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.