Cutting your cable TV subscription seems like an obvious way to save money. Cancel the service, subscribe to a couple of streaming video providers, and money will pour into your pockets, right?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. The only way to determine if canceling or keeping cable is the right move for you is to consider your specific needs as well as the limitations of streaming services and cable subscriptions. We’ve broken down the costs of streaming services and specific ways you can save money on your existing cable service so you can make an informed decision about whether cutting the cord is right for you.
Costs of Streaming Services
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have their perks — exclusive original content, for example — but their limitations may not make the perceived cost savings worth it.
Multiple subscriptions. The premise of streaming services’ a la carte offerings is alluring: pay for only what you want when you want it. While it’s true that individual streaming services cost less than most basic cable subscriptions, combining services can add up quickly. To get the shows you want when you want them, you may need to subscribe to multiple services — and potentially exceed what your monthly cable TV bill costs now. Even if you subscribe to multiple streaming services, you still may not be able to access all the channels and shows you’re used to with cable.
Internet connection. Streaming services give you the convenience of anytime, anywhere access to your favorite shows — but only if your Internet connection can handle it. If your Internet service is too slow or prone to outages, your shows may suffer from long buffering times or refuse to play altogether. To get the quality you want, you may have to upgrade your Internet service, which will add to your monthly bill. Netflix recommends a minimum of 5 Mbps for HD quality shows, and if you’re planning on using the Internet for more than streaming one show at a time, you’ll need even faster speeds.
Streaming devices. If you don’t mind watching all your shows on your small smartphone or laptop screen, you’re fine. But if you want the full effect of watching TV on a television screen, your costs may increase. Devices like Roku and Chromecast allow you to “cast” from a laptop or other connected device to a larger screen, but those gadgets cost extra and may require a monthly subscription as well.
Access to sports. Streaming services are great for binge-watching a show but not so great for watching sports. Without a cable TV subscription, your live sports-viewing options are extremely limited. ESPN, NFL Network, MLB Network, and the Golf Channel don’t offer standalone apps, and it can get complicated to manage which sports are available through which apps — which are themselves often limited to specific carriers.
Ways to Save on Cable
Replacing cable with streaming services may not be the best way to save money, but there are several ways you can lower your cable TV bill.
Take inventory. First, take an inventory of the channels and shows you watch regularly. If you can drop some of the premium channels you don’t watch or switch to a lower-tier cable package, you can see significant cost savings on your monthly bill.
Negotiate a better price. If letting go of any channels isn’t an option, research other cable providers in your area and see if they can offer you a similar package for a better price. Armed with the knowledge of a better deal with a different company, you can call your current provider to negotiate a better price. Many companies will offer upgrades, discounts, and other incentives to keep you as a customer.
Bundle your services. Bundling your TV, Internet, or phone services can keep even more of your money in the bank every month. Most cable providers have package deals that can save you money on each service.
Cutting the cable cord could save you money, but do your homework before making a final decision. Consider all the costs, savings, and limitations of both streaming and cable services. Sometimes, the cord is your more cost-effective option.