Parenting on a Budget: Cutting the Cable

Since we have become a one income household, sometimes we have had to look for ways to trim the fat in our budget. For some time, we had been looking at the cable box with leering eyes. It knew it’s days were numbered, and thus tried to hide behind the DVD player. Alas, poor cable box, it’s efforts were to no avail. “Hey,” I explained, “We had some good times. You helped us through the late months of pregnancy and early months of infancy—when we were up all night feeding the baby and waiting for it to sleep. But, as they say, all good things come to an end. Sorry, old buddy.” So, although kicking and screaming, we finally made the leap into a world without cable.  

This bleak new world frightened us. For awhile we cowered beneath the bedspread, afraid to look out into the dark living room, which housed no signs of life other than the sleeping cats on the couch. But we did our homework, and found ways to arm ourselves with small-screen entertainment regardless. Since our TV had a built-in receiver, we bought a digital antennae from Best Buy. We now get five channels, all in high-definition: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and the CW. So no Fox, but sometimes that’s a good thing. “So You Think You Can Dance,” I’m looking at you.

All jokes aside, it’s easy for me to talk since it seems like we have enough tech in the house to start another space program. We bought Apple TV when it first came out, which gives us many options. Of course we can rent movies and TV shows from iTunes, but we can also access YouTube if needed. Most importantly, we can download and/or stream video podcasts, which are surprisingly useful and entertaining if you know where to look. Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have different media options, and both have free video game trailers available for download. The PlayStation Network has some free TV episodes available from time to time, but to be honest, it’s slim pickins. However, our prize possession is our new Roku box, which is most famous for giving its users access to their Netflix instant streaming queue. Originally, my wife was reticent to spend the money on it, but after many attempts of explaining what it was, I eventually wore her down.

“It’s one of those things that once you have it, you will wonder why you didn’t have it all along. A real game changer.”

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As it turns out, cutting the cable has been beneficial for more reasons than just saving money. Since cable companies compress their signal, the picture from an antennae is actually clearer and sharper than cable. Having fewer broadcast-quality choices also helps with ADD, since you can’t flip through 70 channels for hours at a time.  Also, not having cable makes you search out things you might not have otherwise, like Internet programming. I’ve learned a lot from watching Revision 3 and CNET shows, among others. More importantly, less choices means less distraction and temptation when you really should be doing something else. Personally, I’m glad we miss out on some of the terrible shows I’ve been hearing about, like “Jersey Shore” and that pregnant teenage mother thing on MTV.

My wife misses the luxury of cable; it was her guilty pleasure. I, however, don’t miss it at all. Our running joke in the house when some terrible show happens to be on:

I proclaim, “That’s it, I’m going to cancel the cable!”
Then my wife will simply say, “We already did that.”
“Oh, we’re covered then.”

I’ve read blogs from some people who have cut TV out altogether in their households. There is a “No TV Week” movement going on now. I admire these people, I really do. However, look, I ‘m shallow; I like television, it’s fun escapism at times, and although we cut the cable you’ll have to pry my TV from my cold dead hands if you want it. In any case, at least we have a happy medium now. Though one thing about not having cable is that we don’t have a DVR. So we have to watch everything on broadcast TV in real-time. So I better go watch “The Office,” because it’s on right now.

Has the idiot box captured your family? Is anyone else out there thinking about making the break from cable?

10 thoughts on “Parenting on a Budget: Cutting the Cable

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  1. First we cut the cable. Then our tower fell and now we have no reception. We are tv-less one year now. And we survived. Yes there is the internet and Hulu. A variety of ways to watch. But it is always intentional now. The kids just play without thinking. We read more. We talk more. I’m not foolish enough to think it will last forever. I will take every bit of it though….


  2. We cut down to basic cable, got a playstation, and stream Hulu Plus through it. We never actually watched a show when it was on, so watching things a few days later doesn’t matter. Although CBS needs to start sending shows to Hulu… and why don’t they have Criminal Minds on the internet. I started watching that while I was on maternity leave and got addicted!


  3. Maycee and did without any television for 4 months once we got into our new place. We made due with videos (the old fashioned kind), dvd’s, and well, just not watching anything! More play time, more reading time, more down time. Then, at the 5 month mark, I thought it would be okay to turn the boob tube on again. Well, let’s just say it’s been one of the biggest wastes of money I see go out the door each month. We got so used to not having it, that now we don’t really watch it! Sure, I like DWTS, and a bit of HGTV here and there, but that’s what the B.F.’s house is for…and Maycee…she gets a nice, large dose of Spongebob on Nik every other weekend when she visits her dad. Either way, thanks to Direct TV, I can’t cancel for another 4 months, or I get the “early cancellation fee” of $200 dinged to my account. Yet another reason to go tvless. It’s worth it!


  4. We canceled out cable last summer and it was a good move for us. We still get our internet through Time Warner and basic cable which is only 14 channels and the thing I miss about digital cable most is being able to pause a show. It’s not too bad though since whenever I can’t catch something on tv I just watch it on hulu later. It has definitely saved me time flipping channels and has made me shut off the tv a lot more often than I used to which is good because I don’t want my daughter to become a tv zombie. Our cable bill went from around $120 to $47. Not too bad!


  5. Way to go! We finally cut the cable 2 weeks ago and haven’t looked back. Our LG BlueRay player can stream Netflix, as well as the Wii, and we also have DVD’s coming in. For my daughter, I bought the whole season for her favorite shows (Max and Ruby, Yo Gabba Gabba and Ni Hao Kai-Lan). I can honestly say that we donb miss it at all.


  6. HEY! We did this too, but we don’t have a Roku and all that. We just bought a good antenna (like you guys did) and hooked a computer up to the flat-screen tv with a HDMI cable. We also bought a wireless mouse and keyboard so that if we need to we can operate the computer from across the room. Netflix and the Windows Media Center have saved us. Windows Media Center can be set up as a DVR and it records all our shows from the antenna networks. Netflix streaming…well, you know how fabulous THAT is. We’re saving about $100 a month from cutting cable.


  7. It’s ironic how I just came across this post, as I’ve been seriously considering cutting the cable (something HAS to go, and I like eating). However, I am not very tech-savvy and I need to be able to watch certain things, and preferably pause, rewind, etc. Also, with three kids I’m afraid we will all go crazy. But, I like the idea of reading more, playing more, and generally spending more quality time together. Can most things be watched online? And do I need to sit in front of the computer to watch, or can I get it on my TV? (old model of course, one of those big boxy things).. Do I have to be a tech genius to do this??


    1. Tech knowledge definitely helps, as all the alternatives to cable tend to lean in the tech direction. A lot of American television networks have episodes available online for current shows on their websites, but you would have to sit in front of the computer for that. The three main alternatives for your TV would be the Roku box, the new model of the AppleTV box, and the Boxee box. All require a broadband Internet connection. None have every show, some things like Hulu Plus and Netflix require a subscription service. So nothing is perfect, most things aren’t free. But at least there are options out there. With three kids, if it was me I would probably consider keeping the cable at this point, depending on the amount of your monthly bill.


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