Watching your favorite shows doesn’t have to be expensive

QUEEN OF FREE: CHERIE LOWE

By Cherie Lowe

A recent study from the National Association of Broadcasters revealed that nearly 30 percent of Americans had no idea that you could transmit television into your home for free. It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who grew up with rabbit ears (and sometimes aluminum foil) on top of our television sets or tall towers above our houses.

Satellite and cable services permeate so many households, causing some Americans to believe that tuning into broadcast networks without rented equipment or a service plan is stealing. Far from the truth, there are a number of ways to watch your favorite shows without spending much — or any — money at all.

Build your own antenna

My husband Brian owns few earthly treasures. He cherishes a pair of cuff links that once belonged to his grandfather. He keeps a folder of artwork our girls have created over the years in his office.

But if you want to hear him beam with pride, ask him about his homemade TV antenna. Built with his bare hands from a 2 x 4, clothes hangers, washers, screws and a balun for $3.49, our antenna sits on the deck and pulls in dozens of channels on our TV. You can easily make one of your own, too. Check out Popular Mechanics tutorial for building your own digital TV antenna online.

Head to the library

You know how much I love the local library. From books to programming to music and beyond, your local library is a wealth of information and entertainment. When it comes TV shows and movies, you’ve probably seen the DVD collection at your favorite library.

But what might be lesser known is that many libraries partner with services allowing patrons to download or stream popular TV shows and full length movies for absolutely free. Drop into your library and ask a librarian to help you navigate the Hoopla website.

Trim your package

If you can’t quite give up your cable, you still may want to make a phone call to customer relations to possibly lower your rate or reduce your services. Years ago, I learned a little known fact. Many cable companies offer a no frills package called the poverty or poor man’s package. For a much lower rate, you can receive local channels only.

Comcast also offers what they call the Internet Essentials program. Qualifying families can apply to receive internet service for as little as $9.95 per month. While not available in Indiana yet, there are similar programs being piloted for senior citizens and community college students, too.

It’s worth your time to at least call. If you’ve been with your company for a number of years, ask for the customer retention department and let them know your rates are beyond what you can afford.

Streaming services

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, oh my! Opportunities to stream your favorite shows and movies abound. But it’s difficult to know which service is for you. If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, your membership includes a wide variety of high-quality programming. Both Netflix and Hulu offer free trials to see which platform might work best for you and your family.

Just be careful to cancel the trial before the actual service begins so you don’t get billed for a program you don’t want to continue. As long as you have a working Internet connection, you can use these streaming platforms to watch what you love. These services fall short in two primary areas, though. It can be difficult to watch live events such as sports, awards shows and television specials if they appear on cable network channels.

More than likely you’ll be a season or two behind the standard programming since the television series release an entire season at a time after they’ve been broadcast on the networks.

Fortune.com reports that the average consumer pays a whopping $103-plus per month for cable TV. You may want to evaluate whether your budget can handle that hefty bill. You have options and don’t have to be locked into a pricey plan. Do your research and learn how you can cut the cable without missing any television fun.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net