When I started this journey of cutting back to accommodate a part-time salary, I thought our monthly bills were pretty much fixed. But as I examined with a more critical eye, something once considered a reasonable necessity - cable - made its way to the chopping block. Did we really need to spend $81.25 a month on TV?

To be honest, the idea of cutting down on cable surfaced in my head a few times before I gave it real consideration. After all, the shows on Bravo alone (Top Chef, Project Runway) brought me such pleasure. And my husband lives for the Tour de France each July.

I would love to say we are the kind of people who could just throw the TV out the window and gaze at each other over a board game every night, but we just aren't. It's a relaxing escape sometimes, so our quest was to live better with less cable.

We went down to "basic" cable. Not standard, but basic. Here's what the before and after expenses look like:

Before
DIGIPic 1000 package - $68
HD DVR service - $7.95
Universal Remote Control - $0.31
Netflix (1 at-a-time, 2 a month) - $4.99
Monthly Total - $81.25

After
Basic Cable - $12.95
iTunes purchases - $12
Netflix (2 at-a-time, Unlimited) - $13.99
Old Replay TV DVR - Free
Monthly total - $38.94

Monthly savings:
$42.31
Annual savings:
$507.72

I thought I would share some points/counterpoints that we went through as a family to finally get okay with "pulling the plug."

Point: We can't live without the DVR.
Counterpoint: Of course you can't! It's just plain uncivilized.
Recording quality shows that you enjoy and watching on your own time is a necessity in our house. But instead of paying for the cable package that gets you a DVR from your cable company, consider some cheaper options. We hooked up our old Replay TV DVR, which has a life-time subscription attached to it. I would highly recommend hitting eBay for one of the 5040 (not 55xx) models which even have a commercial skip feature. If old Replays don't turn your crank, TiVo is another great option. At $150 for the intro-level box, and $13 a month, it won't take long to break even with the cable bill relief.

Point: I NEED Bravo (Lifetime, HBO, Food Network, HGTV, insert network here)
Counterpoint: Buying/renting the shows you love is much cheaper than paying for a zillion channels you never watch.
I admit it, I am addicted to Army Wives on Lifetime. I now buy the episode each Monday morning from iTunes. With a NetFlix account and the iTunes store, there seems to be an endless supply of high-quality programming available. With NetFlix, we have started enjoying great shows like The Wire, Weeds, and Arrested Development. And really, it's so satisfying to have a DVD of shows with no commercials -- you can just watch the next episode right away.

Point: I will stop watching so much TV on my own free will.
Counterpoint: No you won't.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop myself from watching garbage from time to time. I think I could feel myself getting dumber watching The Girls Next Door. I wanted to watch less TV, but I just couldn't stop. We had a "no-TV Tuesday night," which lasted two weeks. Alas, it was time for tough love. Now without the garbage, we just don't watch garbage -- plain and simple.

Point: We need mega cable to take advantage of our HDTV.
Counterpoint: You can get all the major networks in HD for free.*
Did you know that HD is free over the air? Yep, all you need is an antenna, which doesn't cost much. Also, if you stick with basic cable, you get the HD versions of your channels included. I am not the techie, but if you have an HDTV, chances are your TV can tune to the HD version of the major networks.
*Not including cost of antenna :-)

If you are considering cutting down your cable bill, but are scared, please know, it's okay to be scared. In fact, from idea to final execution, it was several months before we took the plunge. We looked at it as an experiment, and knew we could always turn it back on. No regrets here, I promise.

Better shows, less junk, and more money. What have you got to lose?


4 comments

  1. Lisa - MN // August 18, 2008 at 8:42 AM  

    We are going thru the same thing in our house - we've spent several months going back and forth on if we can live without the "digital plus" and DVR.
    Of course we can! Off to call the cable company...

  2. fjania // August 18, 2008 at 7:30 PM  

    Amen sister! Cable (**Especially those blood sucking vampires over at Time Warner**) is a total waste.

    I've been on basic for months now. iTunes, Netflix and online media make up the bulk of what I watch now, and I watch MUCH less of it.

  3. If It Barks // August 27, 2008 at 9:02 AM  

    Awesome! Can you tell me more about the antenna required for HD? (what kind, where to get...)

  4. Jen // September 1, 2008 at 6:44 PM  

    We ditched our cable over a year ago and I don't miss it! Way to go!
    You can also watch Army Wives for free on lifetime.com. I do every monday night!
    Thanks for all the useful tips!