Budget-friendly and free alternatives to cable


✔ Monthly cable bills can be expensive with some packages costing as much as $200/month. But there are alternatives to cable.  

✔ Popular streaming services can cost less than cable and offer free trial periods before you have to commit to a regular subscription.

✔ There are many free (and legal) alternatives to cable from streaming to public libraries.

If you are looking for ideas to reduce some of your basic household expenses, you may want to consider taking a look at your monthly cable bill. The average cost of cable can range anywhere from $300 a year for a basic starter package, to over $2,400 for a premium one. So if you are thinking about cutting the cord or looking for more affordable forms of entertainment here are some budget-friendly and free alternatives to get started.

Paid streaming services

Specialized streaming services let you watch a range of shows, movies, and live events on demand. There are a range available, each offering a different monthly subscription cost so it’s best to do your homework to see what’s right for you and your budget. Popular services like Netflix and platforms like YouTube may be enough to keep everyone entertained.  

Some cable providers offer bundled streaming packages that combine channels and a library of shows for less than premium cable but you have to do the math and make sure that bundling is cheaper. Many offer a free trial for a few months so you can see if it’s the right option for you at no cost. 

Tech tip: Mark your calendar for a few days before any free trials or promotions end. This gives you time to cancel if you don’t want the service.

Free streaming 

There are free (and totally legal) streaming services that offer access to a wide range of programming. You may have to watch commercials and the content might not be brand new but it could be worth it. For example, PlutoTV has more than 250 unique live channels that stream content. And Tubi offers a wide range of movies and shows for free in exchange for putting up with ads. 

Tech tip: Streaming eats up a lot of data. So if you have a cap on the amount of data you can consume, keep a close eye on it to ensure you don’t incur any overage charges. Or switch to a plan with no cap.

Digital Antenna

Antennas allow anyone to access over-the-air channels in high-quality resolution for free. Since most popular channels broadcast over the new over-the-air standard for broadcasts, called ATSC 3.0, there are far more viewing options these days. Finding the best antenna for your needs comes down to where you live and your budget. In urban centres, where reception is best, a simple antenna may do the job. In more rural areas, an attic or outdoor model may be needed to pull down a strong signal. The upfront cost of a digital antenna depends on the type of device, and whether or not you install it yourself. Weigh the one-time cost of buying an antenna against the ongoing cost of cable to see if you’ll come out ahead. 

Tech tip: Ask about the return policy when you buy your antenna. Most retailers let you return items if you aren’t happy. Buy what you think you need, try it, and experiment with other models until you find the one that’s right for you and your location.

Use your public library

Canada’s public libraries have free DVDs and offer a free streaming service called Kanopy. It lets you stream classic cinema, indie films and top documentaries to your computer, phone or tablet.

It’s free and all you need is: 

Here’s everything you need to get started with Kanopy and start enjoying free access to great entertainment. 

You can also access full-text articles from major Canadian newspapers and several Toronto community newspapers. So there’s another subscription you could cancel. 

Whichever cost-cutting alternative to cable you choose, you’ll not only enjoy being entertained during your downtime you’ll also be saving money. It’s a win-win.

Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice on any subject matter.

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