there and unless you start looking at big outdoor antennas, they all work about the same thing. Oh and another thing: you don't need an "HD" antenna, that's just marketing.

Streaming Video Online

Television + Computer + Bunny Ears
If you really only watch specialty channels, your best option is to go online and check the channel's website. Many channels will let you stream complete shows right off their website.

Don't believe me? Check out how many shows have full episodes up on HGTV Video! That should kill a couple hours for you when you're bored!

The downsides are that the latest episodes usually take a day to get posted and if the website gets busy, the video can get choppy.

For the almost cable but so much cheaper experience: get yourself an HDMI cable to use your television as a computer monitor when you're streaming your shows.

Cheap Movie Rentals

If you're a movie fan, you'll probably end up renting a few movies. Hey, it's still cheaper than cable! Here are a few ways you can rent a movie today even if your local movie rental place has gone out of business.

  • Redbox
    Redbox runs the red boxes you see at gas stations and grocery stores. You rent a physical movie, and have to return it, just like in the old days. Except, you can reserve a movie online first. It charges $1.50 for DVD rentals and $2.00 for Blu Ray rentals. I've received free Redbox movie coupons in the mail and there's free Thursday rentals for October, so I'm guessing that it has specials regularly. I've never used the service myself, but I have a friend who does all the time when she goes for groceries.
  • Cineplex
    Whenever I'm ordering movie tickets online, I always see an add for $2.50 Digital Tuesdays for two day rentals of older movies. It's pricier than than the other options, but I included it because you stream the movies from the Cineplex website. So, you never have to leave your house.
  • Free movies from the library
    Have you heard? Libraries have movies now! They also have CDs, video games, ebooks and yes even paper books! You can even rent them for free!

    If you're worried about getting enough entertainment after cutting the cord, I'd seriously consider getting familiar with your local library branch and everything they can offer you.


If you're still willing to pay something to watch your shows, check out Netflix. Subscriptions start at $7.99 per month and you also get a one month free trial. It has a lot of television shows and movies for you to flick through, just like your cable now.

You stream the movies from its site and nothing gets saves on your computer. Usually the video streams quick and the picture is high quality.

Netflix produces some original shows like Orange is the New Black and the latest season of The Trailer Park Boys. It releases all the episodes for a season at once so you can binge watch right away!

We gave Netflix a try for a few months, but we ultimately cancelled the service. I was frustrated because I wanted certain programs, but they weren't available in Canada. I also expected new episodes of my favourite shows to appear each week, but instead they're usually only included after the end of the season.

So we don't use Netflix anymore. But, I do still use it when I get a chance at the in-laws' house!

Sports Coverage

If you're a huge sports fan and you need to see every game in real time, you'll likely need to keep your cable subscription (even if you plan to watch all the games online). You probably won't be able to pull off lowering your bill either. My only suggestion if you want to cut the cord and keep your sports would be to watch the games at a friend's or at a pub. It could be a cheaper...


If you want to watch television, paying for a cable plan isn't your only option. I've given you the best ways I've found to legally cut the cord and keep your shows. But, there are plenty more options out there that may work for you too.

When you're always looking to reduce your costs, you'll see ways to get better value for money. If you'd like to stop paying your cable company: look into over-the-air signals in your area; search for your favourite televisions shows online; checkout your library and other cheap movie rentals; and see if Netflix would work for you.

Then, if you're ready: cut the cord!

What About You?

Are you considering cutting the cord?

If you're cable free, what tips do you have for people trying to get rid of their cable bill?

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