Canceling Cable

2013 was an expensive year for us, with hospital bills, unexpected costs of raising a child (newsflash: they’re expensive!), and just generally boring adult stuff that added up. Over the last few years we have cut back significantly on holiday spending, we rarely eat out anymore, I haven’t bought many new clothes for myself at all in the past year, and neither of us has a habit like smoking or Starbucks that adds up over time — but we were were still feeling stretched.

I have always justified the cost of cable by saying that it was our main source of entertainment, given that we rarely go to restaurants anymore and I can’t even remember the last time Nick and I saw a movie together. It was how we treated ourselves! We deserved something, right?

…Then I got a Verizon bill in December that was our first since our initial two year promotion ended, and I thought that maybe justifications like that were why we were feeling so stretched financially. I decided to really look at how much money we’d be spending on cable over the course of a year — and it wasn’t just cable, but also DVR and a landline that were part of our bundle — and see if we could cut back.

Here’s where it gets sticky and the cable companies suck you in: at first I asked about only canceling our landline that we really never use, but doing so would actually not change our bill at all AND it would take away our “free multi-room DVR for life” promotion. (The “free” part of that is of course not REALLY free, because we were still paying each month to rent the DVR boxes, but I digress.) So we’d be paying the same amount with less to show for it.

Grumble grumble grumble.

I thought about it for a few days and called again to discuss a few other scenarios — what if we drop the landline and change our cable to a package with less channels? What if we drop the landline and (gasp) get rid of the DVR that I love and adore? What if we only have one DVR because in reality we hardly ever use the one in the bedroom? The person on the other end of the line patiently ran through several scenarios with me, but the end result was always pretty much the same: we would cut out quite a bit but barely make a dent in our bill. (And that’s how they convince us all to get all of those things in the first place.)

It was then that we decided to take a drastic measure and do something I never thought we could do: we canceled cable altogether.

Yup, me: TV lover and pop culture aficionado, without cable. Take a moment to let that sink in.

But you know what? It’s been a full month now, and it turns out that it’s not so bad. I still have plenty to watch, and I’m wasting less time watching junk just for the sake of watching television, so there is even a huge bonus to our new set-up.

We still get all network stations in HD, plus PBS and a few random stations, with the bare-bones “local” package from Verizon that goes along with our FIOS internet (it costs the same as if we only had internet, so kind of a no-brainer). We already had AppleTV, my Christmas present to Nick a few years ago, which we use to watch Netflix and listen to music through our television; there are also AppleTV apps for ABC, PBS, and some others. As I mentioned, we have Netflix streaming, which is $7.99 a month, and, to be able to watch current shows more quickly after they air since we rarely have a chance to watch them when they’re live, we decided to also subscribe to Hulu Plus, also $7.99 a month. This is essentially a replacement for DVR since almost everything we used to record is available on Hulu Plus.

For shows that are not available on Hulu or Netflix, chances are they are available online. One of my guiltiest pleasures is Pretty Little Liars (yes, I am, in fact, a fourteen-year old girl), and it is available on ABCFamily.com or the ABC Family app the day after it airs.

Wondering how that all adds up? Here’s the math…

Money saved by cutting cable, DVR and landline: $73 per month (including taxes)
Cost of Netflix and HuluPlus: $15.98 per month

TOTAL SAVINGS PER MONTH: $57.02
TOTAL SAVINGS PER YEAR: $684.24

We’re still enjoying the same shows we always did, so I’d say that’s a big WIN all around. I honestly hardly notice the difference, and I waste much less time watching episodes of Friends on TBS that I’ve already seen 15 times. As much as I love Friends, my time is too valuable to watch the same episode for the 16th time, amiright?

Have you taken the plunge and canceled cable? Or have you taken any other drastic measures to save money?

comments

  1. We’ve been going in circles on this issue as well…but the kicker is live sports for Parker. What do you guys do about that? I’m ready to do it–we love our Apple TV and the cost savings is major!

    Excited for your new blog design!

  2. Love it. Hi Brooke – first time reading your blog:) I was tickled to see this post because my husband and I are also about to cancel ours and keep just FIOS internet. You are not alone in the Stretched Department!

    Re: Susan’s note – we’re going to have the sports issue too…

  3. Wow, that is a significant savings! I know this is something we should consider, but not sure I can do this quite yet. Maybe when we have a kid, I’ll have less time to watch TV… and it won’t hurt as much, haha!

  4. We have been cable free for almost three years! We were actually TV free until about two years ago. Our struggle is the cost of Internet service alone. We are paying about $55 a month for just Internet service with Comcast in DC. I think that is outrageous! I don’t think it would be *that* much more to just add basic cable. But I don’t want to waste idle time watching TV. Just wish the Internet that I need to power the Roku to watch Netflix was cheaper!

  5. @Susan – Nick isn’t a huge sports nut, though I know he can watch some things that aren’t on network tv by streaming it on his iPad or computer. Or if it’s a really big game, he can always go to a friend’s or a bar to catch it :) But since that happens pretty infrequently, he did not care that it would be a little bit more work to watch some things.

    @Angie – hi! Thanks for reading! :)

    @Charlene – having a kid most definitely impacted the decision. We sometimes have the Today show on in the morning, but otherwise the tv doesn’t go on until after 7pm when he’s in bed. Before him, it was pretty much on all the time when we were home. Bad habit! You can do it :)

    @Jillian – we are paying even more than that for just internet :-/ But, I work from home almost 100% of the time, so high speed, reliable internet is a must, and I can write off a percentage of it as a work expense, so that helps. It truly is outrageously priced, though — but the cable companies know we have no other options so they get away with it!

  6. Hi! We’ve gone without cable for the last 4 years or so. We’ve got digital antennas so we get your basic channels like ABC, NBC, FOX, etc… We’ve also got hulu plus and we recently even canceled our netflix. We get a lot of current shows/episodes on the play station network. I tell as many people as I can that cable is really unnecessary. I only miss watching HGTV, but that was almost always just filler noise for me when I’d be cleaning or doing another activity.

    Glad to see other people are catching on!

  7. Can you switch to Comcast? More than $60 for only Internet is ridiculous, even in Philly. In DC I pay $49.95 for just internet. I cut cable last year and the only thing I miss is sports games. I bought a heavy duty antenna for about $15 on Amazon that lets me pick up HD broadcast stations, and with Apple TV, my parents’ HBO-GO account, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime streaming (totally worth it to be a Prime member, especially with the Amazon Mom program too!) it all works out really well.

    • Hi Laura! We had Comcast in our old place and I had a ton of problems with it — there were a lot of outages throughout the day, and it would take forever for websites to load. Sometimes images would never load, even on really small sites. In my line of work, that’s just no bueno. While Verizon is pricier, the FIOS internet speed is worth it for my needs, and I can write part of it off since I work from home. We also get all HD broadcast stations without an antenna — I ordered an antenna and it actually made the reception worse! (Likely something to do with the fact that we’re in a row home.) So back to Amazon that went, and we can still watch all network stations in HD with no problem without an antenna.

      I totally forgot to mention that we also have Amazon Prime! Already worth it for the free second day shipping (especially with a baby), and the streaming services are a bonus. I actually haven’t really used it much but my husband has gotten into a few shows that are free with Prime.

  8. We just did the exact same thing! Sans apple tv but i guess some video game system is coming out with something like that but better so hubby wants to wait.

    I never knew how many cooking shows were on PBS! We kept dvr so I record them all and watch them through out the week. That is what i missed the most, HGTV and food network. This old house doesn’t quite cut it.

    It’s funny because usually I am to lazy to turn on hulu or Netflix and either watch the news or go to bed (having a one year old and being 5 months pregnant will do that to you)

  9. Brooke we also use Apple TV and actually nothing else! We’re addicted to Modern Family and try to avoid the news when it gets too depressing (there’s never enough happy news). Thanks for the breakdown in pricing – we’ve been getting a little jealous hearing friends / coworkers talk about new shows that are amazing so I think we’ll look into adding that on since it’s so inexpensive compared to buying through Apple. With Amazon Prime too do you find an overlap with shows / movies between the three services? Thanks!

leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>