5 Steps to Cutting the Cord: A Guide to Canceling Cable

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Are you tired of paying $80 or $100 per month to your local cable company for the three networks you watch, and for hundreds you don’t? You’re not alone: Hundreds of thousands of people canceled their cable or satellite TV subscriptions in 2010, and many use Netflix, Hulu & Co. as a cheaper and more convenient ways to get their TV fix.

Making that call to your cable company can admittedly be scary. However, there are plenty of options out there to get TV programming. Give them a try, and you might find that you’ll not only save money, but also watch TV on your own terms.

We compiled a list of five steps to help you ease into your cable-free future. Follow them, and you’ll be a happy cord cutter in no time:

1. Get an antenna

Watch this video to learn how a simple $12 antenna can get your free HD TV.

Let’s face it: We all like to sit back and flip through the channels sometimes, and we also like to watch our local news to keep up with what’s going on in our community. That’s what over-the-air TV is for. Rabbit ear antennas may bring back memories of snowy pictures on your grandmother’s TV, but a lot has change since the transition to digital broadcast in 2009. Viewers nowadays have access to dozens of channels, many of which are broadcast in full HD. And we’re not talking about those crummy compressed HD pictures you’re used to seeing from your cable TV provider.

Reception can vary depending on where you live, but oftentimes, a simple $12 antenna is enough to receive stunning HD TV. Check out the antenna episode of Cord Cutters to learn more, and then just go out and buy one to give it a try.

2. Find content online

Chances are, most of your favorite shows are available online.

Are you a fan of Modern Family, Glee, NCIS or even the Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Well, you’re in luck: All of those shows are available as complete episodes online, oftentimes 24 hours after they’ve aired on TV. Broadcasters like NBC, ABC and Fox have been making most of their content available through Hulu.com, and many shows can also be found on websites like CBS.com.

Don’t want to deal with the hassle of hunting down individual episodes? Then simply use a video search site like Clicker.com or Sidereel.com that will direct you straight to the videos you want to watch.

And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and check out Netflix if you haven’t done so already. The subscription service not only offers instant access to thousands of movies, but has recently added more and more TV content, including episodes of Saturday Night Live the day after they air on NBC.

3. Connect your TV

We've been reviewing many devices to get Internet content on your TV. Check out this video for our personal picks.

Watching videos from Hulu or Netflix on your PC is nice, but you didn’t buy that big LCD TV for nothing, right? Thankfully, there are tons of devices today to get all sorts of Internet-delivered video goodness on your TV screen. In fact, you may even already own one or two: Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3 are both excellent video players, and most Blu-ray players also offer access to Netflix as well.

Devices like the Roku player, the Boxee Box or the Apple TV go further in offering access to even more video sources — and with prices starting at $60, some of these quickly pay for themselves once you cancel cable.

Choosing the right device for yourself is a matter of personal preference as well as a question of the type of content you’re into. Check the links to the right for a more detailed look at each device.

4. Learn from others

Sometimes, cutting the cord starts with a trip to Home Depot. Read more about how people like you have canceled cable in our Survival Stories.

The tough thing about cord cutting is that there’s no one single solution that works for everyone. A hardcore sports fan doesn’t have the same needs as a movie buff. The good news is that there are already tons of people out there that have come up with their very own cable- or satellite-free TV experience. So if you want to figure out the best alternatives to pay TV, talk to cord cutters, and learn from their experiences. We have been featuring some of them in our weekly Cord Cutters Survival Stories series, and we are going to launch additional ways to connect with each other soon.

5. Make the call

Getting an antenna and watching TV through Hulu and Netflix can be a good test run for cord cutting, but at some point, there’s really no way around it: You have to call your cable or satellite TV company, and stand your ground.

Cord cutting isn't just about saving money.

Chances are, your pay TV provider doesn’t want to lose you, so they’re going to offer you a really sweet retention package. Maybe you could get six months of introductory pricing, or maybe three months of HBO. Some people have made a habit out of threatening to cancel every few months so that they never have to pay the full price, but let’s face it: Most of us will forget about it until our bills suddenly go back up to $100 or more.

Occasionally, you’ll also deal with an overzealous sales person who will try to convince you that you won’t be able to watch local news without cable, or that your Internet costs will explode. The latter is actually half true: Cable companies tend to charge around $10 more for Internet-only packages. However, it pays off to do your homework before making the call. Simply check what AT&T and other competitors charge for Internet access as well as what new customers of your cable company pay for Internet-only plans, and then threaten to switch your Internet provider as well. Chances are, your cable company will cut you a deal.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering: Saving money is great, but canceling cable is also about being in charge of what you watch and what you pay for. That’s something no retention deal can offer you.

Do you have your own cord cutting tips? Then fire away in the comments, and make sure to tune in every week for our Cord Cutters show!

Images courtesy of Daniel Cooper Clark and Flickr user alancleaver_2000.

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