Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Family's Frugal Extreme - Life Without Cable TV

Guest post by Laura from Frugal Friends in Northern Virginia

Our family doesn't have cable television. To most Americans, this probably sounds extreme.

Don't get me wrong, we still watch TV shows and movies and we truly don't feel deprived. We just made a decision to ditch cable when we first got married.

Now five years after saying "I do", we still choose to live without cable TV for a couple of reasons: 1. We honestly feel that there is more "junk" on TV and so many programs and movies that don't coincide with our values or are downright offensive to us (call us fuddy duddies if you like!). 2. We want to keep our bills low and cable is something we can live without. 3. With my husband's demanding work schedule and my duties in taking care of our home and child and some part-time work, we find we don't have time watch much TV.

When we do have time and want to watch a TV show or movie, we use one of the following resources, many of which you probably already use yourself:

1. Local Libraries
"Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries." Anne Herbert

I love this quote from Anne Herbert. Your local library is a wealth of information and resources and it's free; you just have to familiarize yourself with what it has to offer. My local library offers great books and digital media. My husband and I used Blockbuster online to rent DVDs early in our marriage and then I found out that my local library had many of the same new release DVD titles available to check out for free. Popular titles I am able to request on my library's online portal, and then I wait in queue until it's ready for me to pick up at my local branch. Be sure to check your local library to find out if there are extra fees for putting items on hold or intra-library loan.

2. Network TV websites
If you have a computer and Internet connection, you can watch full episodes of select shows on the main network TV websites.   In addition to current shows you can also watch classic TV shows.  NBC.com has a selection of TV Classics such as "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", "The A-Team", "Charles In Charge"  CBS.com has a selection of TV Classics such as "Family Ties", "MacGyver", "The Twilight Zone" and the original "Star Trek" series.  My husband and I also will occasionally check out TBS.com and HGTV.com to watch full episodes of shows.

3. Hulu.com
My husband and I watch some of our favorite TV shows on Hulu.com. Popular shows from the main networks are featured and they will usually keep up to 6 episodes from the current season. We're not tied to catching the show on the night it broadcasts on TV, we can watch it when it's convenient for us. Also, sometimes when we have trouble watching an episode on one of the main TV network websites (due to slow connectivity or problems with the site) we have found that we are able to watch the exact same episode on Hulu without any glitches.

4. Redbox Free Rental Codes
Redbox is a pretty popular movie rental service that has kiosks in many grocery stores and convenience stores. It is only $1 per night to rent a movie, and Redbox offers different free codes so sometimes you can rent movies for free.

5. Free Movies In Theaters
We get our summer fix of weekly children's films at our local cinema. Check your area to see if any theaters offer free movies (typically not new movies). In my area Regal Cinemas, Rave Motion Pictures and Phoenix Theaters offer free movies at 10:00am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for most of the summer.

6. Outdoor Film Festivals
You can also enjoy movies on the big screen under the stars at outdoor film festivals and summer events. In our area there are numerous free outdoor movie series offered, some at local parks, others in fields or in the parking lot of select shopping centers.

I hope that gives you some ideas of ways that my family has cut out our Cable and yet been able to enjoy TV shows and movies.

And now I have some questions for you readers...
For those of you frugal folks who get by without Cable: What are your favorite ways to watch TV shows or movies? Anything I missed that you'd recommend? Also, any tips for husbands who love sports but who have to live without ESPN (my husband would love to hear about it!)?

For those of you who can't bear to part with your Cable: Have you cut spending in other areas so that you can keep your Cable and favorite channels? Are there certain channels or programs that you can't bear to live without?

The beautiful part about aiming to live frugally, is that you are able to skimp and save in some areas and use your hard-earned money for things that matter to you and give you fulfillment.

Laura is a wife, mother and frugal blogger over at Frugal Friends in Northern Virginia where she shares deals and frugal tips for folks in the DC Metro area.


  1. We don't have cable, but still watch TV with over the air broadcast. We live out in the country so we had to get an antenna for our attic, but when we lived closer to the city we didn't need anything to get all the local broadcast channels. We get around 20 channels which gives us plenty of things to watch including sports.

  2. My husband and I dumped cable because it was costing over $80 a month and we hardly used it. Instead we got netflix, which is $10/month, and love it. They offer instant streaming of popular and new release Tv shows, movies, documentaries etc, and many more thru the mail. I'll also request movies through the library, or utilize Redbox also.
    The next big cost we're getting rid of is the cell phone - $70/month is way too much for something that always seems to have bad service!

  3. Yes, we use netflix, occasional redbox, and network tv. We also have over the air cable near a city, so some seasons we watch that heavily (football and fall tv shows). Hope they continue to keep over the air and internet shows free, it is sure better than $75-$100!

  4. I bought a FloTV....it cost $150 at Radio Shack....Special for the year costs $75 for service....usually $15/month....includes ESPN for your hubby!....Also has 19 other cable channels including Fox News, CNBS, & Disney....Solved all of our family desires for low cost....

  5. We watch the A-Team every week-night at 8pm on channel 7.3 (RTV)! We have a converter for the HD, and a Netflix subscription. We also have a tivo-like computer thing my brother assembled which can record 2 tv shows at once!

    My father misses out on sports, but he will watch them online instead.

  6. We have a ROKU player, which was $70 and is a Netflix ready device, you put things in your que and watch them on TV, so for the $70 investment and $8.95 a month we can watch thousands of things, the best part is there are no add's for toys on the kids programming and no DVDs to get back in their cases.

  7. Wow - thanks for all the comments, everyone! It's so interesting to read about all the technological options out there!

  8. Btw, we also do not have cable. We rely on our own videos and DVDs, Netflix, the library, Redbox, and occasionally Hulu.

  9. It's totally understandable that you're not getting any cable service, since you know that these alternatives are totally better, and I agree with you talking about outdoor movies, even though they are somewhat old. As an outdoor movie aficionado, I usually go to Denver parks and recreation centers to watch those movies with my family and friends.

    If you want something else and you live in Denver, summer concerts are cool alternative to TV.

  10. I actually just made this decision Saturday night to go without cable. I was trying to find ways to cut my expenses. I couldn't lower my cell bill and I didn't want to switch companies so when my cable went out on me Sat. night I was like you know what...spending $120/mo is not worth this. I normally watch shows & movies online anyway...so we'll see how long I can hold out. It's been 9yrs since I have had cable!

    Nice Blog!! I'm totally subscribing! love finding ways to save money! :-D


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