How I cut my DirecTV cord to save money towards future travel

I’ve paid for cable TV in one form of fashion for the past 10 years. Most recently I’ve been a DirecTV customer since 2008 when they offered 15,000 Priority Club points for sign up.

I had tried to cut down some of the cost by purchasing an owned receiver off of Ebay for so that I would skip the monthly rental fee. If you choose to go down this path, make sure that prior to buying you get the RID number from the seller (most post it in their pictures) and call DirecTV to confirm that it is in fact an owned receiver. I had a couple of people who stated in their auctions that their receivers were owned but DirecTV said they were in fact leased.

Even with doing this, my monthly DirecTV bill was $90 plus $6.95 monthly fee for my old school Series2 Tivo and $0 for my old school Series2 Tivo with lifetime service. This means that I was paying $1163.00 a year for the privilege of having access to cable TV. And for what? To watch American Pickers, Top Chef, Bar Rescue, and America’s Test Kitchen? Certainly there was a fair amount of sports as well. But is all that worth $1200 a year when I could be using that money for something else – perhaps travel?

I decided it was time to formulate a plan to cut the DirecTV cord and go for something a lot cheaper while still having access to some decent shows. I started by looking at different set boxes in order to run Amazon Prime, NetFlix, Vudu, Hulu Plus and all the other various on demand services out there. I ended up deciding on the Roku 2 XS mostly for the clean interface and that it has a ethernet connection on the back to cut down on buffering. I picked up a refurbished one up for $50 from 1saleaday.com and another from Costco for $80 that included an HDMI cord.

The Roku interface

Next, I had to find an Over the Air Antenna in order to pull down the free HD channels. The forums at TV Fool and instructions on Antenna Web were very helpful in helping to pick out the right antenna. You can even enter in your address and it will show a map of which direction to point your antenna to get the maximum amount of channels. I ended up purchasing the Antennas Direct DB4E Antenna for $55. A good friend came and installed it in my attic pointed in the correct direction.

I called Tivo to find out about upgrading to an HD receiver. The associate I spoke with actually suggested that I shop Ebay for a Series 3 HD Tivo that was going for around $40 and that I would be able to transfer my incredible $6.95 rate over to that unit. The Series 2 Tivo with lifetime unfortunately won’t transfer.

Lastly, I have been playing around with the various streaming services. My favorites are the free Amazon Prime service when you subscribe to Amazon prime for $79 a year. I also have enjoyed the selection and parental control options with Netflix.

In summary, my upfront costs have been:
$55 for Antenna
$120 for 2 – Series 3 HD Tivos ($40 + $20 shipping each)
$50 for Roku 2 XS
$80 for Roku 2 XS

My ongoing monthly costs will be:
$7.99 for Netflix
$6.95 for Series 3 TIVO
$9.95 for second series 3 TIVO

This comes out to an ongoing savings of $72 a month or $864 a year. I’m still able to get all the normal channels – ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, and PBS in clear, crisp HD.

clear, crisp HD for free

Most of the TV series are on Netflix or Amazon Prime though a little delayed. Luckily my favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, are usually on nationally on the normal channels. If I start to miss the NBA too much, I can buy the NBA League pass through the Roku for $75 a year. Overall I’m glad that I finally dumped DirecTV and freed up some more cash for traveling. If you’re sick of paying so much for cable each month, you can cut the cable too!

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Comments

  1. 2 things:

    1. Instead of league pass, consider espn3.com which has WAY more sports options.

    2. I’m sorry Tony Romo is your quarterback, the cowboys will be a joke till they get rid of him.

  2. I also might mention that the four shows you mentioned you can actually watch for free online (the full episodes). That is if timing is’t as important to you because an episode will usually show up online 24 hours after it originally premiered on television.

  3. Yeah, at our second home, where we spend 1/3 of our time, we switched to HD antenna + Amazon Prime + Netflix. At our primary home, we have basic $25 / month cable instead of the HD antenna. We get our expanded cable TV fix during our hotel stays!

  4. Great post! I signed up for Directv for 25,000 AA miles last fall, but can’t wait to cut the cord! I don’t watch it nearly enough to justify the price, especially once the introductory price expires. Unfortunately I have to stick it through until the end of the 2 year contract.

  5. So will the TiVos record the over the air programs? I’ve looked into this several times and the two things that always hold me back are the DVR and Sunday ticket. Starting last season I can sign up for Sunday ticket only through my PS3.

  6. @Daniel G – yes, the Tivo 3 has an antenna hook up on the back. It scanned for channels and was able to download the guides with no problem. If you got to the TIvo, they specifically talk about Over the Air now in their marketing materials.

  7. @William – is it possible to get espn3.com on my TV or would I have to watch it from my computer? Thanks for your empathy with the Cowboys. I’ve been a fan since back in the 80s, so I’ve lived through Scott Secules, Babe Laufemberg and other horrible QBs. I can live with Romo compared to them!

    Thanks for the tips about watching them online afterwards, I’ll have to do that!

  8. I have been using over-the-air tv for the past four or five years, and people think I am crazy when I tell them. But I really don’t feel like I am missing much. We have Netflix and amazon prime, plus like you said, there is a ton of content online. And I would much rather spend that $1200 per month on something else. Sadly, most people don’t think about the long term cost of monthly expenses.) next step: Cutting the home phone, which we use maybe a few times a month…

  9. You could also turn any old pc into a media center using windows media center and bypass rokus, TIVOS and tivo fees… even cheaper!

  10. @ShawnH – I’m in the same boat with the phone. $40 a month, I’ve been eyeing an Obi phone. Let me know how it goes if you cut the phone cord too!

  11. I “cut the cord” a year ago and am so glad I did. With OTA programming, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Apple TV, I have all I want at about $15 am month in total. HUGE savings!

  12. Is the Tivo just to record shows? I switched to a OTA antenna too, got one off Amazon for about $30, but I don’t use a receiver for it since the shows I watch are on Hulu the next day and I just hook up my laptop to my TV to view those (really minor inconvenince as opposed to a monthly fee). I have Amazon Prime discounted thanks to my graduate school email address (actually if you have a .edu address for alumnus benefit, this works too I think), so use Amazon Prime via my PS3. Unfortunately I’m forced to pay for basic cable through my apartment HOA and so can’t cut that off, so I still have the benefit of having FX and AMC, but have been pretty happy with my OTA setup so far since all I really watch most of the time are sports and the regular TV shows, while I get my BBC or cable fix from Amazon Prime.

    Still a significant amount of money saved!

  13. I killed DirecTV about 3 years ago and moved to OTA routed into a Windows 7 PC. We love it and wouldn’t dream of paying for TV again. We pay for Amazon Prime (for the shipping primarily) and NetFlix. The only thing I don’t like is the lack of an Amazon Instant Video app on Windows 7 Media Center, other than that we’re fine. Running a custom HTPC allows me to add hard drive space as I need, and I purposely bought a more expensive motherboard so I can add a second tuner card (the first one I installed has two tuners on the card), that would allow me to watch/record 4 things at once. And OTA we’ve never really had much conflict on needing to watch/record more than 2.

    ESPN3.com is free if you are a Comcast internet subscriber, but ESPN is cracking down on access, doing things like blacking out some bigger events in the evening hours unless you’re a TV subscriber. And they’ve locked down more content on their Watch ESPN app/site to subscribers. Might still be worth looking into a subscription, if it’s possible to do w/o a TV subscription. Video quality is usually OK, not great most of the time. But tolerable and cheaper than a TV subscription.

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