Everyone wants to save money, and, as a result, cable TV services often end up on the chopping block. There are definite benefits to having a cable TV subscription — live sports, local news shows, and dozens of channels at your fingertips can be hard to pass up — but for many, cutting the cord has become a very real temptation. The cable industry is feeling the effects of this trend, pulling record low numbers over the last few years.

Given that the average national cable TV bill is creeping up to $100 per month, an $8 Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription likely sounds pretty appealing. However, the real savings from quitting cable may not be as fantastic as they seem — there’s more to the equation than just preferred programming. Read on to find out if and when it’s worth it to cut your current cable subscription.

 

What Do I Like to Watch?

Before you cancel any services, sit down and make a list of your favorite shows. If you tend to watch local programming and shows from a few basic networks like CBS and NBC, an over-the-air (OTA) antenna setup may be a better and cheaper alternative than cable, as long as you can get a strong enough signal. Or, if you want more specialty-network content but aren’t picky about waiting to catch up on shows, then you might be able to swap cable for streaming with few issues.

However, if you absolutely must know what happened on the latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” religiously follow live sports, and watch a lot of premium content, then an antenna or streaming service may not be the best choice. At the end of the day, non-cable options are more limited in terms of variety and scheduling, so a cable subscription is essential for voracious viewing habits.

 

Will My Internet Support My Streaming?

If you decide to start streaming shows, be aware that you’re going to need a strong Internet connection to keep up with the data usage. You’ll want to make sure that your Internet service provider (ISP) offers a high-bandwidth option, and you should also consider any data caps that may affect your usage. Most providers have some stand-alone Internet options that will be able to affordably sustain moderate streaming.

For consumers who need premium Internet speed and the ability to connect several streaming devices, though, there’s at least one major benefit to keeping a cable subscription: service bundles. Cable companies tend to deeply discount Internet offerings in bundled packages, so if you want the best deal on fast Internet, it might be worth keeping the cord and considering your local providers’ bundled plans.

 

What Does Cutting the Cord Really Cost?

When devices are compatible and connectivity isn’t an issue, streaming services are pretty affordable. That’s a big reason that the latest generation of cable-less viewers, sometimes called “cord-nevers,” are so partial to Internet viewing — they’re already on top of the most recent technological developments. And once the devices are taken care of, the only monthly expenses to worry about are Internet and streaming subscriptions.

If you’ve had the same old TV setup for the last 10 years, on the other hand, you may be in for some sticker shock if you do cut the cord. One recent Forbes contributor found that his first-year costs to eliminate cable and upgrade his devices for optimal streaming totaled over $2,000. That’s a substantial jump from what most users would spend on a year of cable. So if your current setup will require multiple upgrades for streaming, make sure you understand those costs before you make the leap — it may be more economical to stick with your set-top box and pay-TV subscription.

 

Ultimately, whether or not you decide to cut the cord comes down to your personal usage needs and your ability to establish alternative means of entertainment. Do your homework to find out the real costs of switching to streaming, and look into some local cable providers to see if you can find an Internet plan or bundled package that’s right for you.