I thought I might write a bit about how we handle media here in the Knuffke household. For the past two years, we have been successfully "cord-cut", in that we do not pay for monthly cable television service or phone. I'm amazed that, two years on, so many folks I know still pay for cable. To me, this is a major example of wasting obvious money. With that in mind, I'll explain what we do, so that anyone who hasn't really figured out how to make this work for themselves can get an understanding of a working model.
The first thing that you're going to need is a media player. There are a lot of options available. You can even connect a computer to your television directly if you so choose. For us, we purchased a Roku and an Apple TV. In retrospect, the Apple TV is no longer required (for a long time it was the only way that we could watch YouTube), but it's still very useful as a device to stream media from our iPhones, and computers to our television screen. Since Mavericks, it has also been able to function as a separate screen for our laptops, which is cool, but is also a feature that we don't use. The Roku and the Apple TV are both $100 up front. Each one of them is less than what we used to pay for our cable bill each month.
The Roku is really the star of the media player show in our house. It pipes Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and various other media channels from our internet service to our TV. It gets a lot of use every day, and is able to ably supply us with more television programming than we know what to do with. It's a sweet device, and for us it is the crucial link the media chain for all things television.
We didn't want to discard our "land line" completely, so we purchased a MagicJack. For $30 a year, we get a dedicated phone line that uses our internet connection to provide VOIP service to our existing phone system. Even if you don't do anything else in terms of making the switch, this is definitely a no-brainer. Our previous phone line cost us $30 a month as part of a triple-service package. MagicJack reduced that cost by more than 90% annually.
Obviously, the situation I've described above does not reduce our media costs to zero. Aside from the upfront cost of the media player (which is a one-time cost), we still have a monthly media cost. Hulu Plus and Netflix both run us $8 a month, and Amazon Prime is (currently) $80 a year. And we still have to purchase internet service from our cable company, which they give to us, unpackaged, for $60 a month. So, when it all gets added up (with the MagicJack), we've traded a $150 media/cable/phone bill for an $85 one. This saves us ~$750 a year, some of which gets spent on movie rentals and purchasing early viewing to a few series through Amazon Prime. Still, money saved is money saved. At $3 a movie, we could rent one a week and still be well on the side of saving $500 a year.
There are also some major benefits to the system we have. Every subscription is available through the TV, and on our computers, phones, and tablets. I can watch TV, and access my media, from any computer with a broadband connection. Amazon Prime also gives us free two-day shipping on all eligible items, which is a luxury, but one that that we take a lot of advantage of with a toddler, and the ability to order more and more household items every month.
I won't pretend that the changeover is completely flawless. We didn't spend last night watching the Oscars, and televised news is a thing of the past (though, given how terrible it is, I suggest that's a feature instead of a bug). Live sports are also not something available to us at this point in time. If those items are worth $500 to you a year, then you don't want to do what we have done. But if you're like us, it's a very simple, winning calculus to stop paying for stuff you don't need.
Side note: If you do decide to move in this direction, your cable company is not going to be happy. They are going to try to keep you as a full customer. You'll get transferred to a "service termination expert", who will try to make all sorts of offers. None of them will be cheaper than what I've outlined above. Enjoy the resignation in their voice once they realize that you've moved on. You're the face of their future, and it scares them.