Cord Shaving vs Cord Cutting: Which One is Right for You?

One of the best things coming out of the cord cutting revolution is the idea that we have total control over what we allow into our homes and how we interact with our entertainment and our information. For some, cord cutting is the answer. For others, a newer idea, cord shaving, is presenting an easier road to follow. One that leads away from the control cable companies have over the content that finds its way into our TVs and other devices. So, let’s take a look at cord shaving vs cord cutting to see which one is right for you.

The difference between cord shaving and cord cutting is that with cord shaving, you’ll likely keep a pared-down cable subscription rather than cut it out entirely. Cord shaving allows you to limit your content from a cable provider while supplementing your family’s content with streaming services.

Cord shaving is a way to get the best of both worlds when it comes to entertainment, news, and other programming. For those families and individuals who are a bit nervous about cutting the cord with their cable company entirely, cord shaving offers a way to test the waters with streaming services and other creative methods of getting content, such as renting movies from your public library

One of the other reasons I love the idea of cord shaving is that it can be a gateway to fully committing to a cord cutting lifestyle. Once you see how useful and how affordable alternative content sources can be, you’ll be drawn even further into the cord cutter culture.

What are the main differences between cord shaving vs cord cutting?

As I mentioned above, the main difference between the two is that with cord shaving you’ll hang on to a stripped-down version of your cable TV subscription. Cord cutting, on the other hand, is when you decide to ditch cable TV entirely.

Cord cutting offers the most in terms of possible savings and freedom of choice regarding content. These days, there’s less and less difference between what a cord cutter can watch and what someone who hangs on to cable TV has access to. 

As streaming companies make more and better deals with content providers, such as networks and sports organizations, the gap between cable and streaming services becomes smaller and smaller.

There is a difference in convenience and ease of use with technology when it comes to cord cutting vs cord shaving. The deeper you go into the cord cutter lifestyle, the more you’ll have to be comfortable with setting up various devices, antennas, and the like to get the most content you can. For some, this isn’t a problem. But for others who aren’t as comfortable with technology, cord shaving can present a great compromise.

Why would you want to cut the cord with cable TV in the first place

A growing opportunity in programming

It’s becoming easier and cheaper to replicate the cable TV experience all the time now. In fact, as streaming services get better at replacing the need for cable TV, the cable providers are finding that they have to offer better rates, more incentives, and fewer plans that lock users into multi-year contracts. If nothing else comes out of the cable cutting phenomenon, this would be worth it.

However, there are still some people who find themselves in areas where cable TV providers are able to, or simply choose to, behave this way. In these situations, I think it’s pretty obvious why you’d want to switch to the cord cutter lifestyle.

Back when I first started on the cord cutting path, my decision wasn’t entirely focused on money. Finances definitely played a role; however, a big part of it was curiosity and the fact that it represented a bit of a challenge. For some people today, that’s still a big driver. That wonder of “can I do it?”

We also had digital converter boxes and some good indoor antennas coming out as well. The digital transition in the mid-2000s provided an excellent opportunity to explore content other than what was on cable TV at the time. 

I was able to explore a ton of content that wasn’t on normal over-the-air (OTA) TV programming. I think we have the same opportunity now with the vast array of streaming services available, both paid as well as free.

Keeping costs in check

But, yes, as I mentioned the financial incentive to cut the cord with cable TV was very attractive. At the time, cable TV felt even more expensive. When we finally did cancel our cable service, we ended up saving several hundred dollars each year.

We started to rent movies from our local library, and then Netflix happened as well. We ended up saving quite a bit of money. It was a powerful enough experience that I started to tell my family and friends about how much we were saving. We were the first of our group to go down the cord cutter path.

Today, things seem to be evening out a bit. You can still save quite a bit of money by ditching cable, but I think the decision to do so is more about the big picture. You can save money, control what comes into your home, and access more and better content overall by adopting some or all of the cord cutter techniques.

Why keeping cable TV might work for you

Some folks don’t really love change. And there’s the whole, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, thing. If you identify with those statements, cord shaving might be a good choice for you. In fact, if you lean heavily that way, you might not even want to shave the cord at all.

While cord shaving is an easier transition into the cord cutter lifestyle, it does require some change. If you give this a try, you should want to experience some of that.

With that said, if you’re willing to explore a bit, cord shaving could be a more comfortable option if you really love your cable TV.

Cord shaving vs cord cutting for sports fan

There are some specific cases where cord shaving makes a lot of sense, and sports is probably one of the biggest.

Ditching cable TV is harder for sports fans than it is for almost anyone else. Because of the deals that cable companies have made with some of the sports organizations, games and events are very slow to find their way to the streaming services. It’s happening, but not nearly fast enough for most sports fans.

There are ways around this for some people, but it really does depend on which sports you follow, how many games you expect to watch, and what market you want to access. For instance, I’ve written a bit about how to watch NHL games without a cable subscription, because that’s my sport of choice.

There is NHL Center Ice which provides lots of games; however, you can’t see your home team because of blackouts. The blackouts are due to the fact that local cable companies own the rights to broadcast games in that local area. So, while you’d get plenty of games to watch, which is great for a hockey fan, you’ll likely miss many of your home team’s games.

Plenty of situations just like this pop up when you’re dealing with sports. It’s frustrating, and I really only follow hockey. I can imagine how it is for fans who follow multiple sports throughout the year.

One good possibility, however, is fuboTV. They have a great selection of sports and a generous DVR service. The main issue with fuboTV is the cost. At $64.99 per month, it’s possible that your current cable TV subscription is still a better deal.

You could also check into Sling and see if their offerings plus a sports bundle will work for you.

Some cable TV companies offer good deals when you bundle

Be careful! This is very likely to be untrue. However, there are rare cases where a bundle that includes internet and a basic cable plan could be a good deal.

The cable companies know that most people are too lazy or unmotivated to look deeply into the charges on their monthly bill. The taxes, rental fees for cable boxes and modems, and random overages add up quickly. Look over your past few bills to see the average of these fees.

For example, we just turned in a cable modem that cost $10 each month. It was a modem that had been in the house for years and years. The people who were paying for it previously could have paid somewhere near $1,000 for all we know.

They also know that most people won’t go and figure out how much money they could save if they “unbundled” their internet and cable services. By doing a little research, you’ll at least know whether or not a bundle is a good deal in your case.

Even if you do opt for a bundle with your cable company, make sure that you aren’t locked into a long term contract, and weigh very carefully the pros and cons of owning your own equipment.

How to keep cable: Be firm and get what you want

What you need to research before anything else is how much all of the internet provider (ISP) options cost in your area. Know how much internet access will cost you if you do decide to ditch cable. Then add up the content services you know you want with the best deal you can find on internet access. Because…knowledge is power.

Remember that you’re in the driver’s seat. If your cable company can’t give you the deal you want, you have far more options than they do. Their options are, give you the deal you’re looking for, or very close to it, or lose you as a customer.

Negotiate, don’t demand

But, never be rude or mean to a cable TV salesperson or representative. Being rude will almost never get you the deal you want, and it will also just be a terrible thing to do. Realize that they are just doing their job, which is to keep customers and make money for the company that they work for.

Also, think of the old adage, “you’ll catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” Or flies…whatever, I’d rather catch bees I think? Just remember that you’ll get what you want a lot more easily if you’re nice and you treat folks well.

If you do feel that you’re not being treated well, hang up or ask to speak with a manager. If all else fails, just hang up. 

Back when I had cable, it was a regular thing to call when they jacked up prices and threaten to cancel my subscription. The main point, however, was that I wasn’t bluffing. If I didn’t get my price reduced to AT LEAST what it was before, I would cancel. And the rep could most definitely tell that I was serious. It’s like buying a car. If you’re willing to walk away, you have leverage.

Just be polite and friendly; be very clear about what you want, and be ready to cancel if you don’t get it.

What to ditch and what to keep with cable TV

Ditch everything you can

As a starting point, see what you’ll already have with the most basic cable TV plan if you do decide to keep your subscription with your cable company. Likely, it will resemble a subscription from a streaming service like Sling. This is going to be your baseline for content.

Then, ditch as much as you possibly can to begin with. Get rid of any extras that you think you can, including special services, extra DVR space, etc. You want to end up with the most stripped-down version of your cable service that you possibly can.

It’s valuable at this point to take inventory of how much everything is costing you. How much are you being charged for each cable box in your home? How much is the router rental from the cable company? Finding out how much you can save is about a lot more than just reducing channels.

The keep pile

With a basic cable subscription, you’ll probably have channels like CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and some regional sports channels as well. This is all highly dependent on your cable provider.

Think very carefully about what you really love to watch. Sit down with your family and figure out which channels you all, collectively, can’t live without. This is a great time to be ruthless with your decisions. Make it a game. Who can live with the fewest number of channels? The winner gets to pick the selection for family movie night for a month.

Remember, you can always add more content to your lineup later. If not with your cable provider, with any of the plethora of streaming choices out there today.

When you’ve created your “must-have” list, it’s time to start doing some price comparing. If you realize that everything your family needs is already taken care of with your basic cable subscription, you’re done. If not, it’s time to start shopping around the streaming services to see which one is right for you.

How to supplement your cable plan with streaming services

Cord shaving relies on replacing as much of your cable TV service with content streaming services as possible. It means ending up with a better selection of movies and TV shows at a better cost. And it means more freedom of choice in the long run.

So, how do you start moving toward that situation? 

When you know what channels you absolutely need, and you know what your basic cable subscription will provide, the rest is fairly easy. And, with free trials offered by most streaming service providers, finding out what will work best for you is very affordable.

Choose a streaming device

First things first, find which streaming device is right for you. We’ve written about the best streaming device to replace cable, so that might be a good starting point for you. In general, we recommend the Amazon Fire TV Stick for most people.

Also, make sure you actually need an external streaming device. If you’re not sure whether or not you have a smart TV, take a look at our article on how to find out if you have a smart TV.

Audition some streaming services

Once you’ve gotten your streaming device set up and ready to go, try your first content service. If you’re looking for the most “cable-like” service, Sling is a good option. Hulu is really good as well in terms of a broad selection of TV shows.

If you’re looking for the best streaming service for families, we’ve also written about that.

Trial periods typically last about a week, although some are much longer, and I’d recommend concentrating on one service at a time. It’ll give you a better idea of whether you really like them or not. Once you know the services that fit you and your family best, settle in and enjoy!

One last tip I’d leave with you is to remember how easy it is to pause a membership and restart it. Nearly all services will allow you to pause and resume very easily. What this means is that you can enjoy a season of the shows you really love on one service and move to the next for a month or two. Rinse and repeat. 

Cord shaving vs cord cutting: which way will you go?

Under most circumstances, I’d say that cord cutting is right for nearly everyone. Streaming devices are incredibly user-friendly, and streaming services offer virtually everything that cable TV does and more.

With those options plus the addition of a digital tuner and an indoor antenna, you can get more content than the typical family could ever need.

As we’ve seen throughout this article, there are still rare circumstances where cord shaving is the right choice. Sports fans, for instance, are a good example. If you can’t find the teams and games you’re looking for through local channels over the air and reasonably priced streaming services, then cable might win.

Even if you do end up keeping cable TV, make sure to go through your bill and pare down any costs you can. And consider only keeping cable TV active during the sports seasons that you really enjoy. You’ll save a good amount of money that way.

In the end, cord shaving vs cord cutting is all about balance. Enjoy your content as much as possible, but don’t let it take hold of your life. Hopefully, this article has given you enough information to make a good decision and take some action.

Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below.

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