Sep 10

TV For Free

Cable TV seems unreasonably expensive to me.  There is a very simple and legal way to get much of the basic programming for free (the ultimate last word in money saving).

Why bother?  Well, even the most basic of cable packages seems to cost around $40.00 or so.  For this money you get primarily three types of programming: shows where people hurt each other (like crime shows), reality shows, and sitcoms (the worst of which have annoying canned laughter that tellsus what is supposed to be funny and to what degree it was supposed to be funny by the quantity and the volume of the canned laughter).  It seems to me to be a sad attempt to mask, or compensate for, poor writing.

TV for FREE Legally

In short, I don’t find that cable TV represents good entertainment value for me or that it fits in easily with frugal living principles.  I find much (though not all of it) of it to be dull and repetitive.  In many cases, I would rather read a book, watch a movie of my choosing, or just sit and relax. With that being said, I still do enjoy watching a few programs and I would not like to do without television altogether.

What then, is this money saving idea of which I speak?  Buy a digital TV antenna (the one I own cost under $40.00).  For most modern TVs, this is all you need as the tuner is built in (check your manual).  For an older tube-type TV like mine, I also had to buy a digital to analog converter box.  That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  You can cancel your cable subscription forever!

Will you get all of the same channels that you do with cable? No.  Will your reception always be as reliable as with direct cable? No, but it comes pretty close for me.  Will you still get some digital and HD channels?  Yes (depending on the availability, clarity, and the strength of the signals in your area).  All in all, you really don’t have too much to lose (except for the $40.00 or so that you spend on an antenna).  In a best case scenario, you might be happy with the selection and the reception of the channels that you get and you will never have to pay for cable again.  In the worst case scenario, you can give your antenna to a local charity.  Check the local broadcasting in your area for signal availability before you start if you would like an idea of the channels that you can expect to get.

There are indoor and outdoor antennas.  I use an amplified indoor one similar to the one below and I have been very happy with it (I get about twelve channels in all).


I would love to hear if any one else has had similar successes (or dissimilar failures) using an antenna.  Please leave a comment if you have something to add. Another frugal living idea brought to you by froogalism.com

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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  1. Jane

    I think this is a great idea. The amount of money I have spent on cable in my lifetime adds up to more than I would have thought. At approx.$40. a month that brings me to about $5,000 in 10 years,or $10,000 over 20 years,incredible when you sit down and think about it, and this is calulated at basic cost. I can see better uses for this money as I find that I am watching less and less tv all the time. Perhaps a family vacation or oh so many good alternatives. Anyways I think I’ll join the club. Thanks for the great idea, I love your site, I`m always interested in ways to make the best use of my hard earned money.

  2. Jason

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jane. It is amazing how expenses like this can really add up over time. With cable (as with most things) it’s a matter of what you are used to. I guess I don’t miss it because I haven’t had it for so long. I hope the antenna works for you. Please give us an update.

    Regards, Jason

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