How We Live without Cable TV and Watch What We Want

Almost a year ago my family took the plunge and gave up cable TV. It was a tough decision. I knew cable TV was an expense we could do without, but my whole family loved having cable. My husband liked the sports. The kids liked the kids shows. And I loved the Food Network and HGTV.

The fact was, though, that cable TV was expensive and was interfering with our other financial goals. So we cut the cord, so to speak.

Do you know what? For the most part, we don’t miss it. That was a surprise to me!

We’ve Found Alternatives

The first thing we did when we cancelled the cable was buy a good antenna. We mounted it on our roof and connected it to our cable line, so the one antenna works for both televisions. Unless the weather is horrible, our TV picture quality is as good as cable. We get five local digital channels and a handful of lower power local channels.

We also subscribe to Netflix, so we can stream television programs and movies to our TV. We began using Netflix as a source of documentaries for our home school, but now we use it for watching regular television shows and movies, too.

Finally, my husband, the NASCAR fan, subscribed to NASCAR RaceView, since he can no longer watch 2/3 of the NASCAR season on TV. It’s not a perfect solution, but he agrees that paying $80 once a year is better than paying $50 every month.

We’ve Found Contentment

I will admit that I was probably the biggest cable TV abuser. I loved having the television on for background noise while I worked around the house. Since we gave up cable, though, I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet, at least when my kids aren’t running around the house.

My kids have also found other things to do. They play outside more. They read more. There aren’t many shows they need to watch. And when they do want to watch something, there are no commercials, since they watch shows on Netflix. Fewer commercials means I don’t hear sentences that begin with, “Can we buy…” very often anymore.

Overall, cutting out the cable has improved our family time. We spend more time together interacting, rather than spending our time together with our eyes glued to the television.

We Still Miss a Couple of Things

Giving up cable hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. For my husband, there haven’t been really good alternatives to sports. He can’t watch Monday night football. NASCAR RaceView isn’t as good as watching NASCAR races on TV. And he misses Sports Center.

I miss having a DVR. I loved recording live television to watch later without commercials. As I look ahead to August, I noticed that I will miss most of the Olympic gymnastics competition, because I’ll be camping. It’s my favorite Olympic sport. I sure hope I can find it on the internet somewhere when I return from my camping trip.

Overall, I’m really happy we gave up cable, and I’m not going to subscribe again anytime soon. The quality of our lives has improved, and we’re less reliant on the TV for entertainment.

I will continue to look for alternatives to watching sports, though. My husband made the biggest sacrifice in giving up cable, and he’s been a real trouper about it. As alternatives to cable become more common, my hope is that one day soon we’ll begin to see alternatives to watching major sports programs. I know my husband would be thrilled.

Do you have cable or satellite TV? Have you considered giving it up? Why or why not?


By , on Jul 2, 2012
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Joe:

    We’ve had Comcast for about 12 years. 3 months ago we disconnected cable but kept the internet. We made the decision because of the rising cost. I was told by a friend, who has worked for Comcast, that as long as we’re paying for internet we’ll always have basic cable service at no additional cost. So our cable wire is now directly connected to our TV. We still get the History channel and Discovery, TVLand, CNBC and now only TWO shopping channels.

    We also use a Roku box for Netflix, HuluPlus and we purchase Little People Big World episodes on Amazon. I’ve found that I’m watching a lot of documentaries because of the educational or inspirational value. I’ve also enjoyed the latest seasons of Breaking Bad, The Office and Madmen on Netflix, Modern Family and Raising Hope on HuluPlus. Also, instead of watching The Cooking Channel, we are actually cooking more from scratch witch is saving us even more money. I also like that I don’t have to watch The World’s Dumbest Whatever and MTV (Maternity TeleVision) anymore. OK,I’m not a slave to overpriced television anymore, I’m now the master of almost free tv. I feel like we should all go to our windows and Scream…I’M MAD AS H#LL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!

  2. Lynnae McCoy:

    Shauna, it’s definitely easier when you’ve never had cable to begin with. If I had it to do over again, that’s probably the direction I would have gone. It all worked out in the end for us, but it would have been easier if we had never been addicted to cable in the first place.

  3. My hubby and I have never had cable/dish since we have been married, neither of us had it growing up either. It’s something we chose not to spend our money on. It’s been a happy 11 years and our new house has a fantastic antennae on the roof! We can get the local news and PBS and Qubo kids shows. Other kids shows are available as DVD’s from the library. Winter isn’t harder for the kids. They love playing board/card games and, when they earn ’em, there’s always video games. This is how they have grown-up, though.

  4. Judy:

    I gave up cable more than a year ago and it was hard at first….I also remarried this past October and since my husband is as frugal as I am, we still don’t have cable. We use a converter box (until we get our new antenna)and most evenings we can get a fairly good picture.

    The funny thing is, recently I had a job in which I traveled and stayed in various hotels….those hotels came with a big tv and long list of cable accessible channels.

    After about a week of over indulging and watching all kinds of shows that I normally don’t have access to, I found that I was either watching the news or shows that I regularly watch at home.

    I guess I have learned to be content with fewer choices and fewer channels!

  5. I haven’t had cable in over 12 years. My 10 year old daughter has grown up without it, and notices when we are at houses with cable that people don’t talk to each other and the ads are annoying. (We watch public television without ads, or mute the ads at home.) We don’t miss it at all. Our lives don’t revolve around the winner/loser of a sporting event. We prefer to *do* a sport instead of watching someone else do it. When we need to watch tv we have the converter box which gets us the major networks, and public tv channels, and we borrow DVDs from the library. No cash out of pocket!

  6. Great! I’m very happy about our recent decision to give up cable. We still have Netflix streaming and we have…means of obtaining the other tv shows we want to catch up on. We don’t like being committed to watching our show at a certain time and having to watch commercials, so catching it later online works just fine for us. Its so funny..a few years ago, I couldn’t do without Blockbuster. A year ago, I couldn’t do without Redbox. Now, I can do without all that plus Cable :)

  7. I grew up without cable TV, so never missed it. I actually get extremely annoyed with the way the ads break up the programming when I watch it on occasion.

  8. I don’t think we could give up our cable service. We have AT&T UVerse and love it. I’m sitting in my living room with my laptop writing this comment. Without my cable service I wouldn’t be able to do that. There’s so much stress on my job, I need the entertainment in the evening to unwind.

    • Pat:

      So, are you watching a TV show or just using the internet? This whole article has been about giving up TV not the cable that supplies internet service. So are you with us?

  9. Tina:

    We cut the cord to DirectTv almost three years ago. It’s been heaven! Bought 2 pieces of equipment, Roku and PC to TV converter box. Total output for both was $85.00. We do have an $8.00 subscription to Netflix, but that’s it. There’s so much to watch who needs paid tv. I don’t even miss the Rose Parade or HGTV because I can switch over to the PC box and get it streamed live. We were paying $75.00 monthly to satelite with no extras and junk selection. Now we pay $8.00. What a deal!

    • Hugo:

      Tina, I have been searching high and low for streaming of HGTV. I’ve literally spent hours looking.

  10. Wow I admire your resolve to actually go ahead and do it specially with a family. I am similar to you in that I sometimes just have it on for background noise when I am working. Many times I’ve thought about whether it is worth giving it up financially. I think after reading this, I’ll start small and reduce my package and then see if I can wean myself off it.

  11. Angie:

    We gave up dish in the spring and it has turned out very well! So far I think cause we spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer but may miss it when winter comes. The funny thing is, is my hubbys uncle is president of the Eurpean division of Dish. To bad we cant get for free, oh well. Doing without is all good!!!!!!

  12. Charmaine Walker:

    Another suggestion to “life without cable”:

    I have a no-contract Verizon service, $44.99 month with a very high speed. There was a great promotion about 18 months ago and I grabbed it. For this service, I use my phone, TV, and internet

    My Skype VOIP phone which only costs $30 year for unlimited landline/mobile calls to USA, Canada and Mexico and most other countries I want to call only 2.3 cents/minute. I have my Skype set up for a local number plus a Skype name, so people think they are calling a real telephone – but it’s a internet direct telephone (i.e. I don’t have to have my computer switched on to take calls, it is a wireless handset that works just as well)

    I purchased an internet streaming device from – for approx. $55. This one time fee gave me hundreds, yes, I mean hundreds of FREE tv channels to choose from and add to my favorites. Sure, Netflix is included – but you have to pay for that, there are plenty of FREE alternatives for all types of viewing. You will never look back once having Roku. Fantastic little box. Having lived in the UK for a time, I have purchased a year subscription to Acorn TV – $24.99 for the entire year! Unlimited quality British TV shows – current and older ones, and even mini series. No advertisements either!

    Very fast upload and download time so no complaints there. Streaming TV picture is superb, no delays.

    Anyway, for $44.99 month I get Internet, TV and phone service. I think I am doing well with the savings.

    What do you think?

  13. kath:

    I would give up cable in a heartbeat if it was up to me, but my husband would never go for it at this point. Ironically, when we first moved into this house there was no cable even coming onto the property, so we went for a year & a half without it until we had the cable wires run to the house. I still don’t really watch it very much. A few sitcoms and Project Runway, but most of the shows can be watched on the internet on the show websites when I have time to watch them. My husband, on the other hand, just wants to sit for an hour or 2 every day and watch stuff he DVRs. He runs his own business and just wants some mindless entertainment to help him wind down, so we pay through the nose for cable TV and it’s one of those “choose your battles” arguments that I compromise on.

  14. Lynnae McCoy:

    Pat, I completely understand. When we dropped cable, we were watching The Next Food Network Star. It was hard to wait until the next day!

    Doug, I’m disappointed in the selection of Netflix these days, too. They still have a lot of shows we watch, but the selection has definitely dropped. I’m waiting to see if Amazon ups the competition a little.

  15. Doug:

    We do have cable but only the basic and it leaves a lot to be desired. The tier I have Comcast will not even tell you exists. What we have done is supplement our entertainment with the dvd’s and cd’s from the library. Our branch has seven day lending for dvd’s and three weeks for cd’s. We can search for what we want and reserve it and receive an email when it shows up. We also have Netflix and found the selection has dropped and can fill those gaps at the library for free.

  16. Pat:

    I would absolutely LOVE to give up cable. I have talked about it for years now and really thought this was the year we would finally unplug. We already purchased our antenna and tried it out. What stopped us? That darn show – America’s Got Talent. Wonderful show I have to agree but we just can’t get that station in on our antenna no matter which way we turn it. Hubby isn’t ready to watch it the next day on Hulu so we are still stuck paying for cable. It is gonna happen though, that I am sure of.

  17. Perry:

    We just gave up Comcast Cable this month. We also purchased our own modem so we wouldn’t have to pay the $7 per month renal fee. Instead of Netflix, we’re doing Hulu Plus and Redbox ($1.20 per movie) for movies. We lowered our bill from $110 to $38 per month (including Hulu), saving us $864 per year! Some of the shows we used to watch on cable networks aren’t available on Hulu, but so far, we’re not missing them. It’s amazing how much more free time you have when you’re not spending it watching junky TV.

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