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How to cut the cable cord (and how much you will save)

May 7, 2013

In anticipation of our move to a new house, my husband blurted out something quite shocking.

"I think we should just drop cable."

Well, since I assumed cable television was necessary for his sports-watching hobby, and he assumed that I was beholden to "The Real Housewives" series, we had dutifully paid hundreds of dollars a month for something neither one of us really cared about.

(There's a lesson about marital communication in there, somewhere).

So we moved and left cable television behind.

Oh, sure, our neighbors and friends are a bit confused. We have received more than a few blank stares at the mention of an antenna. And, to be fair, we haven't yet lived through a football season without ESPN.

But for us, dropping cable (renegotiating a cell phone contract and eliminating our phone's landline) meant decreasing our bill from $490 to about $90 a month, which pays for high-speed Internet and one prepaid feature cell phone.

With three televisions in our home, which meant three high-definition boxes, and our premium package of channels, dropping cable alone netted a savings of at least $200 a month, without factoring in taxes.

And we're not the only ones cutting the cable cord.

Antennas Direct, an online antenna sales company, has seen sales double each of the last two years, a spokesman says.

In the first six months of 2012, Reuters reported that 400,000 American homes cut cable services. That number is a small percentage of cable subscribers, but it is a growing number.

Here's how we did it, and what you need to know before taking the leap yourself.

Equipment costs

The high-definition antenna we purchased cost $39.99 at Walmart.

You can check the signal strength of free-access stations at, a project sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters that allows viewers to research the signal strength at their house and determine which type of antenna would work best.

Homes near the Daily Press building on Warwick Boulevard in Newport News can receive up to 37 channels from 21 stations through an antenna, according to, including the ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and FOX networks and The CW and ION Television.

A small, multidirectional antenna would work well for those homes.

It is worth noting that television antennas would not be a reliable source of television for some less populated areas, like Gloucester County. According to, Gloucester residents in the ZIP code 23061 would not be able to receive a strong signal from any local stations. In this case, Internet streaming would be your only option, although it is possible an outside-mounted antenna could work.

For homes with multiple televisions, one antenna can be spliced to provide a signal for all of the TVs. This method will work best for homes within strong signal range.

Equipment to splice the antenna cable will cost about $10. A high-definition cable will cost about $5 on Most technology experts agree that more expensive HDMI cables do not yield better results.

If you have purchased a television within the past several years, you will not need any other equipment to get started. If you have an older television, you may need a digital converter, which can be purchased for as little as $20 or as much as $600.

The less expensive version should do the trick. New, high-definition flat-screen televisions can be purchased for $400 to $500 so there is little need to buy a $600 converter.

TV alternatives

If you can't live without your DVR or TiVo system or are an avid sports enthusiast, cable may have its hooks in you.

Still, there are plenty of other options for television programming if you want access to more than the local channels.

"We cut the cord also and don't miss it," says Carol Turner, of James City County. "We invested in a Roku that streams most Hulu shows and anything else you want from Internet. We love it."

A Roku device is the most popular equipment choice for streaming Internet shows to the television. It gives viewers access to television shows available on the Hulu streaming service, Netflix and other channels, like Disney's classic cartoons, HBO, NBA Game Time and Amazon Instant Video. For more information, go to

A Roku costs between $50 and $100. Best Buy offers a home networking service to help you set up your equipment correctly for $70 to $80.

Hulu, a streaming service that offers access to hundreds of television shows, costs $8 a month. A portion of the service is available for free.

Netflix, which offers access to movies and television shows, costs $9 a month.

Amazon Prime, which offers access to movies and television series, costs $79 a year, which averages about $6.50 a month.

The bottom line

If you cut out cable you will get far fewer channels on your television, and you will need to be somewhat technically savvy to access additional content on the Internet.

If you cut cable, you will miss out on some televised sporting events.

You also will save hundreds, or thousands of dollars every year, depending on your previous level of cable dependence.

For us, one HD antenna spliced to accommodate three televisions has worked beautifully. The picture is clear, the reception is good, and cutting out the lure of the TV has been quite freeing.

"I cut cable out completely when (my son) was 5 (years old)," says Suzi Israel, of Poquoson. "More than 16 years later I have no regrets. I subscribe to Netflix and watch series like 'Dexter' and others I enjoy. I believe (my son) Jacob was a better student and more creative because of it. I say, let it go, you will never miss it."

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