March 27, 2011

We Cut The Cord

One of my publicly stated goals for the new year was to eliminate cable TV from our lives by April 1st. Frankly, it wasn't that big a deal. My wife and I were watching less than 2 hours a week by the end of last year so cutting the cord wouldn't be a major change in lifestyle for us. The cable company decided I should pay $15 a month more starting in mid-March. That was the perfect time to turn in the cable boxes and save $70 every month. For the first time in 35 years we are without cable TV.  My goal has been achieved. So, what is it like?

I must admit we are not completely without the ability to watch some TV channels. An antenna from Amazon, perched on top of the entertainment unit and hooked to the flat screen, allows us to receive about a dozen local channels. All the major networks and PBS are available. Actually, the quality of the HD picture is noticeably better than the HD pictures I got from the cable company. And, it is free.

I am getting a little nervous about the prospect of not being able to watch any Arizona Diamondbacks games this summer. All their games are only available on cable. But, as I think about the number of hours I have wasted watching a game I didn't really care about I feel better knowing I can't be tempted. Betty will miss HGTV and both of us wonder about staying in the loop without CNN or another news channel, especially since we canceled the daily paper three months ago.

The obvious answer is the Internet. Almost anything available on cable TV is available over the Internet, usually for free. Some of if it may be delayed for a day or two, but news that is happening now is right there, whenever we want it. Even hundreds of HGTV episodes are on-line and should keep Betty happy for quite awhile. Fire up the laptop, plug it into the TV, turn up the surround sound, and we are back in action.

Now, I have to begin to curb my Netflix addiction. Whenever I want I have the ability to stream tens of thousands of movies, old TV shows, and a tremendous selection of documentaries on every subject imaginable. Therein lies the problem: it is too easy to spend 2 or 3 hours every evening watching a movie and then an episode of Quantum Leap or the Rockford Files. How about a fascinating 2 hour documentary on how various cultures view the afterlife? Hiking the Rockies, living in New York City without electricity for a year...the choices would put even the Discovery Channel to shame.

Of course, I must remind myself we pulled the cable for economic reasons, not because the tube had us in its evil eye. We just couldn't justify $70 a month for a few hours a week. Netflix is only $10 (including actual DVDs through the mail). Even so, the instant availability of endless choices on Netflix will get out of hand if we are not careful. We may have to develop a Netflix "diet"  to be sure our evenings aren't wasted.

One of my daughters and her family have gone the same route. They use a small antenna to pick up the Phoenix channels and Netflix for movies and old TV shows. The kids are extremely creative, bright, able to read books by the age of 4, can converse with adults, and are respectful. How much of that is due to the lack of a TV "babysitter" on for hours during the day I don't know, but I'd guess quite a bit.

Cutting the cable cord would probably have been more interesting if my wife and I were avid TV viewers. You may argue that we really gave up very little. I would probably agree. But, to be without what most people consider a necessity is a leap of faith on our part.

One immediate benefit: Betty used to watch HGTV while she had lunch. I preferred to sit at the dinette in the kitchen or outside on the patio and read. Now, we eat together and read or converse over our meal. That alone is worth the change.

How about you? Are you a cable subscriber that enjoys it and finds the investment worth the expense? Are you giving some thought to cutting back the number of channels you pay for, or even trying an antenna? Have you already eliminated TV from your daily routine and wondered what took me so long? There is no right answer in this situation. Each of us makes choices that are best for us. I have made one that may be completely wrong for you. I'd love to hear your thoughts and your experiences.


  1. I've always been a reader, and I go for weeks without watching TV. My husband, on the other hand, usually relaxes in the evenings by watching TV. He sees a lot of good programs but also watches a fair amount of junk. One of the benefits of cutting the cable, it seems to me, is that you tend to make more conscious decisions about what to watch, rather than just watching whatever comes on next. Has this been your experience?

  2. Good morning, Susan,

    The answer is Yes and No. With only 12 over the air channels to choose from what we watch on network TV is limited to the one or two shows a week that we enjoy. Obviously, all cable channels are no longer available so surfing through a hundred choices and simply landing on something no longer can happen.

    The "No" part of the answer relates to Netflix. With 25,000 instant streaming movies, another few thousand old TV shows, and a similar number of documentaries I am finding myself spending more time than I should with that service. Some nights I'll simply pick something that looks interesting and realize 2 hours later the better part of the evening is gone.

    I never was into the habit of turning on the TV and watching whatever was on next. With Netflix I am making a conscious choice about something.

    But, I must fight the tendency to spend too many evenings watching too many movies or documentaries. That behavior is bad for book reading, blog post writing, and guitar practice.

  3. Congratulations on your evolution! I have done the math and with the small amount of TV we watch we are moving to an antenna solution as well. Here in the Bay Area we get all major channels via antenna. We like to have a DVD or two available when we feel like watching something of value WITHOUT ADVERTISEMENTS! Enjoy...

  4. Hi Dave,

    That is exactly our setup now. An amplified antenna pulls in the local TV stations. A Blu-ray player is for DVDs plus it streams Netflix and Pandora radio for all our music needs.

    The total cost now is $10 a month, not $70.

  5. This is a good example of doing what is right in your particular case. My wife loves sitting down in front of the TV in the evening to unwind from the stresses of the day. Since I love being with my wife, I sit with her, and in general, enjoy the same shows. However, when my wife travels and I have the house to myself, the TV never gets turned on. I run around, bopping from the internet, to a book, to an hour of guitar practice, to some yard work, to some desk work to some tidying up,taking a run, cleaning my bike...somehow I just never find time to sit in front of the TV. (Maybe there's a touch of ADD here?) If I lived alone ( heaven forbid) I doubt I'd even own a TV. So....good for you....I don't think we will travel that particular road. However, it is a good example of eliminating things that really are not all that important in your particular partnership.


  6. (from e-mail) Hey Keith,

    We have friends who enjoy lots of television and would never think of cutting the cord. Others are like the fellow who came up to me at church this morning after reading some comments I posted on Facebook. He doesn't want his kids exposed to a lot of what is on cable so was wondering why he keeps paying for it.

    Each situation is unique. Doing what is right for you is always the best answer.

    By the way, Keith, my nights sound like yours when my wife is away for the evening or busy all night on the computer.

  7. I do have basic cable, and there are a few shows I enjoy, but is it worth it? No, not for the number of hours a week I watch it. And the shows I like are on just a few channels, so I never use all those others. is my cable confession. I love NFL football, so I got the cable upgrade to get the NFL channel so I could watch the few games that are only on that channel. What an indulgence! Especially after a season when my team imploded (the Tennessee Titans).

  8. Hi Galen,

    What are you going to do if the NFL lockout continues?

    Your reason for keeping the cable for the NFL feeds is completely understandable. I may feel the same way when I realize I won't see anymore Diamondback baseball games or Coyote Hockey games since both are on cable sports channels. If there is football next fall, the Cardinals games are on free TV so I am good to go.

    Watching out-of-market football makes you happy. I say you go for it.

  9. Its the sports, bob, its the sports...........that, and the fact that I am uncomfortable watching stuff on my laptop. I supppose I could be a middle aged sports par hopper of the female variety, but that would take me along way from home...what to do, what to do...........

  10. Another stereotype bites the dust. The last two comments have come from females watching sports on TV. What is next...husbands doing housework?

    Thanks, Barb. I know how carefully you watch your expenses and find ways to live frugally. Watching sports on TV is important to you and I bet you have made a conscious decision that this is money well spent.

    I can't watch movies or TV shows on a laptop either, though there is a way to run a cable to your TV set from most laptops. Until we signed up for Netflix this was a valid option for us.

  11. Bob,
    I might consider this but my wife would balk. We certainly don't get $70 dollars of value our of cable but we don't have line of sight to the signals and never watch local channels anyway, Our son has netflix through his Playstation but he is moving out next week so I either have to buy another one or keep recording some mindless diversion for our evenings.
    Now that I had to buy a car to replace the one I wore out, I've got a car payment again so something needs to go. But for now it won't be cable.

  12. Ralph,

    Welcome back from Tahoe. Where you live an external antenna wouldn't work even if you wanted to watch local channels. Netflix or Hulu through a Playstation or certain Blu-ray HD players is certainly an option if you are content with movies, documentaries, and old TV shows (Dick Van Dyke, Rockford Files, etc). Otherwise, stay connected!

  13. I have basic cable just because guests expect to have some TV available.

    The last TV show I can remember watching was the American Idol finals last spring.

    I wouldn't be able to give up my Netflix, however.

    Expense isn't the issue, it is being able to control when I watch and having my viewing commercial free.

  14. Good Monday Morning Judith,

    I could never give up Netflix either. I'm addicted to all the commercial free choices.

    Interestingly, the HD signals I receive from my local stations through the antenna are so much better than what cable delivers. Cable highly compresses all signals so they lose quality before they get to the TV. I'm finally seeing true HD and it can be awesome.

  15. I like satellite and I'm sure I watch more tv than experts recommend, but it's a way to relax, but the TV is never on during the day.

  16. Hi Cathy,

    Since the "experts" are often wrong I say watch whatever makes you happy. Considering the various blogs and development business you run, relax anyway you can!

    Actually, I am watching satellite in a sense when I watch Netflix. Even though it comes to me by the Internet, it came from a satellite to get to my Internet provider.

    Note: Checkout Cathy's Retirement Life Blog (click her name in red above). The info is a few months old, but still well worth reading.

  17. Judith I always watch everyting commercial free cause I dvr it-one of the reasons I actually like cable. Heck we even dvr jeopardy and play it back half an hour later

  18. Bob if I got rid of cable, or even before, I would get a roku box -is that what you have>

  19. We watch TV- alot of tv.
    We have got to get away from it....somehow.
    There are no channels to get by antenna in this area.
    Maybe I should put a time on it like you have
    end of June?
    We are outside all the time in the winter
    and love Netflix in the winter.
    BTW- my husband and I share the housework---and have for the last 20 years. He still cannot clean a bathroom right and I cannot load a dishwasher to perfection!

  20. Hi Barb,

    I use a Blu-ray player that also streams Pandora, Netflix, YouTube and other video services. My daughter and husband use the Roku box and like it.

  21. Hey Janette,

    What do you like to watch on TV? If movies and documentaries are your primary focus, Netflix is the way to go.

    If you like watching TV shows like Glee, The Office, or 30 Rock, previous seasons are free on Hulu.

    Web sites for ABC and CBS have shows like Castle available within a few days of the time they air on regular TV.

    Of course, if you cancel cable and decide you miss it, then wait a month or two, you will probably be considered a new customer and get a great initial rate.

    Kudos to your husband and you for sharing the household duties.

  22. We never had cable when the kids were growing up. When we finally got it we watched it a lot at first and then it just seemed that there was a lot of money going out for so little in return. HGTV was one of my favorites too and I miss it. I am for sure going to check out the internet to see if I watch a few shows from HGTV. If I miss NCIS I always watch that on the internet. It is just about the only show I really want to watch.

    We have an antenna and we can see about 15 channels. We have thought of Netflex but so far that doesn't seem worth it either. If we want the new we listen to the radio, talk radio, and we read various news papers from around the U.S.A. I like the NYT Real Estate, and Home and Garden section, and we read our home-town paper on-Line. I don't think we have had the actual paper delivered for over 10 years.

  23. :>) We are outside all summer---not winter!
    Your suggestions are ones we are working through. June seems to be a reasonable time to cut the cord and go through withdrawals before winter arrives again!

  24. Good morning Suzie,

    We had the same experience. When cable is first available it is like a kid in a candy store...all those choices. Over time you winnow it down to maybe half a dozen or fewer that get watched on a regular basis.

    The HGTV web site does have lots of episodes of many of their shows.

    We have been local paper free for 4 months and absolutely don't miss it at all. I still get the Wall Street Journal but it will go away in May when they want to double what I am paying now.

    Have a great day.

  25. Janette,

    I did wonder a bit about your frolicking around a Kansas winter! Summer makes more sense. And, you are correct: you have plenty of time to decide if you can replace your entertainment choices before winter returns.

    Let us know in June or July how you are doing.

  26. Bob, I am one of those people that cannot live with it and cannot live without it...I guess the $70 is worth the choices. Then I can decided what to watch and what not to watch. However, what does drive me crazy is all the junk we get that we never ever turn on. I love our recording device that allows me to watch the shows I enjoy with no ads. This reduces tv time considerable.

    Good luck with this experiment...keep us posted on how it turns out!


  27. Hi Barb,

    Yes, I will do an update at some point. I am amazed. I think this post has generated more comments than any other. I guess it is a topic we all have opinions about.

  28. Damn I wish I could bring myself to do that. I can lose Discovery Channel and FoodTV easily you said getting them a few days late online isn't bad...but my addiction to news channels? Oh crap...where would I get so filled with bullshit?

  29. Hi Bob,

    Maybe not seeing all the pundits pontificating all day long will not only save you on your cable bill, but also health care costs.

    By the way, if you look for it, there is a lot of BS on the Internet that may fill in the gaps.

  30. Steve in Los AngelesSun Jan 01, 10:31:00 PM MST

    Hi Bob,

    When I purchased my current residence in October 2008, I knew that I would watch very little, if any, television. I have yet to purchase cable. I know by avoiding television at home that I have saved a LOT of money.


  31. Steve,

    We cut the cord to save money and to help us control the amount of TV we were watching. It is too easy to find hours every evening just vanishing in front of the tube.