I hate talking on the phone with a representative from the cable company. It seems like they are always misleading. That’s part of the reason that I became a cord cutter several years ago. And usually I’m pretty good at not answering my phone when they call me to try to sell me services I don’t want. But they caught me last week and I found myself on the phone with the cable people.
They tried to offer me a “great deal” to add cable television to my internet plan, keeping my costs basically the same. Having been down this road before, I asked them to expand on what they meant by “basically the same.” I asked specifically what would happen to the price if they were to add in taxes, fees, and the cost of renting a cable box. Then “basically the same” turned into “only a few dollars more per month.”
I didn’t stay on the phone long enough to find out exactly what “a few dollars more” actually translated to. I just declined. Because “a few dollars more” is too much for me to pay for something I don’t want. I don’t want cable. I like having to carefully choose what television shows I use to escape life. Hulu and Dish Sling and Netflix give me all of the TV I could possibly need. Cable would load me up with excess channels I don’t care about. It would burden me with an electricity sucking cable box. And it would make it difficult for me to unburden myself from the cable company when whatever promo deal they were trying to sell me expires and they jack up the price (it took me about 40 minutes on the phone to cancel cable in the first place!).
I just said no. They tried to tell me it was a deal I couldn’t afford to decline. But any price at all is simply way too much when you are paying it for something you don’t want or need. There’s a big difference between a bargain price and a burden. Wise people can recognize the difference.
Back in September of 2013 I decided to cut the cord. No cable TV, no satellite. Just internet. At the time I thought of it as a temporary state. A money saving measure. It was an experiment. I’d see how long I was ok without TV, and when money flowed a little more freely, I would get my cable back.
More than a year later, the great cord-cutting experiment is my lifestyle. I have serious doubts that I’ll ever have cable again. Comcast regularly tries to tempt me with deals that make it sound like for only an extra $9 per month I can keep my current internet service and add basic cable plus HBO. And I keep saying no. Because I know that the $9 per month will quickly expand into a much higher number. There will be an equipment rental fee for the cable box. There will be taxes and other fees. There will be the looming temptation of DVR service and high definition picture. There will be the higher electric bill that comes with having a cable box. And the reality is I just don’t need it. I’m doing just fine without cable.
Before I cut the cord, I was spending about $150 per month for my combined cable and internet service. Now I spend $66.95 per month for my internet service. That’s it. No taxes. No fees. No equipment rental. I know how much that bill will be, always, and it never bothers me to pay for that mid-range high speed internet, because it works well for me and I use it a lot. I still have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu+ and Amazon Prime (all things I was paying for before I cut the cord). And I did pay $50 for a lifetime subscription to PlayOn and PlayLater (which makes it easy for me to watch CBS shows on my TV through my Roku box—I’ll never understand why CBS won’t play nice with Hulu!).
Live sports and award shows were the most worrisome point for me when I cut the cord. But I’ve found that I can stream lots of games broadcast on ESPN3 through my Roku. And many other events (e.g. the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards) stream live on the web, so it’s just a matter of connecting my laptop computer to the TV for those rare occasions. Not a big deal. I sometimes toy with the idea of adding an antenna to try to pull in over the air broadcasts on the major networks, but I don’t think it’ll be necessary.
I think the future is going to move in my favor. HBO has announced that they are going to start offering a stand-alone streaming subscription (no cable required!) in the near future. And while I don’t feel a need to have HBO in my life, this excites me because other major players will follow. My dream is to have a streaming subscription to ESPN and to the Big Ten Network…but right now these things are only available with an accompanying cable subscription. But it’s starting to look like there is a possibility that someday my dream will come true.
I admit that I’ve had some weak points. I paid about $25 each for season subscriptions to Doctor Who and The Walking Dead through Amazon. I visited with friends and with my favorite brewpub to get a look at a few Penn State football games that I couldn’t stream. But compared to the $83 per month I’m saving by not having cable, I’ve come out way ahead. It’s no longer just an experiment. It’s a lifestyle.
Back in September I wrote about my great cable TV experiment. I cancelled my cable and now do all of my television viewing through Internet streaming. Four months later, I still don’t miss cable at all. I’ve found that I read more. I listen to music more. I go to bed earlier at night (and reap the benefits of a decent night’s sleep!). I don’t just “tune out” in front of the TV anymore. Yes…I still vegetate on the couch from time to time. I’ve been binge watching Parks and Recreation and Scrubs for the last couple of months. But I definitely spend a lot less time staring at the screen.
I’m not surprised. I expected all of these results from my cable cancellation. But there is one specific side-effect of cutting the cord that has been a very pleasant surprise for me. My electric bill has gone down. Significantly—about $10 per month! I always knew that my four (yes…FOUR) cable boxes were sucking vampire power while they weren’t really in use. But I had no idea how much. It seems cable boxes (especially DVRs) are among the worst vampires around, using more energy than most appliances. A new agreement is going to make sure future cable boxes are more efficient. But in the meantime, you may want to consider plugging those set top boxes into a power strip that you can flip on and off. Or just cut the cord altogether, like I did. 😉
I did it. I cut the cord. I have ditched my cable.
I still have a high speed internet connection through the cable company, but no cable television. Monthly savings: about $75. And what will I miss? Not much. I have Roku boxes attached to TVs in three different rooms in my house to allow for streaming. I have subscriptions to Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime (and yes…I was already paying for those before I cut the cord). Most of the TV shows I care about are available through Hulu+. Most of the rest are available through Amazon or through CBS.com. Most of the remainder of what I watch is drivel. I can easily find mind-numbing comfort TV on Hulu+ and Netflix. I just have to actively select my drivel rather than just stumbling into it in a remote-flipping haze.
It’s an experiment. I may end up hating it (but after one week I’ve barely noticed). I’m a little nervous about losing access to live sports, specifically Penn State football games. But I have a radio. I can listen to a couple of games a month. And for those games I really don’t want to miss? The money I save by not having cable can easily fund watching those important games from the comfort of my favorite brewpub.
Will I cave in and decide that I just can’t live without football and Doctor Who? Or will I reap savings for years to come? Only time will tell.
How much do you spend on cable/satellite TV? Care to join me on my money-saving journey?