Frugal Living 

How to Cancel Your Cable TV Service

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Stranded Broken TelevisionWant to find a hundred bucks a month in savings without giving up all that much? Cancel your cable television service. That sounds absolutely crazy, right? When people look to trim the fat from the budgets, they often don’t think to cut out their cable television because it almost feels like a utility. Along with your electricity, your water, and your telephone is your television and internet. Who can live in this day and age without those necessities?

But it’s not that crazy. It’s not that crazy and thousands of people are doing this because of all the free video content on the Internet. Forget the homebrew shows that had their start on the Internet, I mean major broadcasting networks putting the shows on TV for free.

In this post, I’ll describe an approach to finding out if canceling your cable TV service is the right move.

Keep A TV Log

For an entire month, record every show that you watch and how you watched it. Did you watch it live or after you recorded it on your DVR? Did you watch it a day after it broadcast or a week? After a month, you should have a good idea of the shows you watch and how you watch them.

The point of a TV log is to find out how much you are watching TV and whether you can find alternatives elsewhere. Find out how much you’re paying per episode and you might be very very surprised. If you’re paying $100 a month for cable and watch four shows that air weekly, you’re watching 16 shows a month and paying $6.25 a piece. Even if you watched 8 shows, that’s 32 shows a month at $3.125 a piece. Do you follow eight shows?

Find Alternatives Online

Most networks put their most popular shows online, either at websites like or their own sites. Fox lets you watch 17 of their shows line, including House, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. ABC has thirty-four shows online. NBC has pretty much every one of their shows online at and Hulu (which was created by NBC Universal and News Corp). USA Network has six of their shows online (you can see them through too) and FX Network has five of theirs available (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!).

The only downside with watching television shows online is that oftentimes the networks will delay when you can watch it. For example, if you’re a fan of House, you can’t see the latest episodes until eight days after they are first broadcast on Fox. If you like Flash Forward, you will only be able to watch the last five episodes on Hulu.

Check each of your shows to see if they are shown online, chances are they will be. As for commercials, they are done faster than it takes you to skip through them on your DVR.

Use Netflix for Previous Season

Want to know why Lost was so popular but can’t watch it now because it’s too far in? Watch it streaming to your computer or TV – you can get the first four seasons instantly. Netflix isn’t free, the cheapest plan that gives you unlimited online viewing is $8.99 a month, but it’s far cheaper than cable television.

After I wrote my Netflix review, I was amazed at the number of readers who told me that they canceled their cable TV service and subscribed to Netflix. Here are just two of the more recent comments:


I’m a Netflix subscriber and proud of it! Four months ago I cancelled my $120-a-month cable plan. Now I pay $9-a-month on Netflix to watch all my favorite shows and movies. We connect the big-screen tv to our laptop and watch everything on demand right there. Who needs Tivo when you can watch shows instantly for $111 cheaper?


I’ve been viewing netflix and their imitators as an alternative to cable, which makes it a great deal. For a few dollars a month, I’ve replaced a bill that was over $40, and I can’t say I miss it.

Local News & Sports

The only thing you cannot get online, conveniently and prepackaged, is your local news and any sports programs. You can watch snippers of Sportscenter at but you can’t watch last night’s game or see the news. For this, you will want to buy an antennae that can capture television signals over the air.

Use AntennaWeb to find out what signals are available in your area and what type of antenna you’ll need to capture it. Then you’ll need to buy an antenna and plug it into your TV to get the local stations (make sure to point it in the direction AntennaWeb advises!). That’s the last issue solved!

Canceling your cable television may seem scary but think about what you’re be giving up… nothing (as long as you weren’t under contract). If you decide a few months into the experiment that you preferred to spend the money for cable television, you can always sign up and take advantage of new customer offers!

Have you canceled your cable and have some tips to share with other people looking to do the same?

(Photo: albany_tim)

{ 66 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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66 Responses to “How to Cancel Your Cable TV Service”

  1. eric says:

    I just completely dropped cable awhile ago and I’m kinda glad I did. I realize I don’t watch that much TV and I can catch most things online. Money and time saver. 🙂

  2. freeby50 says:

    This is good strategy and should work for most folks. If you can’t find all your programs for free then you could also consider buying select programs on iTunes or Amazon.

    Sports is the key thing that I can’t find elsewhere other than paid cable (or satellite). Hopefully the sports leagues will shift provide more PPV internet subscriptions so you can watch video online. But right now thats not an option for the teams we watch, so we’re stuck paying for cable if we want to watch our sports and for us its worth the cost.

  3. TexasT says:

    We have been doing this for about 6-8 months now, and it’s worked out well. Follow the journal on my blog. Very hard at first, but it has since been “normal” not having cable.

  4. Hywelda9 says:

    My husband and I did this last year and don’t miss cable – or that horrendous bill – at all! We located a Dish Network installer who got us the antenna and installed it ($120 for the antenna, $150 for installation). We had done what you suggested – kept a log – and discovered that we watched one local station and the PBS stations (we receive 3 in our area) 90% of the time. The guy even hooked up the converter boxes for us (free with the government coupon), and our old TV’s work absolutely fine. We even called him a few months later to replace a little dinky TV we had in the kitchen with a smaller HD TV. We now receive over 35 stations over the air for free. I don’t miss that bill at all!

  5. DMG says:

    We are an older couple, just celebrated our 3rd anniversary and we’ve had a lot of financial issues to get through. The 1st to go was the cable, we actually went without cable, didn’t even have tv antenna or vcr/dvd to watch movies for almost 4 years. I know the first two years we missed it all very much, but after awhile we got used to people telling us whatever news was important for the day or week and as for movies, our theory is that we’ll have an abundance of options to watch in our retirement years. We have digital tv with an antenna now and it’s fine. It’s nice to watch TV after so long without, but we can go for hours and sometimes days without even putting it on. Last summer we bought a small portable dvd player because of a college class project so now we can borrow movies from our local libraries. I doubt we’ve really missed anything and our financial future is so much better than it was 4.5 years ago, it’s been worth all the sacrifice!

  6. James says:

    Since Alec Baldwin and a few of his buddies got Hulu on the map and since my Dish bill seems to grow with misc. taxes hits, I am thinking the new offering from Blastoff Network is going to make a heavy dent in cable and sat TV market share. On demand Video (I luv 24) will be the bomb and since bandwidth is no longer the issue, its more likely than ever.

  7. Whether or not to cancel cable is a frequent discussion that my husband and I have. It makes sense for us to keep it because it keeps us from spending money on more expensive entertainment like going to the movies.

  8. Rosa Rugosa says:

    We cancelled our cable 4 or 5 years with no regrets.

  9. Watching TV is an addictive habit. It lulls you so that shortly you don’t realize what drech it is! After you’ve been off television for a few weeks or months, it is weird to sit down and turn on your old favorites. You find yourself wondering what on earth you ever enjoyed about the stuff.

  10. Dan says:

    I would cancel my cable service, but I would miss the porn. I can’t find porn on the Internet.

  11. BrianC says:

    I’ve been without a TV for so long I couldn’t stand to pay for it now. The only things I watch are occasional DVDs from the library on my laptop.

  12. anthonyvogl says:

    Does anyone know a way to connect a laptop to a television set? I’d hate to crowd around my small computer screen to watch something on hulu with my wife when we could just plug the two together.

  13. Kevin says:

    HD sports are the only thing keeping me away from dropping cable/dish. I Miss the old days of having sports available on the network channels, available to all w/ antennas.

  14. Tina says:

    LONG time follower, 1st time commenter. THIS IS THE BEST INFO EVER!!! I’m a single mom of 3 living financially FREE and cable has been one that I have ditched in the bucket. My kids (13,11,5) are only permitted to watch TV Friday-Sunday so cable isn’t a huge deal, yet they enjoy Disney and Nick. Well, six months out of the year we had it because Comcast would run a $19 special. Well, ironically, this Nov. the special was up and I cancelled it. THe kids will be so HAPPY to know they can watch the shows they enjoy online. Thank you! I’m passing this on to others!

  15. saladdin says:

    Just pulled an old desktop that I haven’t used in a year and set it up to stream netflix/hulu to my tv as a “permanent” streaming device. I;m going to see how much use I get out of it and then decide on cutting the cable down.


    • mikestreb says:

      You have a PS3, wii, or xbox360?

      This software will stream hulu over your ethernet/wifi to the above game systems. It is only $40, and you can try it for 2 weeks before you have to buy it.

      Might be better than leaving a PC on by your TV all the time (save on your electricity bill maybe?)

      Also, how ‘old’ is the desktop? You get too old and the streaming gets choppy.

  16. Wilma says:

    Haven’t had cable for 14 years. I refuse to pay for TV. Ever since the switch to digital, I haven’t bought an antenna so I can’t watch TV at home. Don’t miss it. I have internet to read mag and news articles. Watch football and racing when I can find it. It’s just not that important to watch TV. Would rather redirect that money else where.

    • saladdin says:

      Let’s not go crazy here. If you are watching shows/sports on the computer that’s not any different then watching TV. You still have to pay for a computer and connection each month.


      • Soccer9040 says:

        AGREE! I’m in to saving $$$ but to certain extremes.

      • Wilma says:

        I’m paying $30 to surf the net, read magazines and news papers, watch videos and watch regular TV. Savings? You betcha. No news paper or magazine clutter laying around. At 75 cents a paper and about $3 a magazine, that adds up. No cable bill added on to my internet bill in the form of a bundle package that I hear people crying that the cable company messes with every month. How can you charge $110 one month and $150 the next on a $99 triple play bundle package? I pay $30 a month whether I watch TV on my computer or not. Plenty of free radio streams to listen to as well. Don’t have to buy XM or Sirius. It’s not going to extremes to try to save a buck. The economy is geared to make you spend money at every turn. It’s up to you how far you want to go with your spending. My purse isn’t bottomless. If I want something extra, I must be creative in getting it. For example: No cable bill means $70 to $100 I can have to go out to a nice meal or a movie or towards a large purchase. Being smart with your money equals confidence in knowing you will be able to pay your bills and be comfortable in your home.

  17. I would love to take the plunge and ditch it, but sports is one of the only things that I could not give up, especially during football season.

  18. daemondust says:

    I wish I could cancel my cable, but it’s included in my rent whether I plug something into the jack or not. Even with a good inside antenna I can only pick up the local PBS station and over a dozen religious channels. The only show I care to watch that I can’t stream online is “The Big Bang Theory”. I’m amazed no one offers this streamed, but I guess CBS thinks it would take away from their broadcast audience given the show’s target.

  19. otipoby says:

    Their is even a cheap alternative to a DVR. If you have a computer with Windows Home Premium (Vista or Win7), you can but a tuner, plug into your PC and used Media Center to record shows. If you want to go with the free network shows, get an HD HomeRun from Silicon Dust ($135), which has 2 tuners (record two shows at once for free). You can either plug the PC into your TV or even better, if you have an XBOX 360, you can stream the shows to your TV in extender mode and use the controller as a remote.
    I have cable and record up to 4 HD stations at a time and stream to 2 XBOXs and it works great. This is the most underused feature of Windows.

  20. judy says:

    my tv & internet are billed together when I called the cable company about cancelling just my tv service I was told that because I had tv & internet I rec’d a discount on bill..if I cancelled the tv portion, when the discount is removed I would end up paying almost the same amount for just my internet…what a scan! If I could do without the internet or someone else serviced my area I’d be gone. I need the internet for my work.

  21. Liberty says:

    With digital television signals, you cannot simply buy an over-the-air antenna and plug it into the back of your set, as you did in analog TV signal days. Now you have to buy a box that translates the analog signals to digital signals.
    The box is $80, but is probably worth it.

    • Soccer9040 says:

      $40 dollars at every Wal-Mart in the country. Get your government coupon and it is almost free. If you have to spend $80 then someone is scamming you. It is as simple as buying and over the air converter and plugging it into your TV.

  22. Matt says:

    Last June I decided to cancel my cable service. I was watching about 1 to 2 hours of television a day. Most of the shows I enjoy were available online. Then netfilx has the watch it now option, I bought a box from roku which enables me to watch movies instantly on my television. Now I spend 16.99 a month for television while I still receive 3 dvd’s at a time. In the last 6 months I have saved about $500. The box from roku ran about $99. I do have satellite radio where I can get local news and other shows I like to hear. Total cost is 16.99 plus 12.99 for xm/serius. I really enjoy pocketing the $85 a month in savings from not having cable.

  23. Matt says:

    I forgot to mention, I also called the phone company and let them know I was not interested in having a land line anymore. they offered me free internet service for a year if I did not cancel my land line, since I had my internet service through qwest.

  24. David says:

    You can watch cable shows for free online and you can watch movies online too, so Netflix is a waste of money as well.

    How much does cable cost?
    $60/month invested at 12 percent, COMPOUNDED monthly after 24 years is $100,362.

    Check out the savings calculator to see for yourself if I am making stuff up.

    So would you cancel cable to get over $100 grand?

  25. Richard says:

    We had been wasting $85 per month on Comcast Cable when we decided that the next time it went up even one cent we’d drop to basic service. In March, 2010, we made a guess that it would go up so we downgraded to basic for about $15 per month. Sure enough, we got a letter 3/25 that they were raising what had been our old rate by $3 per month. We were thrilled to have beat them to the punch.

    I’m an attorney for a boutique private bank. I’ve seen the habits of people who are worth millions and have learned from talking to them how they got there. They got there by not wasting a dime, foregoing short term pleasures for long term gain, by investing instead of spending. You can never make money by spending it.

    Over a lifetime, you don’t lose $1 million by misplacing it. You lose it $50 at a time, buying things you don’t need and will throw away. Or by paying Comcast for worthless programs peppered with commercials and reruns of the same films. Cancel or downgrade cable today and invest the money in your retirement plan. You can bet that’s where Roberts and the other Comcast executives put the money they drain from you each month.

    Good Luck. Change your habits today and don’t wake up one day at age 50 or 60, having earned a lot of money, with nothing to show for it but old Comcast bills and a bunch of receipts from restaurants and bar rooms.

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