Friday, October 10, 2014

How to cut cable (without everyone hating you!)

Save thousands and still be entertained!

You guys, I had been toying with canceling satellite for years.  I have a small HGTV addiction, the little girls love Nick Jr. and Disney, but the real problem was sports.  Mr. D doesn't watch a lot of TV... unless it is college football season.  The TV is on one game or another until the bowl season is over.  Seven months of the year he could care less if we have a TV, but during the other five he NEEDS it!  

Because of that, I continued to pay $75/mo for the DISH America's Top 120 plan (3 TVs, 1 dual DVR), which was the smallest plan that offered the sports/home improvement channels that I needed wanted.  I've had a plan like this for probably over 15 years, costing me over $13,000 in that period of time.  Now if I had put that money in a money market mutual fund over the 15 years, I could have had an average of $21,000.  That would have been nice.  :(  

But let's not lose sight looking backwards.  After bowl season was over early January of this year, I talked Mr. D into cutting the cord.  I told him if we hated it, we could always go back to paid TV in the fall.  I called to cancel DISH, and they offered me other plans, bundling, and finally a free "pause" for 9 months.  I caved, and let them pause the account.  That kept everything on our DVR, and provided a few channels that would change from time to time.  After a while, our family stopped even looking at the DVR or the available DISH channels.  Football started up again, but now we had an antenna, so all the local networks were available.  Mr. D's follows his favorite team on online radio broadcasts whenever they aren't on the networks.  It's working.  So I called this week and cut my relationship with DISH for good.

So what do you need to cut the cord 
without causing riots in the streets?

1)  You need to find out what local channels you can get.  Start at  Input your address and find out where your stations are and what kind of antenna you need to get them.  We get about 30 channels locally through our antenna.

2) Buy or better yet, build your digital antenna.  I used this tutorial to upgrade from the rabbit ears I had.  It works great and cost less than $15.  I bought copper wire, because I didn't have any wire coat hangers.  If you had some hangers and scrap wood, you could build this much more cheaply.  
3) Consider purchasing a Roku, Apple TV, or other streaming device.  Our Roku was a factory reconditioned model for $39 and it works great.  You can also stream Netflix on a Wii or Xbox, if you already own those.  There are many channels that are free, including PBS, PBS kids, BYUtv, and others.  If you would like paid streaming channels, Netflix and Amazon Prime are good.  I have Amazon Prime for the shipping, so the movies are a bonus to me.  
4) Watch the movies you already own, borrow movies from your local library, or get a Redbox for $1.29/night.  

Now for the Pros/Cons:

1) $900 or more in your pocket each year.  $$$

2) Less screen time.  Frankly, we only have TV on when we really want to watch something. It is not the background noise of our family anymore.  

3) A quieter house (see #2)

4) More reading.  We go to the library almost weekly to find books and DVDs.  Due to #1 and #2, I have come home to find all the kids reading instead of glued to the TV.  It's a good thing.

5) Less of the "gimmes".  Less screen time means less time for advertisers to convince your kids that they need some new toy or breakfast cereal.  

1) A bit more of a challenge to catch your favorite games or shows.  Not impossible, just challenging.  

2) Lack of elegance.  With DISH I had a single remote that almost accessed everything. Now I have four remotes standing by.  A more tech-y type person could figure this out, but I'm lazy used to it.

3) Antennas aren't pretty.  My main idea was to put an antenna on the roof, tie into the existing coax cable, and have signal to TVs all over the house.  Maybe that will be a project for next year.  I'll post an update when that happens.  For now, my creation sits on my fireplace mantle looking like my kid's science experiment.  My cable-subscribed relatives mock it, but it's become a sign of freedom to me... and beautiful in my eyes.  
What are you waiting for?  Cut the cord!  
And share your favorite free TV tips and streaming channels in the comments!

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