|Control Your TV, Don’t Let It Control You|
Over a year ago a friend of mine posted something on Facebook about how they ditched their cable company and saved over $75 a month (Thanks Sharron!). At first I thought she was crazy! No TV? No Cable? How in the world would she keep her sanity!? I asked her what in the world she was doing with her recently purchased huge flat screen TV, and in the same sentence somehow managed to offer to take it off her hands. Heck I would even come over and take it off the wall for her at no charge! After a few brief chuckles, she told me she still uses the TV, and that although she got rid of her cable company she still watches tons of TV. I still thought she was crazy, but I was intrigued enough to give it a closer look. My cable bill was over $110 monthly, and was thinking that at $1320 annually that was actually quite a bit of my paycheck going to a faceless corporation. So with her help I started on my journey of savings! It has been well over a year no since I started my no cable experiment, and I have found the results surprising!
Over The Air TV
When we first started on this endeavor, we always had cable service, so it actually took a bit of research to figure out exactly how to get “Over The Air TV”. Our TV sets were for the most part new and included a digital tuner, so no set top converter box was necessary. We tried a simple set of rabbit ears and we could only pickup a few stations. We ultimately setup an antenna in our attic and just connected it to the main feed where our cable service once came in. We decided to go with an indoor/outdoor antenna that I just literally nailed to my rafters in the direction of my closest metropolitan area. We get over 45 different TV stations! Because we were receiving a digital signal, instead of an analog cable signal, the picture quality is actually much better then when we had basic cable service! My recommendation for an antenna purchase is to just head to Walmart. You generally don’t need anything too crazy, and this purchase shouldn’t cost you more than $60 max. That was only a bit more than half of my regular cable bill!
While we were thoroughly enjoying the free digital TV we had easily setup, we did miss the DVR type of on demand service we had with the cable company. Many of the shows were recorded and watched were reruns anyway, so we found that many of the shows we were recording were actually available via Netflix streaming service. In case you aren’t aware, this service is available on most web connected TVs, Blu Ray Players, and game systems including the Nintendo Wii. The price is about $8 monthly with an option to get old school DVDs or Blu Rays sent to you via mail. We discovered that the cost for Netflix was about what we were paying monthly for the DVR equipment from our cable company.
While Netflix was great for many shows, there weren’t a ton of current TV program options. This is where Hulu Plus comes in. Most shows that are available to this streaming service are available anywhere from the next day to a week after their original airing date. Again at around 8 bucks a month it was a great deal. I should also mention that Hulu Plus is now available on most gaming consoles, tablets, and web connected TVs.
An awesome local resource that we found for quality frugal TV entertainment has also been our neighborhood Redbox kiosk. DVDs are just a buck and blu rays are $1.60 locally. They have also started renting video games and you can keep them for as long as you want. We are always careful to rent a movie and return it the next day to avoid paying for multiple evenings. This is a great way to get first rate movies, often times as soon as they come out. My recommendation is to browse the website first to see what movies are available and you can reserve them online as well. This helps minimize the time you’ll spend at the kiosk. You can zip in and out. If you provide your email address, you will also get coupons on a regular basis. Many times this is a free rental or rent one get one free deal.
The Overall Results:
While I realize that making the choice to get rid of cable was my own, I was surprised to find my wife embraced the idea as well. Over the past year we have used multiple streaming services for video on demand television shows as well as some great movies. We really miss the 24 hour local news channel that we had with our cable services, but have found solutions for weather information as well as traffic when needed. Since we don’t have it at ready all the time, we have discovered many of the news stories we may miss, but we have found it makes for much better conversation when someone actually tells us about a major event. Worst case scenario, we do still use the Internet to read many news articles, and one of our local channels has a weather service that 24×7.
When we had our little guy, we were concerned that he would be missing out on some quality children’s programming, but it turns out we found our local PBS channel is a great resource! For the shows that they don’t have that were produced by Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel, we found that most were available through streaming services. In addition there is a PBS channel now called Create which is pretty much like a free version of TLC! If he misses his favorite show, you can also stream them for free directly from the PBS website.
The results of our experiment are in and I think we made the right choice! With savings of around $1320, our budget is happier and so is our family! Check out all the cable and satellite alternatives I have had personal experience with and hopefully you can save some cash too!
Images Courtesy of MorgueFile.com