Although I hate paying bills in general, there is one bill in particular that I dread every month—the cable bill! I’m always shocked by how expensive cable is, even without purchasing the pricey premium movie channels or added sports bundles. For a while I considered ditching the cable altogether and moving to the world of streaming TV but, being a bit of a TV addict, I was quite resistant to it. However, after finally giving it a go, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how much money I’ve saved, and I still get to watch my favorite shows! If you’re considering cutting the cord with your cable company, here’s what you need to know:

Step 1: Purchase your equipment

Before you cancel your cable you will need a device that will allow you to stream TV shows and movies to your television. There are numerous options out there, but the following are the highest rated by both consumers and experts:

  • Apple TV. Apple TV, which came out in 2006, is one of the best digital media receivers out there. It supports content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, NBA, Flickr, YouTube and more. You can also access the iTunes store directly through the device to purchase content. Apple TV also allows you to play your mp3 files and view slideshows of your photos directly on your TV, which can be particularly fun during get-togethers and parties. However, the main perk to Apple TV is that it was created to work seamlessly with other Apple products, so if you’re a Mac person, this may be the best option for you. Apple TV is priced at $99.
  • Roku. The Roku 3 offers more options than the Apple TV, as far as content goes. In fact, Roku boasts over 700 channels of content (although some of them require paid subscriptions). With this device you can view programs from all of the major providers including Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, NBA, NHL Game Center, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Major League Soccer, Pandora and much more. However, Roku does not support YouTube, and does not offer access to iTunes, which Apple TV does. The Roku 3 is priced at $99 and can be purchased at any major electronics retailer and Amazon.
  • Gaming console. If you already have a gaming console such as a Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360, you already have the ability to stream content from select carriers and may find that a box isn’t necessary for you. Although these devices typically don’t offer as many options or as much content as the other devices, if you’re just looking for a way to watch shows from Netflix or Amazon and you already own one of these systems, this may be a good choice for you. However, be aware: if you’re planning on streaming through an Xbox 360, you will need to purchase an Xbox Live Gold Membership, which is priced at $59.99 a year.
  • Western Digital TV Live Hub. With 1TB of storage built in, the Western Digital may be a great choice if you have a lot of home videos that you plan on watching. On the downside, the WD Hub lacks wireless and, at $149, is pricier than the Roku or Apple TV. One of the cool features that this device offers is that it allows you to take photos or videos with your smartphone and upload them directly to the built-in hard drive on the device. When you get home from a fun afternoon out with the family, you can immediately sit down on the couch and pull up your photos!

Step 2: Stream your content

Once you’ve chosen your equipment, you’re ready to stream! However, you must first choose where you want to stream from. There are plenty of options out there, including the following popular choices.

  • Hulu. One of the most popular providers of streaming TV shows and movies, Hulu provides access to full seasons of TV, including current seasons. In fact, many TV shows appear on Hulu the day after they air on TV. However, if you’re a big movie buff, you may be a little disappointed in their selection, which typically consists of older releases. Hulu is free for basic service and $8 a month for premium.
  • Netflix. My provider of choice, Netflix, offers a pretty remarkable selection of shows and movies for $8.99 a month. The downside? You won’t find current seasons of TV shows on Netflix so if you’re hoping to be surprised by what happens next in the show you’re currently watching, you may find yourself constantly trying to dodge Internet spoilers!
  • iTunes. Unlike Hulu and Netflix, which charge a flat monthly fee, iTunes charges per episode or movie, which can add up fast if you watch as much TV as I do! TV shows are typically $1 to rent and $2 to buy, and new movies are usually priced at $4 to rent and around $15 to buy. However, one of the nice features of iTunes is that you can pre-order movies and have them automatically downloaded to your account so they’ll be ready and waiting for you when you get home from a long day at work!
  • Amazon Instant Video. Amazon Instant Video, like iTunes, charges per episode or movie with comparable prices. However, with a membership to Amazon Prime you’ll have access to thousands of shows and films for free. Not to mention you’ll get that free 2-day shipping on thousands of products, which might just make it worth that $79 a year.
  • Vudu. Vudu, which claims to offer the largest selection of HD movies, typically offers movies the same day they’re released on DVD. There is no monthly fee, and movies are priced at $2 for 2 nights. However, Vudu does run promotions, including a 99-cent movie of the day, as well as sale prices on select movies or shows.
  • Sports Options. The biggest challenge with ditching cable tends to be for sports fans, who may have a harder time following their favorite team’s games. Although there aren’t as many options as there are when it comes to movies, sports fans aren’t completely left out of the world of streaming. There are, in fact, several choices out there including MLB.TV, NHL Game Center, Major League Soccer and CBS Sports. If you still can’t manage to find that one game you’re dying to watch, you can always offer to bring a pizza to the neighbor’s house on game day!

If you’re considering dumping cable and moving to one of these options, you may be wondering exactly how much it will really save you. Although cable rates vary depending on location and services, most cable plans range from $59 to $89, not including taxes or equipment rental such as DVRs. If your cable bill is right in the middle at $75 a month and you choose to go with a monthly streaming service such as Netflix, you’ll pay $8.99 a month. That’s a savings of $66 a month or almost $800 a year! Even if you decide to rent a $4 movie every single Saturday night, your monthly bill will still only come up to be about $25, saving you about $600 a year! Personally, for $600 a year, I can deal with being a day—or even a season—behind on my favorite shows!