Trying to cut cable is like trying to quit smoking. You’ve been meaning to do it for years. You know exactly how much money you could save. You’re even getting disapproving looks from that 23-year-old neighbor…you know, the one who thinks it’s a disgusting habit that belongs in a previous century. But you still can’t deny how relaxing it is after a long, stressful day at work.
It’s time to get your cable nicotine patch. At FindTheBest, we’ve assembled five Quitting Cable Packages designed to wean you off the tube and into a happier, more affordable lifestyle.
Note: We’ll assume, conservatively, that basic cable costs about $60 per month (including fees), or $720 per year.
The Ultimate Couch Potato
Cost for all three: $291 per year
You save: $429 per year
So you still want to watch all the latest content, but you can’t stand the thought of staring at one more cable bill. Consider The Ultimate Couch Potato package, a pricey-but-comprehensive lineup that will fill nearly all of your movie, TV, and B-quality documentary needs.
The package starts with Netflix and Hulu Plus, an affordable tandem with the complementary strengths of selection (Netflix) and new releases (Hulu). Add in Amazon’s growing Instant Video content library, and you’ll be able to watch almost any popular show, as long as it’s not a brand new series on HBO. (Amazon Prime does give you access to older HBO shows, like The Wire and The Sopranos.)
Common objection: Amazon and Netflix seem to offer a lot of the same content: Is it really worth paying for both?
Answer: As a cable subscriber, you’re paying for 85 separate channels, 70 of which are garbage. If you’re paying for garbage 70 times over, you might as well pay for great content twice over.
Cost for all six: $0 per year
You Save: $720 per year
Let’s flip this around. Suppose you don’t care what you watch, as long as the TV stays on and the bills go away. Consider this Cheapskate collection of free (and legal!) services.
The headliner here is Hulu. A basic Hulu account gets you temporary access to a hodgepodge of popular TV series—like The Daily Show and The Bachelorette—as well as a whole mess of shows no one’s ever heard of. Grab a beer, flip open your laptop, and enjoy free access to the latest episode of Paranormal Home Inspectors.
Meanwhile, you might try clicking your way over to SnagFilms, Crackle, or PopcornFlix. They might sound like viruses waiting to happen, but in fact, they’re all legitimate online streaming sites with a handful of bizarre, low-budget films filled with bad acting and unintentional comedy.
Common objection: After watching 20 minutes of Hulu, I’ve seen the same Xbox commercial 17 times in a row. This is obnoxious.
Answer: You’re right. We’ve got nothing.
The Sports Fan
Cost: Ranges from about $35 to $175 per year, per sport
You Save: Anywhere from $680 (one sport) to about $205 (if you buy all of the above)
It’s the trump card in any cable company’s argument: sports. You’ll wait 24 hours to watch the latest episode of Mad Men. With sports, even a five-minute delay is unacceptable.
Fortunately, services like MLB.TV Premium, NHL Game Center LIVE, and NBA League Pass have begun to solve this problem. Provided you have a strong Internet signal and a streaming device (like a Roku or Apple TV), you can watch live games on your TV at about a third the cost of cable.
Unfortunately, restrictions and limitations abound. Most services will “black out” local teams so that customers won’t cancel their cable subscription, while the playoffs often require an additional fee. And then there’s the NFL. Sure, you can pay to stream preseason games or rewatch yesterday’s match, but to get live, regular-season action, you’re stuck with DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket or the local cable offerings.
Common objection: I’d watch more basketball/baseball, but they only ever show [terrible local team X] on cable.
Answer: Great! You’re the perfect sort of person (and perhaps the only sort of person) that will benefit from an online NBA/MLB service. You’ll get access to all those good teams you never get to see, and who cares if [terrible local team X] is blacked out. Cut the cord today!
The Modern Moviephile
Cost: About $50 for 12 movies per year, $150 for 36 movies per year
You Save: $570 – $670 per year
You’ve tried Netflix, but you’re tired of waiting a full year just to see Brad Pitt’s gorgeous hair mop from World War Z. The answer: online rentals. Each of the above services offer cheap rates (usually, $3-$5) for popular films mere months after their release. It’s just like those $19 in-room movies at the hotel, only not exorbitantly expensive. Meanwhile, SundanceNow offers a similar service for a whole catalog of indie films.
Common objection: Isn’t this a lot more expensive than Netflix or Hulu?
Answer: It depends on how much you watch. If you’re selective enough to pick a dozen movies per year, there’s no better option for watching recent releases in seconds.
The Time Traveler
Cost: $96 per year for Redbox, varies for Blockbuster (per rental)
You Save: $624 per year if you just get Redbox Instant
Maybe you’re nostalgic for the early 2000s—the days of video rentals and iPods, boxy TVs and DVD players, Blockbuster Videos and grocery store Redbox machines.
As it turns out, these brands are soldiering on (yes, even Blockbuster) in the form of online streaming services. If you’re the sort that likes to go down with the ship, or the type that dreams of reliving the Alamo, consider signing on for one of these last-gasp services. Who knows? Subscription rates might drop through the floor as these old vets cling to life.
Common objection: Blockbuster? Wasn’t this the company that put my favorite video shop out of the business, then promptly raised prices?
Answer: You’re right: Stick with Netflix.
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.