Budget-Friendly Ideas

Afraid to cut the cord? Some not-so-scary alternatives to cable

When you’re thinking of cutting your expenses, you may want to consider cutting cable.  However, I’m sure as you read that some of you got the shudders, and some may have even passed out.  You may ask yourself (once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor), “How will I watch my favorite shows” or “How will I stay entertained?”  Well, we found a wide range of alternatives for you so that you can still watch your favorite shows but you don’t have to cringe every time you get your monthly bill.

You could opt for a subscription option.  These services offer you as much content as you can watch for a flat monthly rate.  Most of you have probably heard of Netflix, which offers you thousands of titles and only costs $7.99 for online streaming.  As not all of their titles are available to stream online, you may choose to increase your membership so that you can receive DVDs by mail.  This option, while it costs more, is only about $16 per month.  Similarly, Hulu Plus offers a service for $7.99 per month for unlimited online streaming.

Blockbuster offers a similar service, however, it does not allow you stream online.  This service costs about $9.99 if you want to get 1 DVD at a time, however, you can get up to 3 DVDs at a time for $19.99 per month.

If you can’t live without your baseball, you may want to get a subscription to MLB.tv.  This service also offers a flat rate for every out-of-market game, which you can watch as it’s happening or on demand.  This service ranges from about $84.99 per year (about $7 a month), to the most expensive plan at $298 per year (about $25 a month).

If you’re not looking to commit yourself to a monthly or yearly subscription, you may want to try a pay-per-view or per-episode service.  Apple iTunes offers TV shows from a wide array of networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, MTV, HBO, ESPN, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, and Showtime.  Episodes here range from about $1.99 to $2.99 per episode and can be streamed directly from your PC.  Amazon Instant Video also offers comparable prices for both TV shows and movies, and these too can be streamed directly from your computer.

Vudu allows viewers to rent movies and watch them from a variety of different devices, including the Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, a Blu-Ray player, an HDTV, an iPad, or a PC.  The price of this service is $2 per 2-day rental, and they offer new releases before other online streaming services like Netflix.

A slightly more “old-fashioned” way of renting a movie is through Redbox, which allows you to pick your movies up from any Redbox kiosk.  Standard DVDs cost $1.20 per day, Blu-ray discs cost $1.50 per day, and you can even rent video games for $2 a day.  Blockbuster also allows you to rent or purchase certain TV show and movie DVDs right from their website.  These prices for the newest releases are generally around $4 to $5 to rent (depending on quality), and about $13 to $18 to buy (also depending on quality).

If you’re looking to watch shows and movies on your TV, there is a wide range of devices that you can choose from.  Many gaming consoles today, in fact, have this capability, including the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  If you don’t own one of these consoles, you may want to consider devices like the Boxee Box ($149.99), the Sezmi (about $99), a Roku (from $49.99), or the Apple TV ($99).  Any of these devices will offer you a way to stream movies and TV shows from online to your TV.

Lastly, there are the free options (the best price EVER).  Hulu offers a large variety of TV shows and movies free to its users without any need for a subscription.  You can also find a lot of your favorite TV shows from those big broadcast networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, Comedy Central, and MTV right on their websites.  Other free services include Fancast, TV.com, Veoh, Joost, In2TV, and ESPN.go.com.

Whichever type of service or device you choose, you will certainly save when it comes to watching TV or movies.  In an article we read by Barbara Thau on DailyFinance, she explains that if you chose to pay for a $7.99 per month Netflix subscription, bought 3 seasons of your favorite TV show (say 13 episodes per season at 99¢) in iTunes from your Apple TV box ($99), watched TV shows for free on Hulu, and bought an MLB.tv subscription for the year for $84.99, you would spend $391.77 per year.  If you compare this to Verizon’s basic cable plan, which is $64.99 per month ($779.98 per year, not including the equipment), Cox’s basic bundle at $80.94 per month ($971.28 per year, without the equipment), or Comcast’s basic package, which costs on average about $59 per month ($708 per year), you would save, on average, about $400 per year.  So no matter what choice you make, you won’t have to feel so lost without cable because there are alternatives out there that will still help you to save and keep you entertained.

Some articles we referenced:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/187189-2/cable_cutters_cheap_alternatives_to_tv_dsl_and_cell_service.html

http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/03/best_alternatives_to_cable_tv.html

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