Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Cancelled What? Life Without 200 TV Channels

We did it.  We cancelled cable TV.  It almost caused a rebellion from our four kids.  No more Adventure Time?  No more Phineas and Ferb?  No more History Channel? (Yes…one of my kids is a history buff.  He does not get that from me.)    And…I’ll admit…I was having a hard time envisioning life without Top Chef.  But, we did it. 

This is something we had talked about for months.  We were spending $85 per month for our service and we knew we wanted to trim excess spending this year.    So, we whacked it.

Within the first 24 hours of no cable, the kids banded together and presented us with a plan to get Netflix.  They would each kick in $2 of their own money per month to cover the cost.  I was initially impressed that they had worked out a less expensive option and were willing to pay for it themselves.  I almost went along with it.  Almost.

Frank and I felt strongly that our family needed to break the TV habit.  So, we said no to the Netflix idea.  Living in the Atlanta area, we are fortunate to have very good antenna reception and found that we could get 10 or more clear, HD channels for free.  We are three weeks into our new lifestyle and things are going much better than I expected.

The Good Side of Killing the Cable
  • We are saving money.  $85 per month adds up to $1020 savings per year.
  • We are choosing other activities.   We are all reading more; in fact, I actually had to tell my 11 year old to stop reading and get his homework done.  The kids are also doing more outside --- riding their bikes, jogging and have Nerf gun wars with the neighborhood kids.
  • We are making more thoughtful choices and planning ahead.  I look at the TV guide from the newspaper and we plan the shows that we want to watch.   It’s good for the kids to practice some delayed gratification.
  • We have watched shows as a family.  When there is a show that we want to watch, we have to all watch it at the same time.  Our “record it & watch it later” process is gone.  It’s kinda nice to share some laughs together.
  • The kids are seeing that choices aren't always easy to make.  Having hundreds of channels to choose from at any given moment definitely has some entertainment value.  But…having an additional $1020 at the end of the year is more important.

The Down Side of Killing the Cable
  • The grumbles.  All of us have grumbled and complained at some point.  We’re breaking a habit here so I guess we are allowed a few withdrawal moments.
  • The microwave.  As good as our antenna reception is, if the microwave oven gets turned on, our reception is fried.  I try to only heat up my coffee during commercials!
  • Waiting.  We have found that most of the shows that we like are available online, but we have to wait a day or two to see a new episode. 
  • Video Games:  Initially we saw an increase in video game time.  However, with some restrictions from us, that has decreased back to its normal allotment.

 So…for now we are going to stick with the no cable plan.  I like that my kids worked out a budget-reducing alternative on their own and were willing to pay for it themselves.  That in itself was a good financial lesson for them.  Andrea at So Over Debt mentioned that she uses the Apple TV as a replacement for cable.  Maybe later in the year I will have the kids research Apple TV and other options.  But I'm not in any hurry.


  1. TV can be so distracting and unproductive, plus cable is so darn expensive. I think you are making a great move. However, I am addicted to Pawnstars, so I am not quite ready to give it up just yet.

    1. The internet is way more addicting that T.V. I am with you on Pawnstars. That show is amazing. I will never give up my T.V. Tivo is amazing and I love sports so no go for me

  2. Neo - I saw some commercials for Pawnstars before we cancelled but I never saw it. I was really enjoying Storage Wars though.

  3. We got rid of our cable a little over a year ago. We use Netflix and Hulu, but I have to say it is really nice. There are days my children never even turn on the TV now, I really like that.

  4. I spent a year without cable because my roommate and I were fed up with Comcast and we were moving into a complex that provided wireless internet. I actually thought it was pretty great, but it ended when I moved in with my fiance last summer. He has the TV on ALL THE TIME and my productivity has plummeted. I'm not even interested in what he's watching most of the time, but I have a very hard time not watching the TV if it's on.

  5. We have free-to-air digital TV in the UK and there are far too many channels. The problem is that as a fixed advertising budget is spread over more channels (apart from the BBC of course) the income per channel decreases and you just get worse TV! So most of it is unwatchable which is what I guess you have discovered!

  6. Niki - My house is much quieter now, especially after school! They used to come home and immediately watch tv (to relax!). Now they play ball or ride their bikes.

  7. Penny Pinching Professional - My productivity plummets too! Background music is fine but if there is a screen involved, my eyes and mind just wander away.

  8. John - How many channels do you get with the free-to-air program in the UK?

  9. I cut down on the channels last year... now I'm considering getting rid of it all together. I spend far more time, and have far more enjoyment, from the internet these days with reading quality blogs like yours. So, perhaps my time has come... I just have to cut the cord!

  10. We canceled cable last year and love it. We never watched tons anyways and I like how we fill our time with better things. No regrets.

  11. Doctor Stock - I was hesitant for a long time but have found that I am more productive on work stuff and am rediscovering some old hobbies. And...hubby and I still watch a tv show or two at night together. We are just less choosy!

  12. Miss T - Three weeks in to it and I have no regrets either. So good to know that there are others who agree!

  13. We have cable and I have to admit that I watch TV maybe twice a week the most. I do watch/listen to morning news on TV every day while getting ready for work but other than that I would be totally okay without cable. Not watching TV definitely frees up time for other activities that are more ... meaningful. ;)

  14. I'm currently going through this thought process. My kids are 5, 2, and 8 months, so the real hangup is actually my husband (and me, when you get down to it).

    I'm writing a post on the subject right now and plan on linking back to you.