Live Well on Less or how to survive without cable

Last week, I introduced my new 7 month long series.
Hopefully, you have finished your homework and have started tracking your expenses so that you can see where your money is going.
Today, I'm going to share my first tips in this long series, hopefully teaching you how to live well on less.
I will be sharing with you ways to save money on your television/cable/internet bill.
I have to start with a little background though that might help you understand our particular family situation.
I typically say we don't have cable, but my husband is quick to correct me if he hears me make this blanket statement.  We do, in fact, have cable, just not the kind of cable that most people have.
I grew up a TV junkie like any child of the 80's.  However, as research has come out regarding TV viewing and young children, I have adjusted how I feel about TV viewing.  I have made a choice to stay at home with my kids for a reason, because of that, I make sure I am making the most of every moment.  Especially when they were younger.
 Not to get sidetracked, but because I have this viewpoint, it has changed the way we "do TV" in our household.  You can do your own research here and here.

Not to say our kids don't watch any TV, that's not true.  The TV that they do watch is typically only on Discovery and PBS.  Even still at the ages of 14, 10, and 7.  During the school year, the younger kids get to watch a half an hour a day and my older son is able to watch about 1.5 hours a day, depending on his homework load.  This viewing time includes ANY type of screen time.  If the kids want to substitute computer time, they can, it's just part of their screen time total.  Subsequently, if the kids are home, I'm not watching TV either.  My husband and I catch up on our shows after the kids go to bed.  No dinner time news or talk shows for this mama during those long summer days.  
As part of saving money we decided to cut cable out of our lives about 12 years ago.
When we had cable, we rationalized it as an entertainment expense.  
We had just gotten married, had our first small child at home, and we didn't get out much. 
Cable was our entertainment and our substitution for going out to a movie.
Hands up if you feel the same way?

After we bought our first house, we were thinking of ways to save money.
Cutting the cable was the first step.
It was an expense that we just didn't need.
We soon realized that when we cut the cable completely, we also cut any TV access that we had!
We tried getting an antenna to get reception, but weren't able to get anything but fuzz and static on the TV.
Remember, our focus is living well on less, not living in misery!

We did find a very ghetto solution of balancing a cable on a video box to get clearer almost watchable TV and we were able to make that solution work for a few years.
After a few years of living without any type of cable, we heard about a local Tacoma company called Click.
We were able to get basic broadcast channels (without our makeshift antenna) for around $6 a month.
Remember, this was a decade or so ago, prices are now around $13 a month.
These broadcast channels included all channels from 2-27.
Nothing fancy, but they were clear and easy to access.
Now cue my sister in law.  Esther began talking about this new thing she bought called a TiVo.  She told us that it would change the way we watched TV.  She was right!  If you aren't familiar with TiVo you should know that TiVo is the company behind the DVR.  Most homes now have DVR's and most cable companies offer them as part of their cable package. 
We actually got our first TiVo for Christmas from my in-laws about 8 years ago.
I could gush about how much better TiVo is than your cable companies DVR, but I won't start.
Just know, it's WAY better and you should have one.
What's that you say, you have a DVR but only have standard broadcast cable?
Yep, that's totally true.  Because TiVo changes the way you watch TV, you are no longer required to watch commercials (helps reduce the kids gimmies), it cuts the time spent watching a sporting event in half, and it allows us to watch all of our favorite shows when we want.  It doesn't matter that we only have 8 channels in our line up {the other channels offered in broadcast cable are QVC and local broadcast...we typically ignore the fact that we have those}.  With only about 8 channels, we are still able to find plenty to watch.

Speaking of channels, I know many of you with cable have those channels that you just couldn't live without.  A few of my favorites are HGTV, Bravo and TLC but we don't have any of them.  Thankfully, I can catch up on most of my favorite shows on those channels at the gym {love the ellipticals with TV's}. 
 In addition, I was able to find the complete season of Project Runway on DVD at my local library.  Check your library.  Their selection of DVD's are getting quite impressive!
Like I said, we only have about 8 channels that we watch.  I don't think it would matter if we had 300 channels, we would probably go back to watching the same 8 channels.  If you have cable for just one or two channels, consider how much those channels are actually costing you.  Is it worth it?

When we bought our first TV last November (all of our previous TV's have been hand me downs), we upgraded our TiVo and bought a lifetime subscription.  We did the math, and it's cheaper to buy the TiVo and have a lifetime subscription, then to go through our current cable provider and get their sub par {oh, did I say that out loud?} DVR.
We currently have cable through Comcast.  
It's the only local cable provider.   Talk about not having a monopoly.  Whatevs.  It's what we've got.
Most cable companies tend to want to do the whole bundle and save thing.
We actually find that they typically charge more then if you buy your services ala cart.
Don't feel bad about calling your cable provider often to find out if you have the best current deal.
This is actually how I switched our existing phone and internet service from ala cart to a bundled service several months ago.
However, when you call, please make sure you are not getting sucked into a deal.
Some of the deals may sound appealing, but the contracts and time limits for the promotion may catch up with you.  Looking at the Comcast website now, I see several bundle and save programs that seem like a good deal, until you read the fine print.  
Several of the promotions are for a 12 month time period, however, you have to commit to a 2 year agreement.  Most companies suck you in with a good deal, and then leave you thinking that you can't ever live without a certain package or accessories.  One package only includes the DVR for 6 months, and the promotion is good for 12 months, but you have to agree to this package for 2 years.  It all catches up in the end.

I have our current Comcast bill sitting in front of me.  Here is the breakdown.
XFinity TV $15.50
Xfinity Bundled service (we do have our internet and phone currently bundled) $59.99
Taxes that make no sense $13.80
Total: $89.29
My husband and I recently realized that we are paying $7 each month for an internet modem.  We realized that we could own this modem for so much less and cut out that $7 fee.  For around $40 we bought our own modem and it will pay for itself in less than 6 months time.  As of our next bill, we will be only paying $82 a month for our cable/phone/internet service.
I realize there are ways that we could still save on our bill.  I know many people are cutting out their home phone service all together.  We aren't cell phone dependent enough to do that just yet.  
My parents live in Arizona.  I like to be able to call them with no long distance charges on a land line.  There is just something clearer about talking on a "regular" phone, rather than on a cell phone.  
I've looked into using Vonage and cutting our home phone bill that way.
We could also decrease the speed of our internet service.  However, with my little blog that I write it's sort of a business expense.
Last year, when we bought our new TiVo, it came with a free 12 month subscription to Hulu Plus.  Hulu isn't something we were strangers to.  In fact, since we don't have "fancy cable" I would often stream those most talked about shows on Hulu while I was writing a blog post.  My husband would stream his favorite shows on Hulu at work, while on his lunch break.
Once our free subscription is over, we will be charged $7.99 a month, making the total we spend on cable TV $23.29.  We have TiVo premiere so we can actually stream videos through out TV.  I must say, I'm not super impressed with the interface of Hulu plus on our TiVo, but it is nice to have those shows as an option.  We have been able to introduce our kids to classics like The Cosby Show and Alf, which they enjoy immensely for family movie night.   The downside of Hulu is that you do have to watch commercials.  Something we have gotten used to not having to do with TiVo, which is why Hulu is an addition to our cable not a substitution.
If you are interested in giving hulu plus a shot, click through this link.  I am part of their affiliate program, and hulu will provide you with a week trial for free.
Many families are finding that they are happy to cut their cable and substitute their TV viewing with streaming options like Hulu or netflix. If the average cable bill is around $130, then $7.99 sounds like a pretty sweet change.  Or consider going even more ala cart and just paying to download your favorite shows on iTunes.
Every year my husband and I usually talk about whether or not we want to actually upgrade and get cable.  I  quote Honey Boo Boo child all the time but haven't ever actually seen more than a two minute promotional video clip.  However, our reason to not upgrade to a larger cable package is always the same. 
If you remember my post about redefining date night, you will remember that my husband and I only have one TV and make a priority to sit down each night after the kids go to bed.  We usually sit down to catch up on our favorite shows.  Access to cable would mean that now my husband would get Sports Center and I would get Honey Boo Boo child.  Neither of us is super interested in watching what the other one wants to watch, which would mean we would be divided.  
It would also mean that we would have access to channels in our home that would be enticing to our children.  Right now our kids are choosing very wholesome programming.  My younger kids love PBS kids and usually choose between Arthur or Wild Kratts as their movie for the day.  Having cable would open up the television viewing options to Spongebob or Scooby Doo.  Shows that aren't all together bad, but that don't have the educational value like the PBS programming does.
With this blogging series, comes homework.
Are you ready for your homework this week?

This week, I encourage you to look over your cable/internet/phone bill
Look at the fees that you are being charged-can you buy a DVR or modem and cut costs
Go on to your providers website- know what they offer, then call them to find out if you have the best deal 
Take note of what channels you are watching on TV
Consider if you could cut out cable completely
Calculate your total savings per year if you did consider switching phone/cable/internet
Take note of how much time you are watching TV-could you be doing something better with your time
Check out your library's DVD selection
***update 2015***we have gotten rid of Hulu {couldn't take the commercials any longer!} and now have Netflix streaming. Our family loves it and we love the parental controls and restrictions that are in place.  No commercials and lots of new and original series that are fantastic not to mention some great old series and movies too!
ps-did you notice I didn't talk about your cell phone bill?  Not to worry.  That can of worms will be opened later on in this series.


PJ @ Planned in Pencil said...

We pay 39.99 a month for high speed internet, i watch all my shows via streaming sites or by waiting them to hit netflix. That plus our 7.99 netflix bill is our entire cable/phone/internet bill.

We also have a cell phone bill that is a "can of worms!"

Jennifer Juniper said...

Our cable/internet bundle bill is crazy...I'm hiding it so you don't see it...

Unknown said...

I love, love, love TiVo. I got my first one, a series 1 in 2001 and got the lifetime subscription right away because I did the math and if I used the TiVo for more than 2 years then I'd be paying more per month. In 2004 I got a series 2 and gave my first one to my mom and she is still using it. I used my series 2 TiVo for 6 years and when I moved to a house that couldn't get cable, I was sad. With the digital antenna, converter box and TiVo I couldn't get everything to work and record properly so now everything is collecting dust and I am sad, sad, sad. When we move again I WILL get cable again but I'll also be able to cancel my Hulu service!

DownTheLaneWithDaisy said...

Thank you for your thoughts. This took a lot of time and research, I know. We spend way too much for cable, and I would love to drop it, but my husband insists on keeping it. Our cell phone bill with Verizon is high as well, even though we try to keep it low usage. All these "conveniences" are a lot of work!!!

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