At age 14, our son Ben transitioned from home schooling to attending the local high school. Shortly after the term began, he came home all dismayed – “Everyone else has cable”, he reported, “but we don’t.” Yep. We never had it and we never will.
Let’s see: the cumulative cost for cable service from the time Ben was born until he went college would have easily paid for his first semester at Penn State – and that’s not even taking into consideration interest or investment returns!
Folks, the time has come to think long and hard about your cable service.
- How much are you paying for cable service month after month, year after year?
- Are you getting value commensurate to its cost?
- Have you considered lower cost options?
- Are you spending lots of time (too much time?) in a sedentary position in front of the TV?
Let’s explore some lower cost alternatives. Individually, they may not be a completely replace cable. But piecing a few together could do quite nicely.
- Over-the-air broadcasts – for viewers with high definition TVs, a strong over-the-air signal actually provides a higher quality picture than cable. Reception quality may vary, depending upon where you live, but over-the-air reception can be quite viable in or near metro areas. Modern day TV antennas are not your grandmother’s rabbit ears; performance has been vastly improved. We installed an antenna in the attic back in 2004, the year when the Eagles were in the playoffs and went to the Super Bowl. Oh well….
- Streaming services – Hulu, Sling, Netflix and Amazon Prime are more on the order of $10-20 a month rather than 100+ dollars per month. We’ve tried both Netflix and Amazon Prime and have found the movie selection a bit under-whelming. But there could be enough program offerings to justify $10 a month for either. Note: Sling offers access to a number of sports channels: ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, and TNT with just the basic package.
- Free streaming sources – PBS (public television) for example. Make a donation to your local public TV station and you can access even more content. A Roku player (as low as $49) also provides access to many free channels.
- DVDs from the library – remember those shiny round disks in the square plastic cases? Libraries still have them and can offer a huge variety of movies and TV series on DVD.
- RedBox DVD rentals – watch a recently-released movie for a buck-fifty? Not too bad.
For steaming, I recommend Roku players because they are ‘content agnostic’, unlike Apple, Google and Amazon, which all sell programming. Roku offers an incredible variety of programming sources, quite a few which are free. Yes, you may be able to stream from a smart TV or DVD player but the interfaces are often clunky and choices limited. Hooking up a PC for streaming is another option but can be a hassle. Meanwhile, streaming devices are relatively inexpensive (starting well under a $100) and easy to set up.
Here’s a link for steaming device assessments and recommendations:
One more point to ponder: the amount of time spent watching TV. Studies estimate that Americans on average spend 3-5 hours a day watching live TV. That number boggles my mind. Consider if there are more rewarding, alternative activities to watching TV – Exercise? Volunteering? Reading? Taking a class? Starting a side gig? A hobby?
Friends, it time to take action: get up from the sofa, take up the wire cutters and go cut that cable! Save yourself thousands of dollars in the years to come.
Here are some more resources:
© 2016 Paul J Reimold