After decades of conservative business leaders cutting our wages and benefits or outsourcing our jobs to China and India, we’re left with lower or stagnant wages and less disposable income than ever before. But with advances in technology, we have more entertainment options than ever, options we can’t necessarily afford. So this nonpolitical post will explain how I take advantage of the many entertainment options available on a very tight budget, in two words: video streaming.
Assuming you already have a broadband or DSL connection (through your phone company or standalone broadband via cable), you’re in the perfect position to, as they say, “cut the cord” (cable or satellite tv). What you need is a “streaming video box” to take advantage of your internet connection. There are several manufacturers of these devices (including Apple TV) but the one I use is the ROKU Lite streaming video box which only costs $50 to $60 to purchase. Its a one-time purchase; after that there is no monthly or yearly cost of any kind, no fees. Its a small device that connects wirelessly to your wireless internet modem, with more expensive models that connect directly to your modem (and with an earphone jack in the remote!). Through this device you’ll have access to hundreds of free or paid tv, movie, and entertainment channels.
If you wanna go the completely free route, there are many free channels to choose from with the ROKU box (I would imagine Apple TV is similar): there’s Crackle (movies), Pandora (personalized radio), Vevo (music videos), Nowhere TV (many options including full episodes of Maddow and other MSNBC shows), PBS, OVGuide (movies), PopcornFlix (movies), Vanguard (movies), Indie crush (movies), HuffPost live (live discussions of politics and news), 8ctave (movies and tv), Viewster (movies and tv), AOL.On (variety), Snag films (movies), Koldcast (tv for tweens and teens), weather underground (weather forecasts), NBC News (videos of broadcasts), and many, many more channels. There are even channels from other countries and some specialized content providers for a relatively small monthly fee.
An option that is still very cheap is to add the Netflix video streaming option for $7.99 a month. That plan offers many TV series from cable networks and network TV, plus hundreds (possibly thousands) of movies. Netflix runs through your ROKU or other streaming video player, plus you can watch it on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. It includes some new, highly-acclaimed original programming such as the new season of Arrested Development, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black. You can choose from years of archived programs from well known cable networks like AMC, including The Killing, The Walking Dead, Madmen and Breaking Bad. There’s also The Fall, Hell on Wheels, Sons of Anarchy, Durham County, Weeds, and Nip Tuck. Then there are some not-so-ancient archives of shows like Lost, Fringe, Heroes, and Scandal. Seriously, there are way too many shows and movies to count for such a low monthly fee.
If you want the latest film releases, you can add a Netflix DVD-to-home plan for an additional $8.99 a month for one DVD at a time or $11.99 a month 2 dvds at a time. So even with Netflix’s second DVD plan and the video streaming plan, not to mention all the free programming with ROKU (or Apple TV), you’re only paying $20.00 a month. We’re talking about free programming with ROKU, $8 a month Netflix streaming, and $9 a month or $12 a month for Netflix DVDs at home plans. So the monthly costs range from free to $20 a month for a ton of entertainment. Compare that to the latest, outrageous prices of cable, Dish or DirecTV.
Of course there are downsides to any new idea. With Netflix, you won’t be seeing archived episodes of shows like Madmen or Breaking Bad as soon as they are released on the actual cable networks – there’s a delay of several months. But if you’re new to the programs or introducing someone else to them, you can literally watch them all in a row over several days or weeks. And if you go with the Netflix DVD-at-home addition, you’ll see movies anywhere from 3-12 months after their release. Note: OnDemand movies by Amazon and others are also available, but at $3 or more per individual video its not a cost-saver, and that’s the purpose of this post.
If your goal is to save money for yourself and your family, you have to admit that video streaming is a really great, cheap alternative to cable or satellite tv, even if you factor in the cost for broadband.
Note: This site receives no compensation in return for the aforementioned products.