Cutting the Cord: Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Cable

Date posted: Jan. 27, 2017
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Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Cable

Photo Credit: Jens Kreuter
 

Did you know that the average Canadian spends a whopping $191 per month on a landline, the internet, and cable or satellite? That’s $2,292 per year or $11,460 over five years. With costs like that, it’s not surprising that Canadians are cutting their landline and cable lines left and right, and opting for a lighter entertainment package that doesn’t cost as much as a car payment.

Personally, I said goodbye to cable in 2009 when I was a poor university student without the means to shell out hundreds of dollars per month on entertainment, and I cut my landline in 2011 once I realized I could link my apartment buzzer to my cell phone.

Today the average Canadian stands to save $53 per month if they cut their cable or satellite subscription out of their budget. That is a nice chunk of savings you could route towards debt or savings. For example, if you opted to invest that $53 per month at a 5% return, you’d have $44,367. While that’s not enough to retire on, it’s a great start!

If you’re nervous about cutting the cord, you aren’t alone. In fact, as more and more Canadians opt for less expensive and more versatile alternatives to cable, a whole industry has sprung up with the purpose of helping technically challenged people to go cable free. For those who want to take the do it yourself approach, there have never been more options for alternative entertainment. Back when I got rid of my cable subscription in 2007, Netflix was still a DVD subscription service, and YouTube hadn’t yet reached its peak.

Today, there are several options for entertainment that don’t involve spending hundreds of dollars a year. Let’s have at two of the most popular (and legal) options below.

Netflix

Netflix is probably the first alternative to cable that comes to mind because it has become a staple in so many Canadian homes. Netflix is an inexpensive alternative to cable. At just $7.99 per month it gives you access to hundreds of movies and popular television shows. You do need the internet to stream Netflix, and a smart TV, computer, or another gaming system to host the app.

Digital Antenna

One of the biggest drawbacks of most online streaming services is that you don’t get access to live news from CBC, Global or CTV. Not having access to these channels means you’ll miss out on live events like the Olympics and the Oscars. Fortunately, there is an option to have those channels without paying the high prices of cable, or even the slightly lower prices of the new “skinny” cable packages that many companies are obligated to provide.

Remember those old-timey rabbit ears that provided snowy or ghostly access to key channels? Now that most channels are broadcasting in high definition there is a new, much more reliable way to access them: a digital antenna. With a digital antenna, you can pick up reliable high definition signals to up to 35 Canadian and US channels – for free! There are different versions of digital antennas that pick up a different number of channels. Some can be mounted in a nearby window to pick up a few channels while you must mount others on the roof to pick up dozens of channels.

How much you spend is up to you, but the upside is that it’s a one-time cost so you can strike that cable cost from your monthly budget forever.

Unfortunately, other popular digital streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime aren’t yet available in Canada, although that doesn’t mean you can’t gain access to them. With a little clever Googling Hulu and Amazon Prime are within your reach as well.

There is one thing to keep in mind when you switch to streaming services over cable: you’ll consume much more data on your internet service than before. 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. Alternatively, you can switch to a plan with no cap.

Happy streaming!

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