Bonus: cutting the cord

We cut a lot of cords in knitting [I’m pushing the metaphor here a little…], but this post isn’t about knitting. It’s about what some of us do while we knit.


Watch TV.


I don’t know about where you live, but where I live [Toronto, Canada], cable TV is expensive. I’m embarrassed to say that I was paying the ghastly sum of $130/month for cable — for all the basic channels, tons of stuff I never watched, but was packaged in with the movies + the actual HBO and movies. And that’s about average up here. Until a week ago. We cancelled the whole shebang, and aren’t looking back.


I have been talking to a lot of people about this lately, and some have already made the switch, some are thinking about it, and some don’t even know where to begin. I’m not going to make this a long post with all the details, but instead will make this full of pithy links to get you on the right track, if you’d rather spend your money on yarn and needles instead of cable tv.



Some good articles and forums to get you started:


Wall Street Journal

Digital Home’s Over The Air forum [for Canadian residents]

TVFool’s forum [US & Canada]

check your own home’s address to see what channels you might receive over the air [US & Canada]

interesting thread for Canadians who want Netflix, Hulu, etc


Here’s what we’re watching:

– Netflix [available in the US and Canada] at $8/month

free HD [digital] programming, pulled from the air with an antenna [see the links above for more information about how this works]

– many things on the network and cable channel websites



Here’s the equipment we chose:

Apple TV [this provides access to Netflix, some sports networks, You Tube and any video, audio and pictures you have on your home computer]

– alternatives to Apple TV include Boxee, Roku, Blu-Ray disc players with advanced features incorporated, many of the gaming consoles like Xbox, and lots of other devices. More are being introduced all the time. The key is what services they offer access to, and if they have a web browser built in or not. [With a web browser in your device, you can watch the stuff the networks make available on the web, but without having to sit at your computer.] We initially wanted the Boxee, but the reviews everywhere said the hardware wasn’t stable and needed rebooting daily, at least. We hear there’s a new Boxee being released…worth watching for.

this rooftop antenna [we tried an indoor antenna and found it almost as functional, but unsightly and a pain in the butt to have underfoot].

– our trusty 7-year-old Tivo Series 2 [the last Tivo model to work with antenna input, luckily!]. When I called to cancel the service [since we were cancelling cable, I didn’t think we’d use it anymore], they offered us a $99/lifetime deal since our Tivo will work just fine with the antenna.  We do love our Tivo, so we were happy they had an option for us. Several commenters tell me that current-model Tivos do work with antenna input so that’s good news!

– a Zinwell digital converter box [necessary if Tivo is to control the incoming channels in order to record it. Without the Tivo in the loop, we wouldn’t have needed this.]


What we’re missing:

– stuff on Food Network, Showtime, HBO…

and nothing else! We get all major networks, some weird channels that are antenna only [!] and more than enough to knit by. Much of the stuff we’re missing will eventually be available on Netflix, or can be watched online. There are tons of series on Netflix that I am dying to watch, and it’s all there for me to absorb at my own rate. I could probably spend a year alone in the Anime section!


Was the switch easy?


Nope. But it wasn’t hard, either. It’s just time consuming, researching your options and narrowing down choices. We’ve experimented with different converter boxes and antennas [though the rooftop antenna is a non-returnable item, so that one is gonna stay] until we got the best possible results.


The thing we miss most? The digital clock in our cable box…we have no other clock in the living room. Yeah, we can fix that.


I have barely covered the highlights here. I’d recommend you read the first two links and see if this sounds like it’s for you, and then dive into the forums and do your research. Don’t forget to check your postal or zip code for channel availability…no point in doing all this if you’ll only get a channel or two. Good luck!

(173 Posts)

73 thoughts on “Bonus: cutting the cord

  1. Katie @ Yarn Love

    I love this topic! We have a similar set up – we pull HD channels via an internal HD antennae (less set-up) and use Netflix and Amazon Prime to fill in the gaps.

    When we first signed up for Netflix our tv/dvd expense dropped dramatically. We were no longer paying for films we would only watch once or twice.

    We’re also avid Amazon shoppers so the free Prime TV content there is a lovely bonus. I save so much money on shipping alone by being a Prime member (& avoiding having to fill out orders to hit the “free shipping” amount)that we will continue to use that service.

    Another bonus from moving away from watching shows when they’re on tv to Netflix/Prime is we spend less time in front of the tv. Wednesdays and weekends are tv/movie days in our household (when our Netflix vids arrive) and the other nights are spent with knitting, books, household chores, etc. We watch what we want, when we want and don’t get sucked into watching additional content because it’s easy. I like that.

  2. Kathryn

    I have done the same thing…for a few years now. I use Hulu Plus ($7.99/mo) and Netflix ($7.99/mo) and I use an HD indoor antenna to catch channels over the air.
    When watching Hulu, Netflix, etc from my computer, I hook my puter to my HD TV using a monitor cable. My TV becomes a big monitor.

    1. Nikol

      Us, too–but we skipped the antenna (we’re really rural and it’s really windy here) and watch network programing on hulu. We now spend $16 a month vs $90 and only miss a few shows, which eventually come to netflix. We thought we’d be renting a lot of TV from amazon, but there’s already so much to watch that the stuff we miss ends up on netflix before you know it.

  3. Deborah

    We sort of cut the cord last month. We rarely watch much TV any more anyway. Our cable bill just kept going up, and the quality went down. After a couple of years of spotty employment, we decided that 200 channels for $80/month was too expensive. TV antenna reception is a challenge in our area, so we just dropped to the basic cable for $20.

  4. guinevere

    I haven’t had cable in over 10 years, and haven’t missed it. Between Netflix and the internet, I have no need to spend all that yarn money for cable! 🙂

    1. arianna

      I’m right there with you, Guinevere. I think I paid for a year of basic cable when I got my first apartment after college, but then I realized things like DVDs and later Vongo (and even later, Netflix) were really all I needed! I could watch “on demand” and *never* had a problem feeling behind at workplace water cooler discussions. Plus, the time I feel I save by not watching 10+ minutes of commercials for every half hour of show is SO worth any detriments, like not always being able to watch the latest movie or show. 🙂

  5. BeckyinVT

    This was an easy decision for me – for years I’ve lived in areas where cable isn’t an option. No cable companies provide service to our house.

    I have the HD broadcast and Netflix on disc. Soon we’ll hook our TV to our computer and start streaming from the internet. Thanks for the links with more information about that!

  6. Seanna Lea

    My husband and I have only had ultra basic cable (about $8 a month to get normal network stations to come in nice without an antenna) and Netflix for over a year now. I miss things like the puppy bowl during the super bowl and food network, but in all honesty I’m relieved to not have access to them. I watched so much more television when I had access to all of those extra stations.

  7. Amy C

    We ditched the cable and went netflix for over a yr now and haven’t looked back. Cable was getting ridiculously expensive and there wasn’t anything to watch. Very happy. (and richer)

  8. Kacey

    We did this last January and haven’t missed it much. My husband purchased aan add on for our computer which lets us record live over the air TV, it then can be synced with the xbox to be watched on the “big” living room tv. It is great. I “record” some knitting shows off of public tv this way.

  9. Lisa

    I went cable-free a few years ago and haven’t looked back. (Pretty much after Firefly went off the air… there just wasn’t enough I wanted to watch on TV any more to justify the expense.) For stuff where I don’t want to wait for Netflix, or don’t want to watch on my PC, I download from iTunes (e.g. Dr. Who, Sherlock, etc). It’s still way cheaper than cable. My little stereo with iPod dock has a video out jack that I was able to connect to my old-school (non-digital) TV with a $5 cable, so now I can watch video content from my iPod on my TV! Eventually I’ll upgrade my TV to digital so I can watch streaming content off my computer with AppleTV or something similar, but for now I am delighted with my setup!

  10. Jessica Powers

    Love this! I didn’t have cable living in Seattle and after a while gave away my tv and just used dvds on my laptop. Now we’ve got a mega tv at home and a new blu-ray home theatre system, making us all ready for the NZ winter and our dvd habits. I find that the free tv we do get is barely worthwhile and could probably be condensed into around 4 hours each week!

  11. Katie in CA

    We went to our cable company and told them we couldn’t afford it anymore. They gave us the basic cable (no box basic) essentially for free, with our internet. We use Netflix via a roku box and a VoIP phone. So glad we did. I do not miss the commercials for my son. Much less asking for everything.

  12. Jackie C

    I haven’t had cable in over 15 yrs, and don’t miss it a bit. With Netflix and Hulu, there are plenty of options to knit by (no antenna reception in my rural area). For a few shows that I really don’t want to wait for (Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead), I’ll buy a season pass on Amazon, and get the show the day after it airs, which is fine by me.

    Another plus is that my kids have grown up without being bombarded by advertising. Sure, they hear about things from friends and are attracted by the characters they’ve seen on Netflix when choosing cereals, etc., but on the whole I think they make better choices about what to spend their own money on, and about what they ask me to buy for them.

  13. Eleanor

    I cut the cord last summer because I thought it was irresponsible to be paying $100/mo for my 12 yr old son to hypnotize himself in front of the boob tube. We subscribed to MLB radio and listened to our faraway home team every night in August & September. We watched the football games we couldn’t live without by streaming them on the computer – not exactly HD, but free. We watched all sorts of TV archives on hulu and Netflix. Mothers of my children’s friends are rumored to have used my bold move as a bargaining chip in their own households: “Mrs. Dixon cut off the cable, and I can too!” Then in February the Comcast guy came by and offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse – long story short, now we have cable again….but now we’re living without caller id!

  14. Sandy

    In our last two homes, we didn’t have the cable option…rural living in Eastern Ontario! Our choices were between the two satellite companies. The prices kept going up without any comparable improvement in programming. When Netflix arrived in Canada, I signed up immediately. I really enjoyed it, although was disappointed that the viewing options weren’t as good as I was hearing about from American friends.

    Now I realize how spoiled for choice I was. Last summer, my husband was transferred to Budapest. There is only one option here for service providers and we had to significantly upgrade in order to get any English channels. I think we have three. However, because it took us several months to get it hooked up, we hardly turn the television on. Turns out, we don’t miss it. Go figure.

  15. Joan

    Sing it, Sister! We cut cable over a year and a half ago and haven’t missed it. Thank God Colbert and Jon Stewart are on Hulu!

    We also have Netflix and Hulu plus subscriptions and AppleTV. Our made-for-the-great-outdoors antenna lives in our attic because I couldn’t handle how the thing looked on the roof. We get fairly good reception unless there’s a thunderstorm or strong winds.

    I’m thrilled we cut the cord because I hated paying over $100 a month for TV that used to be free when I was a kid. It’s like paying for bottled water…drives me crazy!

    If anyone is thinking about cutting cable, consider buying an antenna and AppleTV or one of the alternatives first and see what kind of over-the-air reception you get, what shows you really miss. It takes a little bit to get set up, but ditching the cable bill leaves more money for yarn

  16. Ellen

    During a recent move I was so ready to cut the cable until I realized it was the best option for internet which my daughter must have for school. Can someone explain to me how they get decent internet without cable?

  17. Birgit

    LOVE LOVE LOVE This article!

    I cut my cable when I moved in March and actually didnt watch TV since before Christmas. And I AM STILL ALIVE! Yes indeed! It didnt hurt, it wasnt weird… I am watching Netflix without commercials or interruptions, get my news online and am MUCH happier!

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