Are you finally ready to cut the cable TV cord in 2024?
If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cord but don’t know where to start, this step-by-step guide will help you cancel cable and switch to streaming TV.
With so many cord-cutting options, the process can be complicated and overwhelming.
My Simple Guide to Canceling Cable TV
But when you’re just getting started with streaming TV, you don’t need to spend days and weeks researching the best way to cut the cable TV cord.
That’s my job!
Since 2016, I’ve helped thousands of people make the switch from cable to streaming.
This article features an updated 7-step plan that I developed for people who are new to streaming and want the best of cable TV at a cheaper monthly price.
Let’s get started!
1. Review Your Cable TV Bill and Set a Streaming Budget Goal
When people reach out to me about cutting the cord, it’s usually because their cable TV bill has gone up again.
Some of the people I’ve helped used to pay $250 a month for cable TV and internet.
To help narrow your streaming options, the first step of the process is to review your current cable or satellite bill to see what you’re actually paying.
I also want you to check your bill to see if you’ll owe an early termination fee.
Before you move ahead with the switch to streaming, I suggest that you call or live chat with your cable TV provider. I want you to ask them three questions:
- I’m thinking about dropping my cable TV service. Is there anything you can do to lower the price?
- If I switch to an internet-only plan, what are my options and how much do they cost?
- Let’s say I decide to cancel cable TV and/or internet service. Will I owe an early termination fee?
The answers to these questions should help you decide if now is the right time for you to cancel cable TV and switch to streaming.
Next, estimate what you’re willing to pay every month for TV and internet combined.
Don’t overthink it: If the cable TV company’s best offer of $250 per month isn’t good enough for you, what is? $200? $175? $150?
Set this number as a preliminary streaming budget goal. We’ll adjust it later on.
2. Decide If You Need a Live TV Streaming Bundle
When you’re cutting the cord, there are a few types of streaming services to choose from and some overlap between them.
To keep things simple, here’s how I like to categorize them:
- Live TV streaming services
- On-demand streaming services
- Free streaming services
Live TV Streaming Services Explained
Live TV streaming services are the most expensive, which is why I’ve dedicated this entire step to determining if you really need one.
YouTube TV is the leading premium live TV service and my #1 pick for new cord cutters.
At the time of this writing, you can expect to pay around $75 to $80 a month for a live TV streaming service that will replace your cable TV bundle.
Premium live TV services include local channels, sports channels like ESPN and cable news channels.
Sling TV is a “Premium Lite” service. Sling can be a more affordable option, but it has limited local stations. I like it for people who can pick up locals with an antenna.
By the way, if an antenna works where you live, that’s still the way to go.
There are also cheaper live TV streaming services like Philo and Frndly TV that focus on entertainment cable networks – not locals, sports and news.
Ask yourself this:
- Do you watch local broadcast TV channels?
- Do you watch sports networks like ESPN?
- Do you watch cable news (CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc.) and business networks?
- Do you still watch cable entertainment shows?
If so, you’ll most likely want a premium live TV service like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, Fubo or DIRECTV STREAM. I compare the pricing, channels and features in this separate article.
Premium live TV services deliver much of the same content that you’re used to getting with cable and broadcast TV. Unfortunately, they won’t necessarily save you a lot of money.
Still, many people prefer them over cable or satellite because most live TV services don’t have hidden fees and long-term contracts.
You typically prepay for only one month at a time. Cancel whenever you want.
The biggest complaint I hear from people about live TV services is the same complaint they have about cable and satellite. With any live TV bundle, you pay for a lot of channels you don’t even watch.
Alternatives to Live TV Streaming Services
A lot of cord cutters aren’t willing to spend $75 a month for a live TV service. In that case, my best advice is to get an antenna if possible.
I have a Mohu Leaf indoor antenna that picks up my local stations. It cost less than $50.
Then, depending on your budget, you can always sign up for on-demand streaming services that have the best shows and movies.
Popular on-demand services include Netflix, Disney+ and Max.
To save money, consider the plans with ads. Some are still under $10 a month.
I should also mention that you can stream a lot of great content, including original shows and movies, on free ad-supported streaming services.
My favorites are Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi and Freevee.
Key Takeaway About Live TV Streaming Services
The further away you get from the live TV bundle with expensive locals, sports and news channels, the more money you’ll save.
But if you do want a live TV streaming service, know that most offer free trials.
That makes it easy to test out one or more live TV services while you’re still paying for cable to make sure streaming is right for you.
3. Compare Your Internet Options
All streaming services require an internet connection, so high-speed internet service is a must for cord cutters.
Your local options may include fiber internet, cable internet and 5G home internet services.
If you currently bundle TV and internet service from your cable company, you can typically keep internet as a standalone service.
However, it may cost slightly more because you’re losing the bundle discount by dropping TV.
To help you pick an internet plan that will meet the demands of live TV streaming, there are three main factors I want you to consider:
- Download Speed
- Data Caps
If your only choice for internet service is through your cable provider, call them to see how much an internet-only plan will cost.
But if your local phone company also provides internet plans, be sure to check their prices.
When I polled my YouTube community about the cost of internet service, 35% of the 785 people who responded said they pay $50 to $75 a month. This is what I personally pay.
In some cases, you can lower that price by purchasing your own modem and router instead of renting equipment.
Competition helps. The more internet providers in your area, the better the deals. Since new customers typically get the best offers, switching to a new service may be good for your wallet.
When you’re making the switch to streaming, your internet provider may try to upsell you a plan with higher download speeds.
In most cases, you don’t need a gig speed plan that you see heavily advertised on TV.
My internet download speed is typically between 200 and 300 Mbps with Verizon 5G Home Internet, and I have no issues with lag or buffering.
For a typical household, I recommend buying an internet plan with download speeds ranging from 200 Mbps to 400 Mbps. It’s possible to stream with a 100 Mbps plan, but service may not be as reliable.
With an internet plan that has download speeds of 200-400 Mbps, a handful of devices can connect to the network at the same time and performance won’t suffer.
If you live in a larger household or do a lot of gaming, consider a 400-600 Mbps plan.
This is an important warning: With the rise of streaming, some internet service providers have added data caps to their plans that can result in extra fees.
Since streaming TV uses data, this could be an issue for heavy users and large households.
If the internet service providers in your area have data caps, they may offer you the option to pay an extra $25 to $50 per month for unlimited data.
However, internet providers insist that the overwhelming majority of customers don’t hit their data caps.
The Rise of 5G Home Internet Services
For more than a year, I’ve been conducting a long-term test of two 5G home internet services: T-Mobile and Verizon.
These services use cell phone towers to bring the internet to your home.
At the time of this writing, 5G home internet services start at around $50 a month and have price locks so your rate doesn’t go up after the first year.
Some other features:
- No contracts
- Equipment included
- Unlimited data
- Easy self-installation
Plus, these services have additional discounts if you have a phone plan with them.
Despite attacks about reliability from cable internet providers, 5G home internet services have been growing and most people are satisfied with them.
However, they wouldn’t be my first pick for households that are heavily into gaming.
4. Get Your Equipment Together
Streaming services don’t have monthly equipment fees like cable, but you may need to purchase a streaming media player for every TV set in your house.
Notice that I wrote “may.” Not everyone will need to buy additional equipment.
Roku devices plug into your TV and connect to the internet to allow you to stream. Each device comes with a remote so that you can navigate all of your streaming apps.
If you’re intimidated by this part of the process, don’t be.
When you hook up the Roku and turn on your TV set, step-by-step instructions will appear on the screen.
KEY POINT: If you own a fairly new smart TV, you don’t need to buy a separate streaming device. Popular streaming apps should be pre-installed or available for download.
However, I like having a Roku anyway for its simple menus and access to free content that you won’t get elsewhere.
5. Finalize Your Monthly Streaming TV Budget
By now, you’ve gathered a lot of information that will help you set a monthly streaming TV budget and decide if canceling cable TV is really worth it for you.
For this step of the process, add up the recurring costs for streaming services and your internet plan.
Here’s an example:
|YouTube TV: $72.99/month
Netflix (Ads): $6.99/month
Disney+ (Ads): $7.99/month
Max (Ads): $9.99/month
This cord-cutter subscribes to YouTube TV as their live TV streaming service. Plus, they have on-demand services Netflix, Disney+ and Max.
Their total monthly price for streaming services is around $100.
For internet service, this cord cutter has decided to keep a standalone plan with their cable company for now. That’s $75 a month.
Their total monthly price for TV and internet combined is $175.
After you’ve calculated your monthly streaming costs, compare that number to your current cable TV and internet bill.
Hopefully, streaming will be less expensive.
Keep in mind that you will need to adjust your budget over time. Streaming services are not immune to price hikes.
For example, YouTube TV’s price has doubled since it launched in 2017.
Like cable and satellite companies, live TV streaming services have to negotiate with the media companies that own the channels. When live TV services raise prices, they always cite the rising cost of content.
On-demand services are facing rising content costs as well and most services besides Netflix are unprofitable.
These services have been aggressively increasing the price of ad-free plans.
I’ve had to add about 10% to my annual streaming budget over the last few years, but it varies depending on the services you have.
Note: To keep things simple, I’ve excluded one-time equipment costs from this step. If you need to purchase an antenna or a streaming device, budget for those expenses accordingly.
6. Cancel Cable TV Service
You’ve crunched the numbers.
You’ve tested streaming services.
You’ve compared internet options.
And you’ve bought the equipment you need to stream.
Now, you can contact your cable TV provider to cancel cable TV service!
If you called your cable company during the first step and asked the three questions that I mentioned earlier, there should be no surprises.
That’s because you already know their best offer, how much an internet-only plan will cost and if there’s an early termination fee.
From my experience helping people cut the cable TV cord, it’s best to cancel by phone and call early in the day. That way, there usually won’t be a long wait time.
If you want to keep internet service with your cable company, review the plans ahead of time and be prepared for a sales pitch.
Remember, most households don’t need gigabit speed internet.
Once you’ve dropped cable TV from your plan, make sure that you promptly return any rental equipment to your provider to avoid paying additional fees.
7. Comparison Shop and Explore Ways to Save
Now that you’ve cut the cord, there are a few levers you can pull to fight back against the rising cost of TV – which does extend to streaming services.
My #1 savings tip is to rotate your subscriptions, particularly with live TV:
Here’s an example:
If you only need live TV streaming for football season, you could cancel YouTube TV during the off-season and try a cheaper option like Sling TV or Philo. To save even more money, consider dropping live TV altogether. Many people use an antenna for local stations and supplement with free and cheap streaming apps.
Rotating on-demand services can also save you money. I try to pay for only three streaming TV subscriptions at any given time.
Here are more ways to save:
- Select plans with ads
- Prepay for an annual plan to save up to 20%
- Take advantage of Black Friday deals
- Check credit card rewards and special offers
- See if your phone provider offers streaming perks
- Rely solely on free streaming options
Here’s another tip: When you go online to cancel a service after a promo ends, don’t be surprised if you’re offered another promotion. Sometimes this can extend the savings for a few more months.