What It’s Like to Live Without Cable TV

Photograph of multiples cables connecting to electronics.

Hi. I’m a millennial and I don’t have cable. Whew! That feels good to admit. Sure, it’s not all glamor and sunshine, but I’ve learned to live without it for over six years. Living this kind of cable-free lifestyle has its own set of pros and cons. If you’re thinking about cutting your cable subscription, take a look at my journey to help decide if it’s the right choice for you.

Why Did I Cut My Cable Subscription?

I’ll be honest, my reason for cutting cable didn’t stem from some self-righteous crusade to turn away from the mainstream. I did it out of necessity, for financial survival. I was in the process of moving out-of-state to attend graduate school and my lease expired, forcing me into a short-term month-to-month lease. This mandatory maneuver spiked rent a few hundred dollars for the last few months  in town. Coupled with moving expenses, books, and a new apartment, I was financially strapped. Cable TV-wise, I had it all — a full range of basic and premium plus channels, digital music, and on-demand content. I was glued to the television, feeling like I couldn’t miss an episode of [fill-in-the-blank]. The dire consequence: being “out of the loop”. Paying close to $150/month in cable expenses alone led me to an important decision: live with this luxury or further my education. I chose education.

How I Cut My Cable

Cutting my cable subscription was a pretty straightforward process. I picked up the phone and called my service provider about two weeks before the end of the billing cycle. Don’t wait until the last day of the billing period to do this! I wanted a clean financial break and couldn’t deal with any “partial billing” drama while in school. Besides, every penny counts in grad school! There is the option of canceling cable online, but between chat bots and the difficulty of finding the cancellation form I decided over the phone was best, second only to doing it in person. Moving forward, the representative wanted to know why I chose to end my subscription, which is standard operating procedure. I told them I was moving and simply couldn’t afford it.

Fighting for Freedom

I could tell the rep was used to haggling, even arguing, with clients and offered me a discount at the current promotional rate in addition to transferring service to my new location. OoOo, this was pretty tempting! If I could afford $99/month I probably would’ve taken the offer, no lie, but I was truly broke and no amount of magic or special promotion could save my budget so I declined. Then the rep sweetened the offer with premium Internet and phone services bundled together. Let this be a warning to anyone trying to cut their cable — the reps will try at least three times to talk you out of it so stay strong! Nevertheless, I declined, then requested to stop my service on the last day of the billing cycle. To save more money, I agreed to return the equipment (remote control, wires, and box) to the nearest branch.

How I’m Living Now

It’s been six years since I’ve been without cable and wow, what a time it’s been! In the months after I moved to a new city I only had the Internet installed in my apartment. Between two jobs and grad school I used what little time I had to watch YouTube videos and the free version of Hulu on the web in addition to a few DVDs in my collection. Over time, the options for streaming online content increased. Amazon Prime expanded to Prime Video. Netflix launched original programming. Hulu signed a few large cable providers. Apple TV, Roku, Sling, and Firestick became new contenders in the marketplace. Two years after I moved, my parents bought me an Apple TV box as a graduation present and I added the HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hallmark Channel (don’t judge me), and Hulu apps after I picked up a full-time job.

Photo of a flat-panel tv displaying Apply TV apps.
This is how I currently watch programming on Apple TV without a cable subscription. Similar to an iPhone, just select the app to view streaming content from that channel.

Funny thing is, Apple TV cost my parents a one-time fee of $99, the monthly promotional price offered by the cable rep. My app subscriptions range from free to $15/month totaling less than $50/month now. Overall I rarely see a commercial and watch shows on demand all the time. If I want to watch a major event (presidential inauguration, royal wedding, NBA finals, etc.) I can still see it using the YouTube app to stream live video. Once you’re a part of the Apple family everything works well together. The Apple TV connects to my phone, which syncs to my computer, for a mostly seamless experience. I can show friends and family pictures from my latest travels, play music, and download the latest movies with a few taps. Heck, I even downloaded the Apple TV remote to use on my phone. Life is pretty sweet!

Screenshot of my Apple TV remote for iPhones.
The future of the remote control is on your phone. Here’s what the Apple TV remote looks like on my iPhone – the large gray space works like a computer’s mousepad. No need for a remote control tied to a cable service provider!

Cable Withdrawal

Life without cable is great, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t be fair without mentioning the downside. I don’t regret my decision, but I understand that I may miss the release of breaking news or culture happenings. For example, I don’t always know when the latest movies or latest products are being released because commercials are a thing of the past. Is everyone talking about a certain show in the office? If it’s not on Hulu, Netflix, Prime, Hallmark, or HBO I don’t know about it and can’t participate. When breaking news hits the circuit I’m not the first person to hear about it. I have to intentionally click on the PBS, CNN, or MSNBC apps to see if there are short clips to watch or Google it.

The Cons

Also, I am limited to only the options streaming video providers curate, meaning I do not have the full selection I had with cable. Once I watch all the content in, say, the Fixer Upper section of Hulu, I have nothing else to watch until Hulu uploads more content. I have to be patient or find something else to watch. However, after a few months to a few years content is removed; if you snooze, you loose. Then there is the issue of buffering. Streaming services rely solely on your Internet connection speed. Surfing the web, downloading a ton of image files to/from the cloud to your computer, and streaming a high-definition video at the same time may subject you to buffering and disrupted service. Oh well *shrugs*.

What About the Future?

So will I continue to live a life without cable or sign-up for services in the future? Only time will tell. Over the years my salary has increased and I have student loans to pay so all my money if being funneled to living a debt-free life. If I didn’t have these financial obligations, would I still cut cable? Y’know what? I think I would. I only watched a handful of channels, nay, specific shows, that I now stream virtually commercial-free. I’ve lived a chord-free lifestyle for the better part of six years and I don’t have any real plans to go back to the high fees and increased rates. I can watch the shows I want, save money, and spend more time frolicking and living life — now that’s a cable I don’t want to cut!


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