A Television Lover’s Guide to Being a Cable Free Family

Can I let you in on a dirty little secret? We watch television in our house. Maybe more than we should, but that’s another conversation for another day. Glad I got that off my chest! We’ve also been cable free for over six years now and have learned a thing or two.

When people find out we don’t have cable the question we always get is “How?” Most people recognize it’s a good move that eliminates (or reduces) a monthly expense and gives you more control over what you watch. As for the how, I’m sharing the devices and services that keep us in front of the TV:

Cable Free

Catch It On-Air with An Antenna

There’s an awful lot of TV available over the air. We’re wired into mega dishes in our 1960s home’s attic, but for years we used small digital antennas that actually work really well. You can watch all the major networks plus some random stuff live this way. The best thing for kids is that there are three different PBS frequencies all playing different programming. Say mom can’t take one more minute of a certain annoying bald Canadian toddler? Switch over and you can watch the naughty monkey (sometimes George is beyond Curious, right?). Need more variety? Read on!

Stream It

There are so many streaming services now, many with their own original programming. Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, HBO Now, Showtime, CBS All Access, Sling TV and more. Personally, I think Netflix has the best variety of kid’s shows, good rotation and the added bonus of the most customizable parental controls (bonus for separate profiles). You’ll find anything from large libraries of PBS programing, super hero overload, some Disney Junior shows and more treasures. I may always be a day behind and subject to spoilers, but Hulu is my Mom Must-Have in order to keep up with guilty pleasures like The Bachelor and whatever emotional torture Shonda Rimes has cooked up. You’ll find Nickelodeon, PBS shows and more programming for kids on Hulu too.

You could sign up for everything at once, but it would negate your cost savings. We keep Netflix year round, Hulu during the “school year” and sprinkle in others for month long binge watching to catch up on other favorite shows. Everything we’ve tried has been no contract, so you can quit anytime.

Most televisions now are internet ready and a breeze to connect, but if yours is not you still have options.

  • Many BluRay players and gaming consoles have Internet accessibility and the apps you need to connect to your chosen streaming service.
  • Apple TV and AirPlay, Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick are basically plug and go!  You can watch directly from your TV.
  • Google Chromecast can be plugged into your TV and you’ll cast from the apps on your smart phone or tablet.
  • Is your TV older? Invest in an HDMI adapter (like this one if you’re an iPhone/iPad user) that will play from a plugged in phone or tablet.

Borrow It

Don’t forget the library keeps a great selection of DVD series. You’ll have to reserve and wait for the hottest ones, then you have just a week to binge, but it’s an affordable option ($0.25/rental from the Wichita Public Library for held items).

Buy It

There are some TV shows that we don’t want to wait for that aren’t available on other platforms. For those we use Vudu (similar to the iTunes store if you’re all Apple). You can purchase by the season (like we did for years with Mad Men) or by the episode (like we do for Paw Patrol bribery). Vudu is also great for buying movies or storing digital copies of purchased DVDs (then the hard copy can go to Grandma’s!). You can download your digital library from Vudu and have shows and movies at the ready when you travel, too.

But What About…

Now we’re left with the real reason everyone still keeps cable: SPORTS! It’s not always easy. Now that we have kids the fall Saturdays that began with College Game Day and queso then ended with the Pac 12 game and (more) beers are long gone. But, the handful of times we’ve lamented being cable-free it’s always been because we were missing a Kansas State football game or Wichita State basketball game. There’s always a workaround though:

  • ESPN on Sling TV.
  • Go to a sports bar for date night.
  • Attend an alumni association watch party and do some networking too.
  • Call a good friend who hasn’t cut the cord and propose a family play date/watch party: “We’ll bring pizza if you host!”
  • Go to the gym, grab yourself a treadmill, and sweat through a game!

The amount of entertainment we have at our fingertips is truly staggering. Have you cut the cord to live cable free? Any other tips you’d add? If you haven’t, what’s holding you back?

Ginny Ellis is a hometown girl who happily resides in East Wichita with her husband, two young sons, two rowdy dogs, and one spoiled tortoise. Together they enjoy taking part in all our city has to offer, especially if it involves being outdoors, supporting the arts, or is particularly delicious. She is a WAHM who serves as WMB's Events Director as well as holding volunteer positions in Junior League of Wichita, on her neighborhood elementary school's PTO Board, and for United Way of the Plains. Ginny is a podcast enthusiast, laundry folding procrastinator, and insatiable reader who loves the Shockers, theme parties, and her margaritas on the rocks.


  1. Sports is THE number 1 reason we have not cut cable. I saw the new Apple Tvs will be able to stream ESPN so it may definitely be something we look at in the future.

    • I was wondering about streaming who do you use in Wichita because Cox is expensive and I can’t get U-verse so what Pixius doesn’t work either

      • we use Cox. It is expensive, but U-Verse isn’t available in our area. They’ve made internet one of those things we can’t imagine living without!

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