How and Why to Cut Your Cable

When friends or colleagues find out we got rid of cable over 6 years ago, they are astonished, but are quick to say, “We could never do that.” The further into the conversation we get, they share that they are afraid to get rid of cable, as they think it’s an integral part of their lifestyle.

We found when we ditched our cable package 6 years ago we didn’t miss it much at all. It was an adjustment, but it was far more difficult than it would be today. When we removed our cable package, back in 2010, there was a limit on YouTube videos to 10 minutes and there were no streaming services like Netflix or HBO Go. You still had to rent one disc and mail it back before getting the next one.

I suggest you try it for 30 days or even a week. You can try it out without returning the cable boxes for a few days, and see how much you truly miss it. You can always add it back if you find it’s that integral to your life.

When we ditched cable, we found we had a lot more free time. We spent more time outdoors or working on side projects. I wrote more or read more books. Chris read more blogs and kept up with sports news online or on sports radio.

I realized we only watched TV in the evenings for about an hour or so and it became less about background noise during the day. When our Monkey came along and I was on family leave two years into ditching cable, I didn’t even turn the TV on most days. Oftentimes I surprised myself by how little I actually used it anymore.

Another benefit I personally found was that I was less stressed. My habit to turn on the evening news while making dinner was removed and I no longer was bombarded with depressing story after world ending story. Now, I get my news from a variety of online sources, or from friends.

With our new found free time, we started blogs, side businesses, and now we consume and create podcasts. We continued to utilize over-the-air free TV and over the years streaming services have improved and options have grown outside of regular cable packages. It also saved us well over $5,000 by now.

When we started out without cable, we connected an old laptop to our television. We digitized our collection of DVDs and/or we just put them in the disc drive to watch. We watched our old favorite shows, or we rented from Netflix.

Eventually, we bought a $100 Acer PC that connected to the TV which we used for years to stream content or store our digital files. Just this past fall, we purchased a Smart TV which has apps for sites like YouTube, and we added a Mac Mini to give ourselves some more power for streaming services and software (both of which are not essential).

What about sports?! March Madness is happening right now, but you wouldn’t know it in my house. I haven’t watched a basketball game in years, but it’s just not my thing. Cable companies, as well as sports networks, now offer packages specifically for seasonal sports.

Football your thing? There’s a package for that. Or, as I know some people have done, they’d change cable or satellite providers during a season in order to get all the games they wanted, then switch back. With most of these packages, they are for streaming, so hook-up your computer and buy the MLB package for $100 if that’s your thing. Chris asks for the subscription for his birthday ever year, this way he can enjoy the games and it saves money in the process.

A hundred here or there is far less expensive than over a $1,000 per year for shows you’ll never watch.

What about the kids? Won’t they miss their shows?

Old broken TV

Photo Credit: schmilblick

The funny thing about children is that they are very adaptable. Monkey never knew cable at home like we knew it to be. He enjoyed shows at his grandparents houses or friends his first few years. At home, as options grew online, he has become a huge YouTube fan, watching of all things: shows about unboxing toys.

YouTube in the past few years has allowed unlimited lengths of videos, so there are times we’ve found 6 hours nonstop of old Donald Duck cartoons. Crazy, right? We don’t ever make it past the first 10-20 minutes… And Chris loves to share I Like to Make Stuff with Monkey at bedtime. Monkey is not only using media to entertain himself, but he is learning quite a bit in the process. Just ask him about drum sanders, disc sanders, and orbital sanders. And don’t get him started on vacuums!

Without having cable constantly on in our house, we play more together, we go to the park, or we watch movies. Monkey loves Mary Poppins these days, and it’s a special treat for him to sit down to watch a movie with us after his baby brother, Crab, goes to bed.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

Call your cable company and tell them you’re canceling their service. They might try to convince you to stay on with a triple-play package or something else, but just cancel and say you’ll consider that if you decide to return to the full package. Return the boxes! Less clutter and things to dust!

Start with a streaming account (Netflix, Hulu, etc.). Most of these services are nominal in fees per month for unlimited use. Decide which might off the best for your money. Most people love HBO shows or Netflix series, so look there first.

Hook-up a computer to your TV. If you have a Smart TV already, you may not even need to do this, but if not, hook up an old computer (ask friends if they are getting rid of any) and setup your streaming or digital copies of your DVDs.

And if you’re concerned about visitors, as a friend said she only kept cable for her parents, consider having someone who stays with you use a Slingbox to send their cable to your house while they are traveling. She now has set up a TV and small computer for them to connect to their home Slingbox. Her parents now enjoy their regular news shows from their home state hundreds of miles away while spending time with their family and she doesn’t have an extra bill to pay.

Focus on the content you want to consume, minus the advertising and commercials. Show your children the fun of learning on YouTube aside from just cartoons, or add the YouTube Kids app to your options. Take notes on how less often you turn on the TV. Keep tabs on how many books or other hobbies you pick up in the meantime.

We found between us, we had 3 TV screens, plus 2 laptop screens, and 2 mobile device screens back in 2010 (for 2 people!). Now, we have 1 family TV we sit around to share content, plus our other computers and mobile devices. If anything, it makes sure we’re in the same room, spending quality time together; which is not always easy anymore for families to do.

You’ll find so many more doors open not only financially when you ditch the cable package and the background noise.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ditched cable or are considering it. I’d love to hear your story!