There are 6 ways to significantly reduce your cable bill (in order of easiest/greatest benefit first);
- Competition – In many areas cable companies enjoy a monopoly and you will pay significantly higher prices. If you are lucky to have a choice, I would recommend being willing to live with the hassle of changing providers rather than simply making false threats. I have switched providers to pay ~$60 a month. When the provider I had raised the price after a year and wouldn’t come back down, I switched providers.
- Landline – A traditional landline telephone can add $20-$40 a month. I switched to a free provider Google Voice. Basically you buy a $30 device and plug it in to your internet connection and you homes landline. The Obitalk device is discussed here here and is working free. 911 service is an additional $3 a month. Takes about an hour to setup and the quality is reasonable but not as good as a copper phone line.
- Reduce / Change Content subscriptions – I get the minimum cable TV package but do use other services like Netflix. I am also willing to buy shows ($3 ea. or $20 for a season pass) rather than have a regular cost. Don’t spend $50 a month on a bigger package just to get 2 shows that would cost you $40 a year.
- Rental fees – Modem/Router – Rental fees for cable boxes, cable modems, and DVRs quickly add up. I recommend purchasing the cable modem ($40-$60) rather than paying $5 a month. This is especially good if you switch providers as often a visit from a technician isn’t required.
- Rental fees – Cable TV Boxes – You can purchase an Apple TV ($150) for each TV rather than a cable box. But this alone does not give you access to over-the-cable live TV. You also need a way of getting live TV on your home network. The solution has been out for many years called HDHomeRun Prime ($150). It requires a CableCard from your cable company which in my case I do have to rent for $5 a month. Finally, you need an Apple TV app called Channels ($25). They sell a separate app for phone/iPad if you will to watch live TV on those devices.
- Rental fees – DVRs. I have written about this in the past but I am thrilled that there is a very good solution as of January 2017. Channels DVR is a separate piece of software that runs on any Unix variant (Mac, Linux, NAS like QNAP) that will independently record to the NAS/server. All controlled through the Apple TV although they do have a Web interface.
$76 – Monthly
$53 Cable TV & 50MB internet
$10 Netflix streaming (2 devices simultaneously)
$5 Rental of cable card (solution #5)
$8 DVR Program guide (solution #6)
~$50 to $500 One-time costs (depends on the number of solutions)
$50 OBiTALK VOIP adapter (solution #2)
$50 Modem for internet (varies by company) (solution #4)
$150 HDHomeRun Prime (solution #5)
$150 per TV Apple TV (solution #5)
$25 Channels TV app from Apple Online Store (solution #5)
$0-$300 – network attached storage (NAS), old computer or server (solution #6)
If $500 sounds like a lot, my cable company charged $20/month for a single DVR which is $240 annual. The more TV’s you have, the quicker the return on investment.
One downside to this arrangement is you can’t just call the cable company if something goes wrong. You need a mid-level technical understanding to install and maintain this arrangement. If you have the confidence to setup the system, you will be rewarded with fewer frustrating calls to the cable company.
Can I do this with a Roku or Amazon Firestick rather than an Apple TV? Maybe. The critical thing is having an app like Channels. There are some solutions of varying quality but I wouldn’t commit to them without good reviews.