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By the author of The Faithful Prepper, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices.
Americans are now paying approximately $47/month on streaming services, typically consisting of three different subscriptions (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, and Paramount Plus). Many Americans also have cable TV on top of these subscription services (though that is a trend that seems to be diminishing), with the average cable bill costing around $200/month.
As a Frugalite, that means if you have both the average cable bill and the average streaming services bill, you’re shelling out $564/year on streaming alone and an additional $2400/year to watch your TV. Close to $3000/year just to watch your TV.
Is it worth it?
If you’re taking a serious look at your finances at the moment due to problems with your work, increasing costs at the grocery store, or otherwise, I would highly recommend that you take a closer look at cutting all of these services.
There are plenty of means of entertainment out there that are much more frugal-friendly, either being completely free or cheaper altogether. Here are a few of my recommendations:
Go to the library
We’ve written about this here before at The Frugalite. Reading is an incredibly cheap form of entertainment, betters you as a person, and is often free. Not only will the library have new releases that you would normally have to pay $30 for at your local Barnes and Noble, but there are a wealth of older, difficult-to-find classics available there that you would pay a premium for on the used book market.
Start inviting your friends over to play board games.
The great thing about board games is that they’re a one-time purchase and provide hours of entertainment for the life of the board game afterwards. Personally, I’m a fan of Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride: Europe, Quarto, Carcassone, and Wingspan.
Pick up one of those games and start scheduling weekly post-dinner game nights with your friends. You’ll have a much better time with your friends (or making new friends) than you would staring at your TV screen for hours every night, your friends will have a better time than they would have otherwise, and this makes life much richer than a stupid TV ever could.
Play disc golf.
I’ve played disc golf for years with nothing more than three discs: a putter and two drivers. They cost me $7 each, and I’ve gotten the chance to explore some amazing areas with that $21 investment. I’ve thrown discs over (and into) alligator-filled ponds, spent time with family tromping through the woods and gotten the chance to hang out with some pretty cool people.
As long as you know how to throw a frisbee and are capable of a three-mile or so walk, you can play disc golf.
We’ve covered the economics of fishing here at The Frugalite before. Pick up a fishing license, buy a pole, hooks, bobbers, and some stinky bait, and you’re all set. This is a great way to unwind, whether you’re alone or hanging out with a family member for a few hours in front of the water.
You can put some seafood in your frying pan this way, too, so you could actually cut back on your food costs in the process of this form of entertainment.
Call me a nerd, but this is something that I’ve noticed a lot of nearby clubs have been holding online of late. If you have an internet connection and enjoy playing chess, this is something that could hold your attention for hours with nothing more than an internet connection (which you could pick up for free at a local library) and an interest in chess.
(And while you’re at the library, you can pick up books on chess tactics to make you a better player for the next tournament as well.)
Cooking through Southern Living magazine.
These people deserve an award for having the best recipes imaginable. I like what the founder of Chik-fil-A had to say, “Food is essential to life. Therefore, make it good.” You have to eat, so why not cook amazing dishes?
I think that Southern Living has some of the best recipes out there, and if you have a chef’s blood running through your veins, this can be a good way to feed your family as you entertain yourself cooking.
Start a podcast.
This can be done absolutely free. You don’t even need a microphone to get started (though it does help). Set up an account with Podbean and start recording and uploading your audio right away. You can then start cranking out as much content as you want.
Whether you’re looking at a weekly podcast or want to pump out something every night, you can do that by starting your own podcast. This can be a fun way to share your thoughts about literally anything you’re thinking about.
Learn an instrument.
You can pick up a cheap ukulele or Irish whistle for less than $100 on Amazon and be set for years of home entertainment. I picked up a $70 uke (I think that’s what I paid for it) over ten years ago, and it still plays wonderfully.
(If you pick up the world’s most detested instrument, the harmonica, you have to play in your basement where nobody else will hear you.)
What are your thoughts on alternatives to streaming services?
There are all kinds of other options out there. Don’t feel for a second that if you don’t have streaming services at your home, you’re going to sit around like a bored Amish man all day long because that’s simply not the case.
The alternatives to cable TV and streaming are legion, and hopefully, the above will get the gears turning in your head to start thinking about some alternative things you can do.
What are your thoughts? Do you have some tips and tricks we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. He runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has three published books, The Faithful Prepper, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
13 thoughts on “Frugal Alternatives to Streaming Services and Cable TV”
If you have internet there are a TON of fun things to watch (and learn about) on YouTube and other related services. For example I learn all kinds of things about Japanese cooking from No Recipes and Just One Cookbook. They have free sites and give you a choice between video and written recipes. There are a lot of other things out there but those are my favorites. I’ve also learned a lot about gardening, for free, including how to save money at it.
Writing can be kind of a fun pasttime also. Of course, there are also a lot of bundled services out there like Amazon Prime that give videos if you absolutely have to have screen time, and are paying for the service already. My viewing costs are $8-15 dollars a month and sometimes zero.
Unfortunately, I just learned yesterday that fishing isn’t really a cheap hobby. In light of the looming food crisis I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to fish. So my two adult daughters and I went to get a fishing license. We’re going to have to catch a lot of fish to cover the $25 per person fee.
The Southern Living magazine can be found at the library. Which, btw, provides free internet service. Volunteer at your local community garden, Community Action/Area Council on Aging, Food Bank, Humane Society.
Just ideas for activities friends and family can do together.
Janette in NE Oregon
I restrict my streaming service to two providers, so my costs are about $25 per month. Of course that comes with “free Prime shipping” and access to other things. I’ve found that rather than buying anything digital on Prime, it’s often cheaper to buy the DVD. I’ve purchased entire series for less than half what it would cost buying from Prime.
Definitely cut cable! It’s NOT worth it, it CAN be lived without, and you won’t miss it. The commercials alone are worth getting rid of! Be careful on YouTube because they’re trying to get into streaming too, so watch what you click on. I spend my day reading professionally so yes, I like my down time in the evening. But it doesn’t have to cost quite so much! Oy! I also like a good game of online Monopoly, but I bought the lifetime package when it was half off. No sense usually paying full price for anything!
“sit around like a bored amish man”? have you ever met an amish man?
I don’t know how it works in the US, but up here in BC, Canada our libraries have a wealth of DVD’s that you can check out. Older ones for a week and new releases for 3 days. Order them online from the 10 different libraries in the system, and when they show up at the library of my choice, hubby stops in on his way home from work and picks them up. Also AcornTV and BritBox are under $10 a month each and if your into British films, series, comedies and documentaries these are great. I don’t subscribe continuously. I sub for a couple of months, watch what I want and then cancel for about 6 months and then start the cycle over again when they’ve brought in some new material.
Check out a Roku box. Need to have Internet for it. It’s a one time cost.
I’d put a disclaimer on libraries given the censorship/banning bent these days. One library now has no digital books because they could not individually ban books. Baby went out with the bath water but I guess they feel better.
Location dependent, air TV has a number of choices and *if* you have internet and a new TV, there are other channel options. Not a treasure trove of show for our tastes but can usually find one or two that interest us. Downside is the channel numbers change frequently so surfing the guide is required.
We only had cable for about a year when family was living with us and they didn’t felt it was impossible to live without it. As soon as they moved, we canceled. In 2008, we simply quit watching television (from our antenna) altogether because I couldn’t stand the sound of obama’s voice and it was everywhere during commercial breaks. I was a lifelong televisionholic and quit cold turkey. We had DVDs and the internet. Then our son (who lives on our property) shared his hulu and netflix with us. When he canceled his accounts, we went back to internet only. For awhile we paid for a Christian streaming service, then I began to notice that not all of their movies were, in fact, Christian, so we let it go.
We live out in the country and it’s too far to return videos to the nearest library every 3 days. There’s far more free videos to watch on the internet than we’ll ever have time for. I don’t order anything from amazon and I’m not going to pay for any streaming services.
I should’ve reviewed my comment better before posting. Please excuse the typos. Wish there was an editing function. Glad there aren’t diligent grammar nazis patrolling the comment section.
Roku is great. One son has us on his Netflix, altho we’re hard pressed to find much of anything to watch, another son has us on his Amazon – lots to watch there. Hubby watches for those promos where we’ll get a month or maybe more for $1-$5, then cancel. We use the library for real books, DVDs, e-books & on-line magazines, movies, etc. We also have an antenna for local news – mainly urgent weather reports like yesterday’s 3″ rain in one hour with high winds and hail. Gotta love living in Florida!!
For decades I had the TV on in the background whether over-the-air, cable, or satellite, then our trees got so tall sat. reception stopped. No, we didn’t cut down the trees, to get sat. reception again, because they help the house stay cooler. Instead, there’s many free online podcasts, old movies, radio shows, and lots more. And, amazon has many authors who offer free e-books in different genres: via an app or hand-held device. Let’s not forget there’s many hobbies and lots to do IF we aren’t glued to the set.
People used to visit family and friends. I learned so much about “the old days” from listening to my parents talk to their siblings or friends. At least one Sunday afternoon a month, I went with my parents to go visit aunts and uncles. These people had grown up in a completely different world – no phones, electricity, running water or cars. They didn’t call it “off-grid”; it was just rural life in America. They talked about how they made it through the Spanish flu, the Depression, where they were when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor, rationing during the war and a lot more.
Sadly, too few of us spend time with each other just talking. We all have a story to tell. I feel that my life is so much richer by having heard the simple conversations.