That TV habit of yours doesn't come cheap. Digital cable and satellite customers pay nearly $75 per month on average (according to research firm Centris), and many pay more than $100. We’re talking about $1,000 per year for The Daily Show and Gossip Girl. (Though some could argue that those shows are priceless.)
As long as you don't care about seeing your shows at the same time they originally air on TV, find new freedom by watching your favorite shows and movies online, many of which are free. According to an AdAge article quoting the CEO of internet TV service Boxee, "60% of broadcast TV is available online free in some form, and 10% of cable TV." Even if your cable bill is bundled with internet, dropping the cable portion would lead to substantial savings. Time Warner's cable plus internet package costs about $112, whereas plain internet costs $46...a difference of $66!
- Hulu. With Hulu around, there is no reason to pay for TV. This site carries 1,700 current primetime TV shows (30 Rock, LOST, The Office, and, yes, The Daily Show). They are generally posted the morning after they air on television. It also carries older shows (Bewitched, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The A-Team), movies, and sports. The only cost is seconds of your time, as there are brief commercials. The site originally started as a collaboration between NBC and Fox but has since expanded to include many other networks and content sources.
- SetJam & Clicker. Pretty much every network has its own site with full episodes, but what if you can't remember what network The Good Wife is on? Check out these online viewing guides/search engines. They'll point you in the right direction.
- Netflix. This disc-in-the-mail site now allows you to stream movies to your computer commercial-free. For $9 per month, you can get unlimited streaming.
- Boxee. This internet TV service aggregates video and other media from tons of different sources, like Hulu and Netflix, in addition to sites like MLB.TV, Comedy Central, Pandora, Last.fm, and Flickr. Plus, it incorporates music and video files you already have in your collection, and allows you to easily share with other friends on the site. The downloadable Boxee software is free.
- iTunes. You can also pay for your favorite shows on iTunes when they're not available online for free. It's still cheaper than cable.
If you can't bear to downsize from that big TV screen to a computer, you don't have to. Watch your shows online, as outlined above, on your traditional TV screen. All you have to do is connect your television to the internet.
If your TV isn't compatible, you can buy a set-top box from a retailer like Roku.com, which has prices starting at $80. Roku lets you stream from sources such as Netflix and Amazon Video On-Demand (and it keeps adding more content sources). Amazon lets you watch movies and TV episodes for as little as $1. Coming soon, Boxee will debut its Boxee Box, which brings the program's capabilities to your TV.
We know it can be emotionally hard to cut the cable cord, but consider the numbers. (Plus, paying for cable is so 2009.)
If you do what's in this Daily, you save:
$56 x 12=$672/year
If you invested this amount today and earned an 8% return, you would have $14,599 by retirement.**
*Savings if you pay for $9 for Netflix and $1 for an Amazon movie per month, and downgrade from $112 for cable plus internet to $46 per month for internet alone.
**If you are 25 today and retire at age 65. We calculated that number here.