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Preparing for college football as a cord cutter

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Like many people, cable television got too expensive for me, so I cut the cord. I head into the upcoming college football season with no fear.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Right around the NCAA Tournament, I saw that my monthly bill for cable TV, internet, and the home phone had crept to $235 a month. I made several calls to Spectrum and they were unwilling to bargain, so I made the decision to cut the cord ... right after the NCAA Tournament and when my current TV shows ended.

It was a bit overwhelming, and I did a lot of research. But, I found that you can save a lot of money as a cord cutter and still get the huge influx of sports. I am so comfortable with my setup that I am more than comfortable going into college and NFL season with no cable plan.

Here are a few things that I have discovered and a few tips if you are thinking of doing the same.

In my opinion, the key to cord cutting is making sure you have a reliable HDTV antenna. I have a $59 Winegard antenna and a $30 1byone antenna that I got off Amazon. I also have two Roku units that are $30 each, and this is all the hardware that you need.

I am in Orlando, so I have a crystal clear reception to ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW, and a few local stations for free. This covers a good chunk of the NFL schedule and even the NCAA Football schedule. Also, any really big sporting events are going to be on the networks mostly, so good HDTV coverage is essential.

Personally, I have SlingTV. I have the $25 option (with no ESPN - more on that later), but this gives me access to TBS, TNT, my local FOX sports affiliates, and the NFL Network. I do pay for a cloud DVR and the news package that includes MSNBC, so my monthly tab to SlingTV is right around $40.

But what about ESPN? I did some bartering with some friends to get access to a Watch ESPN app and password. I upgraded my Netflix to the $13.99 plan for four users, and I traded off my password for access to the ESPN package, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. So for the cost of that Netflix subscription, I can get the Watch ESPN, which includes the SEC Network.

Now if you don't want to barter, you can get a package that has ESPN. There is an additional add-on for the SEC Network. The beauty of this is that you can keep the additional sports channels for the months that you need it. I don't care about baseball so I can do with the sports channels over the summer.

The only thing I could not get through SlingTV is access to the CBS Sports Network which is carrying the September 2 Southern Miss game. I simply went and got myself invited to a friends house for that game, and if there are other Kentucky games I can not get, I can just go to a bar.

There is another option that may help you if you are more of a sports fan. I did a free trial of the Hulu Streaming TV. It runs #39.99 a month, but the ESPN channels and the SEC Network are included. They also have the CBS Sports Network, which is a plus. In addition, Hulu does not nickel and dime you on things like MSNBC and a cloud DVR. It is all included in the $39.99 price, but Hulu is not perfect.

There is no NFL Network, and fans of The Walking Dead will not be happy to see that Hulu does not carry AMC. I think the channel lineup for Sling is a little stronger and the channel interface for SlingTV blows Hulu away. Sling's guide is the same as the cable guide that you are used to, and it is user-friendly. Hulu is a bit overwhelming at first, and I did not warm up to their interface in my week trial.

The best thing to do is to do the free trials of both systems at the same time and make your decision that way. If you have a Roku, it is a little hard to find the Hulu app as it is a Beta program right now, but this should help you find it.

Is cord cutting a perfect solution? No. Will I miss a game I want to watch? Maybe. But is it a money saving option? You betcha. I was able to get my internet and home phone down to $70 a month. Even with the $40 I pay for Sling, Netflix and the CBS All Access, I now pay about $130 a month which is a $100 monthly savings.

That is more than enough to pay for the chicken wings and beer if I have to go to a bar to catch a game occasionally.

Be sure to also check out SB Nation’s guide to cord cutting.