Struggling to cut the cord? Don't overthink it

How to quit cable TV in three easy steps.

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Depending on how you look at it, cord-cutting can either be extremely straightforward or remarkably complex.

I often hear from folks who see it the latter way, and for understandable reasons. It seems like every week, there are new streaming services to consider, more devices to choose from, and big changes to the options that already exist. The deeper into those weeds you get, the scarier cord-cutting starts to seem.

So, maybe it’s time to zoom out and consider a simpler approach. Instead of agonizing over every possibility, perhaps you should avoid overthinking the matter. Nothing is permanent in the world of cord-cutting anyway, so you might as well dive in and start figuring things out through first-hand experience.

Here’s how to do that in the easiest way possible:

Pre-launch: Make sure you have home internet

Before you cut the cord, keep in mind that you’ll still need home internet service. If you’re only paying for TV service at home, the cost of adding home internet will likely negate your savings from cord cutting.

Yes, that means you’ll probably still need to do business with your local cable, phone, or fiber-optic service provider. And yes, a lack of competition means home internet service is more expensive than it should be. But by lopping off your TV package, you’ll still be able to save a lot of money even without bundling.

Step 1: Get a streaming device

I like the $40 Roku Express 4K+ as the best streaming device for most people, because it’s inexpensive, simple to set up, and easy to use. Plug it into your TV, follow the setup process to connect it to your Wi-Fi, then use it to download some streaming apps. Roku even provides a substantial catalog of ad-supported movies and shows, so you can start streaming without paying anything extra.

rokuui2021 Jared Newman / IDG

Roku provides a simple, inexpensive way to start using streaming services.

Want something faster and fancier? Consider the Apple TV 4K for $179 instead. Do you already have a smart TV? And if so, are you reasonably happy with how it works? Good news: You can skip this step entirely, at least for now.

There are lots of other options, of course; but right now, the Roku Express 4K+ and Apple TV 4K are what I’d recommend to most people without agonizing over the decision too much.

rokuexpress4kplushero Jared Newman / IDG

An inexpensive streaming device that plugs into your TV, like the Roku player pictured here, will get you on the way to cord-cutting.

Step 2: Try a few streaming services

Now that you have a streaming device, you can load it up with online video services.

If you’ve got a big pay TV bundle and are unwilling to lose those channels, check out YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or FuboTV. They each cost $65 per month, and they’re more similar than they are different. Each gives you a large selection of cable channels—including local stations in most cases—and each provides you with a “cloud” DVR for recording shows, movies, and sporting events. Check out The Streamable’s Matchmaker tool or our own live streaming guide to see which channels are available on each service.

youtubetv2 Jared Newman / TechHive

Live streaming services like YouTube TV can provide much of what you had with cable for less.

Sports fans may instead need to splurge on AT&T TV, which costs $85 per month for a plan with regional sports channels. At present, it’s the only way to watch Bally Sports channels without cable.

What about other streaming services, like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max? You can subscribe to them in addition to or instead of the bundles above. If you want to maximize your savings and can live without specific cable channels, just pick one or two of these services and skip the big bundle entirely. You can even use the voice remote on your Roku or Apple TV to ask how to watch your favorite shows, which is helpful for figuring out which services to pay for.

Step 3: Adapt as needed

This is admittedly the most open-ended step in the process, but it’s also the most important. Because there are no long-term contracts binding you to any particular plan, switching between them is trivial.

That means you can spend a month with YouTube TV, and if you’re not satisfied, you can spend a month with FuboTV or Hulu + Live TV instead. Alternatively, you can try a skinnier bundle like Sling TV or Philo or experiment with not having a bundle at all. If you’re feeling especially brave, you can try grabbing local channels from an antenna and set up an over-the-air DVR.

disneyplus Disney

A small handful of standalone services, such as Disney+ and Netflix, might be all you really need.

You even have some wiggle room on the device side. Not happy with the streaming device you picked? Don’t be afraid to exercise the free return policies from wherever you shopped. Feeling let down by your smart TV’s built-in software? Just plug in an external streaming device—like the aforementioned Roku Express 4K+ or Apple TV 4K—instead.

Worst-case scenario, you can even go crawling back to cable. You may have to swallow some pride along the way, but you might be able to finagle a new promo rate to make up for it. (With Spectrum, you might also get offers for cheaper streaming-only plans that aren’t available to existing cable TV customers.)

All that really matters is that you take the first step and have some willingness to experiment. Cord-cutting might seem like a complex task on the surface, but the biggest obstacle is really just inertia.

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