Finances & Money Frugality

How we save money on watching TV

If you search on Google right now for “free tv shows” or the like, you’ll find tons of articles already written about the hoard of free or cheap methods for getting broadcast, cable and internet-only programming streamed to your computer. But here at Clever Dude, I like to talk about myself, so I’m going to outline the methods we use for wasting away our life in front of the TV.

Just a few years ago, all we had was network channels (FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS), but in 2007, we were tempted by the Comcast devil and took their offer for “free digital cable”. It wasn’t entirely free as we had to pay the rental fee for the digital box and remote, plus a bit in taxes, but it all amounted to maybe $5 a month in addition to our existing $20/mth bill.

Cable Cost: $25/mth

I want to be clear here though. We don’t have “extended” or “expanded” cable, which normally costs about $35 extra per month. The digital box really only gave us a couple more PBS channels, but the real benefit was OnDemand. The OnDemand provided tons of free shows from channels we otherwise couldn’t access like Discovery, Food, Travel, Science, A&E and even scores of free movies (usually older than 5-10 years). While we were at the whim of the programmers to determine what recorded shows which we could access, we almost always had something fresh we could watch from the lineup. Also, we could pause/FF/rewind shows similar to a DVR (but it wasn’t a DVR so we couldn’t record live shows).

Changes to our channel lineup

In the summer of 2009, during a visit by my family, we accidentally learned that our digital cable was providing us with more than just PBS shows now. Now we get up to channel 100 as part of the Comcast Digital Start Package (or at least I think it’s part of it), which includes many of the channels we could previously only watch through OnDemand. While we don’t get channels I like such as Science or BBC America, we get almost all the others, and still for just $25 per month.

Watching Internet Shows/Videos through Laptop

I never posted about it yet, but I did buy a new flatscreen TV as my reward for finishing my masters degree (although I’m still working for a higher grade in one class). I’ll tell you about the deal I got on the TV some other time. But when I got the new TV, I also decided to buy PC audio and video cables. Since our old “free” laptops only have the VGA ports, I bought a 10′ VGA cable and a 12′ audio cable that plugs directly into the PC port on the TV. And I’ll say that although it’s not HD, it’s a great picture.

Since we don’t get BBC America, thus we don’t get Top Gear, I watch Top Gear via YouTube, whenever each episode gets posted. We also watch shows on such as Heroes (which is now on OnDemand for free) and since we’re Netflix subscribers (about $15/mth), we’ve been watching a few movies streamed over the interweb. Since we only get 2 movies out at a time, it’s good to have the option to watch something else if you’d like without leaving your home or paying extra (even if it’s just $1 at Redbox).

And since we have such a clear picture of the laptop on a big TV, the wife and I can also go over the finances together without having to huddle around a laptop screen!

So that’s basically what we do for TV entertainment. We also have a Wii, which looks great on a big TV if you get the upgraded Wii component cable.

Total Monthly Cost: $40 per month for cable and Netflix.

That’s much better than the $100+ that people spend for cable, HD channels, movie channels, a DVR or two, plus all the rentals via Netflix, etc!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • May I ask,.. Do you bundle? Either way, how much do you pay for your phone (land line only) if you have one, and your internet?

    See, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with our TV situation. Right now we have DirecTV (which I hate with a passion), but thankfully our contract expires next month. I’m planning on switching to Charter because it’s the only other service out here without keeping some sort of dish – not to mention, no contract required. I’ll be getting a better deal through Charter with more services included, but I’m still paying over $100/month for all three services (TV, Phone, & Internet). I know there are more areas in each service that I can pare down (reducing bandwith, basic cable, minimal [or no] phone service), but each time I think that the one payment of $125, I think that it’s not too bad for all three services.

  • @Rob, we don’t have a home phone anymore. We used to have Vonage, but we canceled that and now we just have cellphones. We downgraded our plan, but still only use half our minutes (although we use a lot of InNetwork (free) minutes).

    For internet, I use Comcast, but I got a deal for $30/mth for a year (actually I got them to extend the discounted price that I had for a year prior).

  • Wii just came out (or is coming out) with an app that allows you to get your netflix straight from your Wii.

    Also, if you are looking for premium chans there are a TON of websites for it, but we don’t have to go over them here lol

  • I also hate the Comcast monopoly. I call them every 6 months and get them to lower our prices. This has helped us save thousands over the last few years. When they finally stop giving us the discounts I expect we’ll cancel cable and just keep their Internet service. Even with cable, we still find ourselves watching HULU, Netflix via the Xbox etc. It wouldn’t kill us to lose cable tv all together but with the discounts they are giving us, it just doesn’t make sense to cancel.

  • I get an even better trick to save money on the TV (idiot box as i call them), sell it and do something useful with your time…

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