How I’m saving $36 a month on my cable bill & gaining TV viewing options

A couple hours ago, completely by accident, I stumbled across a way to save $36 a month from my cable bill while actually increasing the number of options I have for watching TV.  I was googling about something – I don’t even remember what – and I accidentally stumbled onto a site called PlayOn.  I downloaded a free two-week trial of their software, which allows you to stream Hulu, YouTube, CBS, Netflix (if you have a subscription) and other channels through your networked XBox 360, PS3, or Wii onto your TV.  Then, I downloaded a free two-week trial of Netflix.  It was all set up in under five minutes, and I was watching Family Ties.

Truth is, we had been thinking about giving up some of our cable services for a while.  We definitely didn’t need all of the premium channels we were paying for.  We have two dual-tuner DVRs going at all hours, but a lot of what we record is available on Hulu or Netflix, sometimes the day after it airs.  We knew that we could use our XBox 360 for streaming Netflix, and could hook up a computer to the TV to stream Hulu, but I know us, and we’re lazy.  We don’t want to hook up a computer and runs wires every time we want to sit down and watch TV (plus, we could only stream Netflix through the XBox that has the XBox Live membership – if we were going to get rid of premium channels, we wanted to access Netflix from both XBoxes without having to pay additional fees to Netflix for the privilege).  I was looking for a simple solution that wouldn’t cost much money, but all I was finding were devices.  I didn’t want to add another device – the TV in question already has an XBox and a DVD player.

This is the perfect solution for us.  Going forward we’ll be saving $45 a month from our cable bill, and paying $8.99 a month for Netflix, for a net savings of $36 (with a one-time charge of $30 for the PlayOn software).

We did the following things:

  • We canceled our premium cable channels.  We can access the same movies and shows via Hulu or Netflix.  Yes, we may have to wait a little while for some of them, but they usually sit on the DVR for weeks anyway, so who cares?  Savings: $33 a month
  • We’re turning in one of our two DVRs.  At this point we’re basically recording the same stuff on both.  We’ll survive just fine with only one.  Savings: $12 a month
  • I dug our HD antenna picture frame out of the closet and hooked it up to the TV, so that we can watch local channels on that TV
  • We’re purchasing the PlayOn software for $30, which allows us to stream Hulu (including my queue), Netflix, and other channels to our networked XBox 360
  • We’re subscribing to Netflix for $8.99 a month, which will give us instant access to TV shows and movies that we used to watch on our premium cable channels.  That’s on top of being able to get two actual DVDs in the mail at a time

Of course, there are a few downsides:

  • A computer running the PlayOn software has to be on if you want to use it to watch TV
  • I’ll have to teach the kids how to access shows from the XBox (not to mention anyone who babysits, housesits, or stays with us)
  • If our internet goes out, then we won’t be able to watch most TV upstairs (just what’s coming in from the HD antenna)
  • I’ll have to pay attention to things like Hulu subscriptions and Netflix queues (and it looks like we’ll have to share the queues!  Gah!)
  • Unless we buy a universal remote for the XBox 360 (which I’m sure we will eventually) we have to use the XBox controller to pause and fast-forward – a little annoying
  • Sometimes the quality isn’t quite as sharp as it is with cable (then again, our cable often skips or pixelates, so that’s probably a wash)
  • Some of the shows and movies I want to watch on Netflix are only available through the mail, and I promise you I will bitch and moan every time I have to lick an envelope and go a block out of my way to a mailbox

But the advantages are huge:

  • After taking into account the start-up software and Netflix cost, we’ll still save $400 a year
  • We don’t need to connect a computer to our TV to stream Hulu
  • Instead of randomly stumbling upon movies we want to see when they happen to be available on premium cable channels, we can organize our viewing options with queues on both Netflix and Hulu, and even get alerts from Hulu when new shows have been added
  • I feel better giving Time Warner a little less money every month

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 1 (for the XBox). Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.


  1. says

    Sounds like a great idea! Unfortunately I live in Canada where our streaming video options are very limited. Even the networks say “We’re sorry, streaming video for US residents only”. Doh!

  2. Joanna W says

    somehow I feel we ought to be doing this but … it might take some actual work on my part … maybe it will be enough if I forward it to my husband and he gets excited about it.

  3. says

    @Joanna W – I think in a lot of marriages that’s how it would work best. :-) Luckily for my husband he’s married to someone obsessed with gadgets, programs, and weird ways to do things.

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