Ditch Your Cable
Cable providers keep upping their prices and taking away more channels at every turn. If you're fed up with it, it may be time to end the relationship. With all the new options out there, ditching your cable has never been easier or more beneficial. Put the following tips to work, and you'll save hundreds of dollars each year and have more to watch than ever before:
Switch to an Antennae
In the past, using an antenna meant resigning yourself to bad reception and few channels, but that's no longer the case.
Now that TV signals have gone digital, HDTV reception is often better with antennae than with cable (really). And local television has gotten a lot better, too. Many networks now offer two or three channels of programming, so you could have 20 or more channels to choose from.
Turned off by the idea of attaching antennae to your flat screen? Then, get outdoor antennae. It'll stay out of sight, and your reception will be even better.
To see what channels are available in your area, visit antennaeweb.org. Enter your address or zip code, and the site will also show you what type of antennae is recommended for your area.
The Internet is a treasure trove for free and cheap movies and shows. Invest a small amount in a streaming device to connect your TV to the Internet, so you can take advantage of everything that's out there. There are lots of solid options when it comes to streaming devices, so just go with the one that works best with your needs and budget.
Here are several ways you could go:
An HDMI Cable - This is the least fancy option, but also the cheapest. Just pick up an HDMI cable (or fish one out of your junk drawer), hook one end to your TV, the other end to your computer, and whatever's on your computer screen will be displayed on your TV screen.
Cost: $10 or less
Chromecast - Think of this as the wireless version of the HDMI cable. You plug a flash drive-sized device into one of the HDMI ports of the back of your TV, download a bit of software to your computer smartphone or tablet, and then you're all set to send shows from your Internet-enabled device to your TV.
A Gaming System - If you have a recent gaming system, you may already have the perfect streaming option. Wii, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One all come equipped with built-in wi-fi. So do earlier versions (like PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). Streaming through these devices is free -- except in the case of Xbox, which requires a $60 a year membership to Xbox Live Gold.
Cost: Free, if you already have one of these gaming consoles; otherwise the cost of the system
Apple TV - If you're a fan of Apple products, Apple TV may be the winner. Just plug the little Apple TV box into the wall, attach it to your TV with an HDMI cable, and you're all set to stream content through the box or to pull and stream any content that you have on your Apple devices.
Roku - Plug the Roku box into your wall and TV; add it to your wireless network; and you're all set to stream, using the included remote, or streamline the experience by turning your phone or tablet into a Roku remote.
Cost: $50 to $100, depending on the model you choose
A Blu-Ray Player with Wi-Fi - Purchase a Blu-Ray player with built-in wi-fi, and use it to stream shows and movies. This is a good option if you don't want to clutter up your entertainment center with a bunch of devices. With this one device, you can watch DVDs, Blu-ray disks and stream all of your online favorites. Just be sure to buy a player that says it has built-in wi-fi. This means it'll be ready to go right out of the box. Wi-fi enabled Blu-ray players to require an extra card to connect to the Internet (and in the end are a more costly way to go).
Cost: $78 and up
TV with Wi-Fi - More and more TVs are rolling out with built-in wi-fi. This means you can connect to the Internet without attaching anything else to your TV. Definitely appealing, if you're in the market for a new TV, but probably not enough reason to spring for a new set otherwise.
Cost: Free, if you already have a TV with wi-fi, otherwise the cost of a new TV
Where to Find Shows and Movies to Stream
If you're new to streaming, start with free content providers like Hulu and Crackle. The have thousands of shows and movies available for viewing, so you may find that you have more than enough to watch without forking over any money for subscriptions.
Want access to more movies and complete seasons of shows? Then, consider subscribing to Amazon Prime ($99 a year) or Netflix ($7.99 a month). Both offer a free 30-day trial, so you can test them out before you commit to anything.
To get the best price on everything that you stream, go to canistream.it; enter the name of the show or movie that you want to watch; and it'll pull up the current selling price at all the various streaming services.
Get Your Sports Fix
Hanging on to your cable for ESPN and all of the other sports networks? You can buy streaming packages for those, too. Mlb.tv offers a free game of the day and yearly subscriptions for $109.99. For hockey junkies, there's NHL GameCenter Live at $99.95 a year, and for basketball fans, there's the NBA League Pass, which starts at $99 ($69, if you opt for the mobile version).